Home Lifestyle Still turning heads after fifty years

Still turning heads after fifty years

Still turning heads after fifty years

Roma Revolving Restaurant

Where: 32 John Ross House, Durban

Open: Tuesday to Thursday dinner, Friday and Saturday lunch and dinner, Sunday lunch

Call: 031 337 6707

Not many restaurants can boast a 50-year history, but Durban’s Roma Revolving has been turning all that time, and remains a feature on the Durban dining scene. The Glass Guy and I simply had to try it. And take in the panoramic views of a city that has changed much in the intervening years.

We are welcomed by maitre’d Gino Leopardi, who has been with the restaurant throughout its history, and are shown to a table. The wine arrives.

While the restaurant has had several make-overs in its long history it has that wonderfully retro feel. Colour-drenched bucolic murals of Italian country life paint the picture. Plush chairs are pulled out for diners. There’s proper table linen and napkins. Menus are in embossed leather covers. The green, white and red of the Italian flag is much in evidence. It’s comfortable, yet almost otherworldly.

Still turning heads after fifty years
Wildebeest carpaccio topped with shavings of Parmesan and sliced mushrooms.

Starters look much like they would have done 50 years ago. There’s a prawn cocktail, and a chicken liver paté. A plate of garlic snails may entice and there’s smoked salmon and grilled calamari. The Glass Guy likes the look of the wildebeest carpaccio (R110) which, dressed with a good olive oil, plenty of Parmesan and some thinly sliced raw mushrooms, gets the thumbs up.

I enjoyed the seafood chowder (R120), a rich creamy bowl packed with good seafood flavours.

Still turning heads after fifty years
Seafood bisque.

It’s a vast menu and we contemplated duck, and a veal option. In the past, I’d always enjoyed its osso bucco, the famed veal casserole with tomatoes. Fresh fish too is an option. I even contemplated a simple pasta dish, this being one thing I had never tried here, always going for the more interesting-sounding mains courses.

And then Gino persuaded us to go big and try the house special of Chateaubriand (R640 for two). This is a section of fillet carved and cooked quickly at the table and then flamed in brandy. It certainly is a dramatic dish and would make any date night special. As the flames leap upwards, Gino tells us of the BBC coming out to Durban in 2016 to film him doing it the traditional way. He told of his surprise that they were coming to Durban rather than going to Paris or Milan. And his surprise at the reaction that followed.

Still turning heads after fifty years

It’s an impressive dish, with 850g of fillet first seared in the kitchen and then carved into medallions. It’s served with a traditional grilled tomato and fried bread, the meat simply topped with the pan juices. It comes with a traditional Bearnaise sauce, which is good, and the less traditional pepper sauce. Apparently Roma patrons like their pepper sauce so much that it has become a tradition to serve both. I can see why. It has a real hit of pepper. The meat is beautifully rare and succulently tender. It’s a feast, and there’s enough for lunch the next day. Certainly recommended to all those hearty meat eaters.

Then we really put Gino to the test, asking him to whip up a quick zabaglione (R79) at the table. It’s one of my favourite Italian desserts ‒ a light, airy custard flavoured with sweet marsala wine that’s whipped up in a copper pot over gentle heat at the table. It’s mopped up with sponge finger biscuits. Ever the engaging host, Gino entertains us, all the while keeping up a steady rhythm in the pot as the custard thickens. It’s poured into two martini glasses and yes, it’s absolutely delicious. Light, soft and silky and with just the right amount of sweetness and kick from the wine.

Still turning heads after fifty years
Zabaglione with sponge finger biscuits

The wonderfully retro dish of crêpes Suzette is another Roma speciality and is also flamed at the table. And the famed dessert trolley is still doing the rounds. This had a selection of gatteaux, a cheesecake, tiramisu, trifle, fresh strawberries and crème caramel among its many offerings. This is certainly a place to save room for dessert.

We finished up with a good, rich espresso and a distinctly Italian aperitif, a shot of home-made limoncello.

Food: 4

Service: 3½

Ambience: 4

The Bill: R1 603 including two bottles of wine and service charge

The Independent on Saturday

Original Article