Sunsets and Mermaids
Where: 3 Chartwell Drive, uMhlanga Rocks
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 1am
Call: 031 943 3044
On a Saturday night the Chartwell strip is heaving. Ingrid Shevlin and I are trying the new Sunsets and Mermaids, which has opened where the Beach House used to be.
The man behind the move is Biaggo Pelliccia, who owns Amici in the La Lucia Mall. It’s a friendly space. Much of the surf decor remains, although the library has been turfed out in favour of a more intimate dining area. We soon found a cosy corner here from which we could watch the fun and games in the main restaurant. The vibe is relaxed and casual, almost as if you’d stepped off the beach. The waiters, too. A mermaid hangs above the well-stocked bar like the prow of a ship, taking it all in.
Chef Brendon Newport remains with the establishment. He had invited us to try his new menu.
The menu takes in a greater selection of main courses along with pizzas, pastas and a burger, but there are still a number of exciting tasting plates to sample, and a sushi menu bordering on the avant-garde. “Modern” was the term Newport used. We would be trying some of these creations.
But even the burgers get something of a fun makeover. There’s a lobster burger with lemon mayo and chives, a fish creation with guacamole, pineapple and habanero mayo chipotle, and a falafel burger with tzatziki, pickled cabbage and chargrilled veg. Naturally the “old fashioned” beef is available with a good slice of emmental cheese.
Pastas take in langoustines cooked in vermouth, tomato and cream or lobster with garlic and champagne along with the more prosaic Alfredo or Bolognese. Ditto with pizzas which have toppings like butter chicken and frutti di mare along with the conventional ham and pineapple.
Mains focus on seafood with linefish and tuna, calamari and a seafood risotto and any number of combinations. There is also a good Durban-style lamb curry, pork ribs and all the steak cuts for those who want to stay on dry land.
It’s a big menu. But back to the sushi. The “old school” (Newport again) stuff is all there. Salmon roses, sandwiches, Californian and rainbow rolls, nigiri, sashimi etc, but it was the “Mythical” selection that was interesting. There’s a Flaming Ferrari ‒ prawn, tuna and avo with a crunchy tempura finish, flamed at the table. Or Sunsets Burnout ‒ crispy salmon California roll, Japanese mayo, cream cheese and teriyaki dressing ‒ also fired at the table. Nice little bit of drama that would be.
The tuna and salmon rainbow roll tarted up with teriyaki dressing, mayo and caviar (R185 for 8 pieces) was most enjoyable. The dragon roll (R160 for 4) topped with large tempura prawns was a treat. I really enjoyed the sushi tacos (135 for 4) which were furikake salmon or spicy tuna served on avo and little crisp rice crackers. I’m sure Siren’s crispy rice, too, would have been fun. This was salmon or prawn with crispy rice squares, avo, caviar, teriyaki sauce and sesame oil. I also enjoyed the seaweed taco (R165) which was crisp tempura seaweed filled with sushi rice, jewelled cabbage and a salmon sashimi filling. This was an inspired dish.
And then we were brought a selection of dumplings off the tapas menu. The jiaozi chicken dumplings in soy, sesame and chilli dressing (R95) were a delight, the prawn wonton dumplings in a chilli and teriyaki sauce (R110) were equally delicious. Other options I will try in future include tuna ceviche, tuna pops with teriyaki glaze, wasabi and ginger, and the beef tataki bao bun.
We finished up with aubergine cigars wrapped around a spinach and ricotta filling and topped with tomato and Parmesan (R110) which was a much more interesting take on the classic melanzane, and prawns baked in the pizza oven and topped with Parmesan (R120). These were good sized prawns and enjoyable, but might have benefited from a heftier touch of garlic in the butter. We mopped it up with toasted ciabatta.
By now we’d had an inelegant sufficiency.
Desserts aren’t big here ‒ crème brûlée, chocolate brownie, milkshakes and some kind of Nutella, Oreo and ice-cream whip up. We quit before we had to wallow out of here.
The Independent on Saturday