BY BILLY SUTER
DURBAN’S Suncoast Casino is in metamorphosis, with parking restricted to make way for major building expansion, the complex’s pastel-coloured facades being stripped for facelifts and, inside, the food court area currently a maze of scaffolding to ring the changes. It’s all quite exciting.
Already signs of things new are appearing, most notable being the welcome arrival of a large, new buffet restaurant, Billy G, in the area that formerly housed the casino’s Cape Town Fish Market and News Café restaurants.
The Billy G restaurant brand is a salute to the late Dr Billy Gallagher, a seasoned and widely respected chef and businessman whose contribution to the South African hospitality, food and beverage scene spanned some four decades.
He arrived in South Africa in 1973 to take up an executive sous-chef position with Southern Sun, having left working at The Dorchester in London to do so.
Wikipedia reports that in 1982, Gallagher was elected president of the South African Chefs’ Association, holding that position for 21 years before becoming its honorary life president in 2003.
In 1996, he became president of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), and in 2000, when he became its honorary life president, Gallagher was left paralysed as a quadriplegic after an attempted hijacking, the site states.
From 2006, Wikipedia adds, Gallagher was the chairman of the School for Tourism and Hospitality Studies in Johannesburg. He died in 2016, aged 67.
The Tsogo Sun hotel group opened its first Billy G buffet restaurant in 2010, at Montecasino in Gauteng. Then others opened at the Silverstar casino in Krugersdorp, Goldfields in Kimberley and The Ridge in Mpumalanga.
The Suncoast Casino Billy G, which opened doors on February 11, is an informal yet elegant and colourful restaurant decorated in dark and light woods, panels of yellow and red glass, splashes of chocolate wallpaper depicting knives and forks, and walls dotted with framed diplomas, photos and awards bestowed on Billy Gallagher over the years.
Staff at the restaurant are smartly dressed and, on the night we were in, were friendly and attentive, the food choices varied and very good, the various options well spread throughout the restaurant so there is less of a bun fight at the buffet.
It’s not always that one finds sushi at a buffet, so it was good to come across a choice of mini prawn, crab or vegetable California Rolls, with chopsticks, ginger and soy sauce, which my partner tucked into with gusto as I gave a thumbs-up while tucking into a very tasty pumpkin soup with a mini roll.
The salad selection is excellent – I counted 23 different dishes – and there are some interesting cold pasta varieties with assorted meats.
The restaurant offers a carvery where whole chickens are viewed on a moving, vertical rotisserie grill, and the night we were in one had a choice of sliced beef or chicken.
Pasta dishes, a variety of casseroles, pizza, curries (a very good lamb one) and vegetarian offerings are also among choices, while the puds section is great, including crispy waffles which I had with sorbet-like soft-serve ice cream topped with Peppermint Crisp bits and Oreo crumbles. One has a whole range of options from which to choose for toppings.
There is also hot custard and hot puds options, as well as an assortment of mini cakes, jellies and fresh fruit.
Billy G is already doing brisk business, says amiable, Durban-born manager Siyanda Buthelezi.
The cost is R199 a head for anyone aged 13 and over, while the cost is only R120 for pensioners. Anyone under the age of three gets in free, children aged four to seven pay R50 each, and those aged eight to 12 pay R100. Very good prices!
The restaurant, which also offers dining tables on the terrace overlooking the beach promenade, is open for dinner from 6pm to 10pm every day of the week. It is open for lunch from noon to 3pm every Monday to Sunday, but closed for lunch on Tuesdays.
Siyanda explains that he is enjoying being back at Suncoast Casino, where he worked as a duty manager on the casino floor from 2010 to 2015, before leaving to work for two years as food and beverage floor manager at Sibaya Casino near Umhlanga.
He says plans are to extend the restaurant further, to accommodate another 100 diners as well as admin offices and toilets (at the moment one gets an admission wristband when one arrives at the restaurant, as one has to leave it to use toilets elsewhere in the casino complex).
Well worth a visit!
NOTE: The Billy G phone number is (031) 328 3512. The reservation line is (031) 328 3456, from 8am to 5pm.