Craft Trattoria (www.crafttrattoria.co.za)
Address: 35 Newport Avenue – Glenashley – Durban – Kwazulu Natal
Reservations: 031 562 1951
Atmosphere ***** until 10 pm then **
Value for Money*****
Where to sit: best spot is on the bench in front of the kitchen window. *****
Craft Trattoria in leafy Glenashely suburbia is a restaurant I visited during its first few weeks of being officially open. Vaughan and I were so excited to be asked by our favorite magazine to shoot the ‘new kid on the block’ House and Leisure (House and Leisure May issue 2011) and so had a different insight into the place as a ‘worker’ and not a ‘paying client’ which is always an interesting perspective. (Photograph below by Vaughan, courtesy of House and Leisure)
We were representing one of many magazines who had all rushed to cover Neil Roake’s newest creation, and so everyone at Craft Trattoria had very clearly had enough press and painful photographers moving their furniture, fiddling with the food, and plumping the charcoal colored scatter cushions which were always perfectly posed on a long comfortable bench seat that runs the entire length of the glass clad kitchen. It was early stages – schedules and staff were still being confirmed, menu’s still being tested and stress levels obviously reaching red alert and so we thought it fair to return in a few weeks time to get a real Craft experience.
The Eclipse of the Moon night seemed a good one to plan our first visit – Turns out it was a great omen.
I arrived having well experienced the space, the kitchen and the décor when working there for the two days, styling the shoot for Vaughan and had heard greatly varying reviews from friends and had many requests on my blog for my opinion on the place. The food I had styled had looked amazing and now was the test to see if it tasted as good.
As we arrived Crystal, the manageress on duty was polite, smiley and efficient and as our booked table was still occupied, she showed us to a comfortable outside couch and immediately arranged a round of drinks to be delivered while we waited for our guests to join us.
The place was buzzing, and there was not an empty seat in the house, which for me is first prize and the sign of good things to come.
Within 15 minutes our table was ready and we were escorted through the full glass front door and immediately sucked into the buzz and drone of a modern Italian Trattoria, beautifully designed and appointed with items created by Greg and Roche Dry of Egg Design fame.
Neil Roake, proud owner and Durban trendsetter, arrived shortly after we were seated and immediately scanned his restaurant, making his way to each corner, plumping the down scatter cushions into shape. It was as if he was prepping his own home for house guests, checking and moving objects into the correct position, and I smiled as it bought back memories of the photo shoot with Neil who expects the best from anyone working in his space.
In short Neil has created and branded an image that he strives to portray as constant. I can relate as I am a detail freak and to me it does matter that the second sitting clients do not sit on squashed cushions that are in disarray. My rating and opinion rose instantly at the attention he paid to detail that is often neglected by restaurateurs.
After watching curiously for about 10 minutes, Neil had given Craft Trattoria his quality check and had now taken note of who was who in the zoo. I was impressed when he instantly recognized us and made his way to say hullo and welcome. Even more impressive were the four caramel vodka shooters which arrived in frozen ice shooter glasses. (The rest of the review may have been seen through vodka tinted glasses so we visited again, twice to confirm my findings!)
This was the order on our first visit :
Pumpkin Panzarotti – (R69.00) Magnificent, melt in your mouth home-made pasta filled with sweet pumpkin and amoretti biscuit puree served with a burnt sage butter.
Agnolotti Piedmontese - (R95.00) Home-made ravioli filled with slow roasted shredded beef oxtail which is served with a rich beef jus scattered with tastings of wild mushrooms and truffle foam. Perfect portion for the ladies, the men may need a starter with this order, but it was sublimely delicious.
Contina Spare Ribs - (R95.00 ) Tender beef ribs off the bone, wrapped with prosciutto and wild mushrooms served with reduced jus and fresh green asparagus risotto that was to die for.
Prawn and Saffron Risotto – (R95.00) Perfectly creamy risotto with plump prawns, saffron and roasted pumpkin. This was served with gremolata as a condiment and was really sweet and delicious.
I tasted all of the above, and gave them all 5 stars. They are listed in order of which I liked.
We ladies ordered dessert only because I had styled them for the photo shoot and saw how incredibly delicious looking this often lost last course was. The Torta Caprese at R45.00 is probably the most impressive dessert I have styled in a long time and is as delicious to eat. The Caprese is layers of chocolate hazelnut cake with almond ice –cream and space ship looking rounds of home spun caramel. Be warned though, as it is rich, decadent, and enough to share.(Pictured below: courtesy of House and Leisure May 2011 issue.)
My friend had the Sicilian Chocolate Cannoli (R35) with almond ricotta filling. I had recently attempted to make cannoli’s myself (click here for the recipe) and although tasty and crisp, cannoli’s I feel are rather over-rated and if I were to have the calories – the Caprese makes it all worthwhile!
We ended off with the home-made limoncello which was not the creamy sweet one I am addicted to from our numerous Amalfi coast visits, but a strong, very zesty version which I think needs an acquired palette.
The food was fantastic! The fresh produce, home-made pasta and jus reductions were so bold and tasty that every mouthful was a taste sensation. Next time I may forgo dessert and squeeze in their famous mezze starter platter as the more you can share and experience, the better.
First class food is a good enough reason to return and so we did for our second and third visits three weeks later and are happy to say that both were as good an experience as the first with the entire table of eleven agreeing unequivocally that the food was fantastic– good value and the atmosphere lovely. Until 10 pm that was when sadly, on the first two occassions, the waiter staff began racking and stacking the emptying tables and chairs in one corner, and it left the place cold and void, encouraging us to call for the bill.
Other than that minor hiccup, which I mentioned to the manager, all of our experiences have been great food and fantastic service, and one I can highly recommend. Ensure to book, as if you don’t you may not get a table! (Edmund served us twice and is an absolute star!)
First visit 18th June 2011 – Second visit 8th July, Third visit 22nd July 2011