Durban: eating with sharks… maybe eating inside the aquarium would have been safer!
It was time to go back to South Africa! I went there for the first time last year and it was quite an interesting experience by all means. Through these links you can read the first and second part of my first trip to Johannesburg. The worst part of that trip was the bad experience I had flying with Fly Emirates… that really was a bad flight!
Having learned a lot from that bad experience, this time I flew with Swiss Airlines (stopping over in Switzerland). What a difference! In fact, even on short flights they usually have something gluten free (quinoa salad normally). In addition, I carried a backpack full of gluten-free products. This time I was not going to feel hungry!
Although I would have liked to be able to eat something in the same restaurant I tried when I traveled to Greece, the connection was very short. I decided to go directly to the boarding gate. The gluten-free menu was pretty good: chicken with rice and vegetables, a piece of Gruyere cheese, a chocolate muffin and gluten-free bread with sun flower seeds. All gluten gluten free of course. If you allow me an advice, on long flights, try to be seated in the middle of the plane. In the tail it is very cold! For breakfast they brought me a box with an apple puree, an orange juice, another piece of Gruyere cheese, a gluten-free muffin and apricot jam.
When I arrived in Johannesburg, I had to wait 4 hours to get the next plane to Durban. Luckily I hud such a long transfer time, because when I went to check-in they told me that my ticket was canceled, so I had to buy a new one… It was not the best start! I flew to my final destination with Mango, a low cost airline similar to Ryanair, in which they sell things along the way. The flight has a duration similar to a Madrid – Barcelona flight. Upon arrival, I met my new representative and went straight to the hotel I had booked a room in Umhlanga (Durban).
Once installed in the hotel, we went to Turn n Tender restaurant, which is on the corner of Lighthouse road and Chartwell Drive. With the help of the gluten-free travel card we explained to the waitress how they had to prepare my food. Whenever I travel to South Africa I take it in African and English just in case. This time was not that difficult… we ordered boneless lamb with mashed potatoes. Delicious! Also, they cooked it with spices and it was very tasty.
After dinner, we went for a walk until the beach while talking about how to focus the different visits we had planned. I love coastal landscapes, especially when there is a lighthouse! We were there for a while observing the landscape and, when it started to rain a little, we took refuge in the terrace of another hotel overlooking the sea to have a drink.
Upon returning to the hotel, we arranged a taxi to take me to his office the next day and we said goodbye. I did not really like going with an unknown taxi driver but, unfortunately, there was no other option!
The next day, I had breakfast with a packet of cookies I had brought from Spain and I went down to meet the taxi driver I had hired the night before. I had almost forgotten what South Africa was like… on the way to the office I saw everything again: people walking along the “shoulder” of the highway, lots of shacks around the university and luxury neighborhoods… besides, the taxi driver was telling me about the problem they had with drug addiction among young people, especially women… what a pity!
After the meeting with the first client, the crusade of finding a gluten free restaurant began… and I assure you that I do not exaggerate… it was a full-fledged crusade! We arrived at the Gate Way Shopping Center, where we went straight to the Spur restaurant, a Foster’s Hollywood-style restaurant that has nothing gluten free… here we did it in the wrong order!
When we sat down, we ordered the drink before they brought the menu… when we got it, I gave him my phone with the gluten-free travel card… it was a stakehouse and we were pretty sure they could adapt something… the waiter came back saying they could not adapt anything without gluten and we had to leave leaving half the drink…
From Spur we went to the Piatto, an Italian restaurant that we also had to leave… second restaurant we visited! According to the Zomato application that my representative used there was something gluten free there… we did not find it!
From there, the application went to the Circus Circus, another Italian restaurant that, according to the menu, they had gluten free pasta… the problem is that when asking the waiters for the sauces, they could not tell me if they had gluten or not… we also left… third restaurant!
From there, we went to another restaurant that was next door. This was called Col’Cacchio and it was a pizzeria that, according to its website, can prepare gluten-free pizzas made with rice flour, corn and tapioca. The problem is that they ran out of gluten-free dough… We were running out of options and time ran against us, since after lunch we had another visit… a little skeptical that we would find something better than the CIRCUS CIRCUS option, we decided to go there and ask them to prepare a dish out of their menu…
When we arrived at the restaurant, the waitresses offered us a malicious smile because we were back… the smiles ended when I started asking questions and asking for changes on the plate… I asked for something simple… gluten-free pasta with olive oil and grilled chicken. Nothing else. Getting the plate as requested took us 10 more minutes. The most difficult thing was explaining what cross contamination was and how important it was that they did not move my gluten-free penne with the same spoon they used to move the gluten-full penne… then they started asking the questions: “But you do not want the sauce lemon?”; “No, just the pasta,” I answered … “Neither the cheese one? are you sure?”; “Yes, only pasta and chicken please”, I told her… and the same with the 7 ingredients that the pasta dish had…
As you can see, in the end we got it! Also, the gluten-free pasta was not overcooked and the chicken was delicious. Although it was a pretty bland dish, I successfully covered the lunch!
In the afternoon, after a quite long meeting with another client – as an anecdote to tell you that we had a breath test before entering – we headed to the Durban city center to go to the Aquarium. There was a huge change compared with Umhlanga! It was getting dark and the center of the city was very dim… it was scary to see some groups of people! I felt like I was in some dangerous neighborhood in a movie set in any big city of the United States.
There we had a table booked to have a dinner next to the sharks! I was very excited and intrigued to see what the restaurant would be like. After crossing the entire aquarium and seeing the different attractions there, we headed to Cargo Hold, a restaurant that is inside the stern of the Phantom Ship, where you will find part of the aquarium and from where you can see the sharks tank guarding what represented a sunken treasure. The decoration of the restaurant was totally related to the sea and fishing. I was amazed!
While the sharks were swimming calmly ignoring the diners, we started a new crusade to order my gluten free food. This time we would not leave the restaurant! Even if I did not have dinner, I wanted to stay inside that aquarium as long as possible. After sending the waiter to ask for the ingredients of some dishes, in line with what we had done at noon, and always looking to reduce the risk of cross contamination to the maximum, I ordered for something simple: a beef sirloin without sauce and mashed potatoes.
The next day, I had some gluten-free muffins I had brought with me and this time Rio (my representative) picked me up in Umhlanga to go see the first customer. After the visit we stopped at the Pavillion Shopping Center. With so many shopping centers, Durban reminded me of Zaragoza. Here we also had to visit several restaurants before making a decision…
After consulting Zomato, we went to see the Mugg & Bean restaurant. This is a chain of restaurants that you will find in several towns in South Africa. It is a mix between bar and restaurant where you can eat sandwiches, salads and wraps. It reminded me a lot of La Sandviteria de Sabadell. In the sandwitches section, you will see that they can offer sandwiches made with low-carbohydrate and gluten-free bread. Although the waiter explained that in order to avoid cross-contamination, they wrapped the bread in a piece of baking paper to avoid contact, I didn’t really trust him… so we went to find another restaurant…
In the Cafe Gitano we stayed for a short time. When we showed the gluten-free travel card to the waiter, he left us a moment to go and ask… we left after he came back with an answer… they just had no idea!
In the next restaurant we went to ask, the Mimmos Eatalian, we were even less time, since the answer after asking the waiter if they had something “gluten free” was “I’m lost”.
In view of the success we were going to have in that other shopping mall, we decided to go back to the Mugg & Bean to order that sandwich wrapped in baking paper to avoid cross-contamination.
The sandwich was delicious, but I think it was the meal in which I felt most insecure since I’m a celiac… they used the same toaster for bread with gluten and for gluten-free bread! I reminded myself that on other occasions I had also done this using the toast bag, so I did not have to worry… my head was still worried, because the times I used the toast bag I did it myself… this time it was done by someone else who probably didn’t know anything… After repeatedly insisting on the importance of doing things right, I ordered the sandwich. I was in your hands!
I ordered a bacon sandwich, fried egg and Cheddar cheese. Then the waitress asked me what to do with the accompaniment, which also had gluten… I put my hands on my head and I answered quite seriously: “Let’s see… I just told you that I can not eat gluten. Please, do not offer me things that contain it. ” I think she understood me quite well because her response was “Okay. I’ll put you a salad. “
Although I enjoyed the sandwich, I have to admit that I was not really confident while eating… but nothing happened to me! Of course, if you ever go there, I recommend you to insist a lot that the key is to eliminate cross contamination…
The meeting we had after lunch was at a huge horse farm. It had huge expanses of land. All green fields with horses grazing around. It was wonderful!
Besides, that was one of the best meetings I had had so far.
In the afternoon, we went to have a drink in the bar next to the office and then, again in Umhlanga, to have dinner at Casa Bella Restaurant, another Italian restaurant that Zomato said had gluten-free pasta. In this restaurant they make their own pasta, and they also make gluten-free pasta. That day they did not have it…
Instead of pasta, we changed the plans and decided to go and look for a good steak. We went straight to the Butcher Boys, which was right across from the Turn n Tender. After showing the gluten-free travel card again to the waitress, she went to ask the cook what they could adapt to me. Following her recommendations, I ordered a beef sirloin with vegetables and a little of white rice. To drink, a good wine!
Here I finished my first time in Durban! The next day, we had to get up early to catch a plane from Kulula to go to Johannesburg.
You can see the pictures of the trip here.
UPDATE (September 2018): After finishing the visit with the client, we went directly to the Gateway Mall. We had no intention of going to Col’Cacchio, since we knew that in the CIRCUS-CIRCUS I could eat safely: gluten-free penne with grilled chicken. No sauces
But this time, the Circus Circus had no gluten-free pasta left… so we went to ask Col’Cacchio, who was right in front, for the gluten-free pizzas.
As I explained above, the last time I was in Durban – in April 2018 – we had seen on the restaurant’s website that they had gluten-free pizza. We went to ask and… you know what? Again… they had no gluten-free pizza dough… we were about to leave when the waiter told us they had gluten-free pasta.
We had not read this on their website… and they did not tell us on April… so we asked for the menu to check it. The first thing I did was look at the pizzas page, where it effectively indicates that they do offer gluten-free pizza. But on the pasta page it did not see any indications of anything gluten free…
I asked the waiter again and he told me they had “wheat free” pasta… “But this does not mean it is gluten free” I said… it simply does not have wheat, but it can be made with other cereals that do have gluten. When I told him this, the waiter looked at me with a face like “it’s time to call the Manager”… after all, there came a man who guaranteed that the pasta was “wheat free”.
Yes… I already understood this, but… is it gluten free? I explained everything to him in English, and in the end we ended up speaking in French, since he was of Senegalese origin. Once he understood everything, with the help of the gluten-free travel card in French, I ended up believing him and ordered pasta with tomato. I took the opportunity to ask him to put me a grilled chicken breast, mixed with everything. The pasta was very good, and I did not feel bad, so… another restaurant to be able to go to when I return in March!
We ate quickly to take the car again and go to the next visit.
The day had gone very well, and now it was time to find a new restaurant for dinner. Near the hotel, we had already gone to the Butcher Boys and the Turn n ‘Tender, so Rio proposed going to eat Breyani at an Indian restaurant that was right next door. The restaurant was called Kashmir and is in McCausland Cres of Umhlanga. When I ate it in Johannesburg I loved it, so it was no problem going to eat that Indian dish again.
It was a restaurant “with a view to the sea”… views that were covered by a huge palm tree in front of it… and the telescope that was in the dining room was looking at the palm tree leaves… anyway!
We did not look at the menu. We ordered directly the “breyani” at the same time that Rio explained to the waiter that I could not eat gluten or fish.
In the end he understood it well and assured us that there was no problem of cross-contamination in the kitchen. When they brought it, I noticed that it was different from the one I had eaten in Johannesburg the last time. It had more spices and the meat was more tender. I liked it too! It was a good choice to eat there.
BY CLICKING ON THE MAP OF GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS YOU FILL SEE ALL RESTAURANTS WE DESCRIBED IN THIS POST LOCATED IN THE MAP OF GLUTEN-FREE PLACES:
AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN AFRIKAANS:
AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN ENGLISH:
P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists. I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend. Thank you very much!
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