Abuzz at night, great for lunch

The elegant and popular 14 on Chartwell in Umhlanga Village.

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BILLY SUTER spent an afternoon at the popular 14 on Chartwell in the bustling Umhlanga Village – and found a lunchtime visit a great alternative for anyone wanting to experience the venue’s fine food away from the buzzy, pub-lounge vibe that makes it dazzle at night.
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The front left of the restaurant with the large bar taking pride of place.

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 I USED to love to regularly visit Umhlanga but it is becoming too busy and congested for my liking. A little like Sandton by the Sea these days, with tall buildings mushrooming up everywhere.

But I put aside my bah-humbugging on being invited to finally experience 14 on Chartwell, the restaurant that opened in Chartwell Drive in October 2015, and I was won over enough to be sure to push myself to visit more often. Especially so as the parking lot is directly across the road.

I don’t know, though, if I will be brave enough to visit at night when it becomes the trendy place to be, the big and obvious attraction being the large, central bar that dominates the premises.

Nathi Hlongwa with a watermelon jalapeno margarita and a Moscow Mule.

I can understand the attraction. This a warm, welcoming, stylish environment with classy decor in browns, greens, golds and yellows – offering comfy sofas as well as standard dining tables, and also a less formal outside area, where tables spill on to the pavement and a deck.

More importantly, the varied booze offerings are quite impressive. The drinks menu, printed on olive-green sheaths of paper clipped to a wooden board, runs for three pages. One can order craft on tap or bottled, assorted ciders, signature giant gin and tonics (Pomegranate and Blood Orange, at R52, takes my fancy), as well as local beers, assorted cocktails and various small-batch spirits. A good, four-page wine list is also available.

And then there’s the bubbly – a big draw on a Friday when, for R120, one can drink as much good Graham Beck as one wants between 4pm and 6pm. Unless, for a fair bit more bucks, you’d prefer some Moet & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot.

Also of note – and more to my liking – are the Spiked Milkshakes tucked under the puds section of the food menu. There are five, each R50: one with salted caramel sauce and Kahlua; another with marshmallow, chocolate sauce and vodka; and a yummy-sounding one with French nougat syrup and vodka.

Other options are Kahlua and choc sauce, and peanut brittle and Amarula. Interesting! I plan to go back to taste some one afternoon when the venue has free live music on the outside deck – every Sunday between 1pm and 4pm.

So rich pickings, booze-wise. But it was the food I was more interested in on a lunch time visit this week with ex-wife, Di.

It’s a good menu, with surprises such as jaffles (yes, remember them?) served with chips. You have a choice of fillings – pulled beef brisket and caramelised onion; cheddar and heirloom tomato; Durban Chicken Curry; or Sriracha chicken mushroom. Prices vary from R60 to R70.

However, the starter choice was a no-brainer for Di – Pork Belly Bites (R80) which came in bite sixes with a topping of a sliver of crackling. Very nice, but the Korean BBQ dipping sauce was overpoweringly salty for both our tastes.

Nacho-crusted Chicken Breast Strips.

I went for the Nacho-crusted Chicken Breast Strips – an enormous serving in a basket for R110, served alongside ramekins of guacamole, sour cream, Sriracha mayo and a chunky tomato relish. It was so much I asked for a doggy bag so as to enjoy my mains.

Pietermaritzburg-born chef Juane Morkel, who has been with the restaurant since it opened, chatted with us before ordering mains. The menu is updated every four months, he says.

Some dishes, however  – notably the salt and pepper calamari served with chilli ginger jam (R70), about 1 200 portions of which are sold monthly, explains Juane – are staples.

Recent additions to mains, which include grills, burgers and a heap of signature dishes, include a seafood bouillabaisse (R145) and a 300g grilled chopped steak with mushrooms and onion (R145).

Also, prawn linguine pasta (R140) which was my choice – delicious and plentiful, packed with plump prawns, topped with a langoustine and with a nice bit of a bite. It comes with a sauce flaked with fresh red chilli, parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Little wonder it is proving a big hit already. Very yum!

Rib-eye on the bone and, right, prawn linguine with a bit of a bite.

I tried to nudge Di into considering Juane’s recommendation – Lamb Shank Pie (R165) with veg – but he did say it was a very ample dish, so she shook her head. She also wouldn’t go for my suggestion to try the Lobster Mac and Cheese (R180) which sounds quite decadent.

Her heart was set on another new menu addition, the 400g Rib Eye on the Bone (R180) which came with some of the best, crunchiest smashed potatoes I have had. A great dish, but the sauce Di received was excessively peppery.

Among other mains options are a popular pie of the day (R120), beer-battered hake and chips with a chilli-lime tartare sauce (R105), Brown  Butter Lime Salmon (R190), orange glazed pork ribs (R195) and a butter chicken curry (R120).

Desserts? We were too full to each have our own, but shared an Eton Mess (R50) – a mix of whole raspberries, meringues, whipped cream, raspberry coulis, and toasted pistachio nuts. Liked it a lot.

More sinful offerings include a white choc and cranberry bread and butter pud (R60),  Bar One springrolls (R45) and a Mojito Cheesecake (R35) with a lemongrass and lime syrup, that I will be back to try.

A cool section of the restaurant with a view to Chartwell Drive.

Juane tells me he is to introduce a Lemon Meringue Milkshake as a dessert in October, as part of an early summer menu – lemon curd in a glass with cream, condensed milk, lemon zest and lemon juice.

With his girlfriend, Kayla Osborn, as head chef at The Chef’s Table restaurant across the road from 14 on Chartwell, Juane is surrounded by food, he laughs, but the two seldom, if ever cook, at home and prefer to dine out.

He originally studied hotel management at Varsity College and has worked at Fern Hill, Little Switzerland, Selborne Estate and the Golden Horse Casino, as well as in industrial catering. He also spent time with Mango Catering, working on film set catering (Blood Diamond, Wild at Heart) and has fed stars such as Elton John and Michael Buble.

Juane also spent six months working in Qatar in the Middle East but missed home and returned in January 2013.

…………THINGS TO KNOW…………

Address: 14 Chartwell Drive, Umhlanga

Phone number: (031) 561 1017

Hours: 11am to 11pm every day.

Pietermaritzburg-born chef Juane Morkel has been with the restaurant since it opened.

 

View of the restaurant entrance from the central bar.

 

Lots of comfy corners to chill out in at 14 On Chartwell.

 

The restaurant is where the CNA used to be in Chartwell Drive.

 

 

 


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