FOOD

DUR­BAN’S CAFÉ 1999 HAS EV­ERY­THING YOU COULD WANT FROM AN EATERY: GREAT FOOD – OF COURSE – BUT ALSO VA­RI­ETY, VIBES, MU­SIC AND A SOM­ME­LIER OF NOTE…

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Café 1999

the year 1999 was a good one for din­ing out in Dur­ban. It was the year that the café bear­ing the tag of its ‘birth’ was opened by en­tre­pre­neur An­dre Schu­bert and, within two years, it had be­come well pa­tro­n­ised by busi­ness­peo­ple and food­ies in the area. It had also at­tracted the culi­nary tal­ents of Mar­celle Roberts, who’d worked abroad and at Tala Pri­vate Game Re­serve in South Africa, and came to Café 1999 as head chef in 2001. Here she met Sean, ‘a naughty, en­er­getic waiter who swept me off my feet and is now my dear hus­band and fa­ther of our two boys’. Af­ter buy­ing the place from An­dre in 2004, the cou­ple ex­panded the Café’s reach: Sean opened Unity, a craft-beer bar, and That Brew­ing Com­pany, a mi­cro­brew­ery; Mar­celle continues to fo­cus on fab­u­lous food; and much-ad­mired man­ager Mo Therese is re­spon­si­ble for ‘woo­ing guests’ with his in­cred­i­ble wine and food knowl­edge.

MC: What’s the Café’s ethos? Mar­celle: The con­cept is based on shar­ing. Plat­ters can be made up from all the tapas-style dishes in the tit­bits sec­tion. The ‘big­bits’ sec­tion of­fers main course-sized dishes but they’re also avail­able in small help­ings, so cus­tomers can en­joy a mix of dif­fer­ent flavours. MC: And the style of food? Mar­celle: It started out as a chiefly Mediter­ranean restau­rant, but over the years my love for Asian cui­sine has found its way onto the menu. We run daily spe­cials and a firm favourite is se­same-crusted seared tuna, which can be served in any num­ber of ways. All our desserts are home-made and I try and source the best and most lo­cal in­gre­di­ents that I can.

Our most pop­u­lar dish is a lit­tle cre­ation made of cala­mata olives, stuffed with ri­cotta, crumbed, deep-fried and served with chilli and herb mayo. It’s won­der­ful – slightly salty and per­fect to start the evening off. If I took it off the menu,we would cer­tainly lose a few fans.

Al­though our fo­cus is on a small, se­lect wine list, Mo has been known to rus­tle up a few spe­cial cock­tails when asked. He’s in­cred­i­bly knowl­edge­able about wine. In fact, all our wait­ers are well trained and can ‘walk’ each pa­tron through our spe­cial wines that are not on the list. MC: Who comes? Mar­celle: We en­ter­tain all sorts of people, from busi­ness­men at lunchtime to the arty theatre crowd; from cou­ples to fam­i­lies cel­e­brat­ing birth­days. We aim for a laid-back am­bi­ence but it’s by no means slack! The mu­sic can range from easy jazz to deep house on a Fri­day night when it gets re­ally busy. There’s some­thing for ev­ery­one here…

WORDS DEB­O­RAH RUD­MAN PRO­DUC­TION MA­RI­ETTE THERON RECIPES MAR­CELLE ROBERTS PHO­TO­GRAPHS ELSA YOUNG

This page, right The wel­com­ing in­te­rior of Dur­ban’s Café 1999. Be­low Banana Split à la owner-chef Mar­celle Roberts. Op­po­site Se­same seared tuna with rice noo­dle salad.

This page, above Rus­tic beet­root tart with goat’s cheese medal­lions.

Left Mar­celle Roberts. Op­po­site, top Dé­cor el­e­ments have been cho­sen for their con­tem­po­rary ap­peal and funchic fac­tor. Bot­tom Crispy po­lenta fin­gers with Gor­gonzola sauce.

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