There are restaurants, and there are institutions. Then there are legends. The Britannia Hotel on Durban’s Umgeni Road has been famed for decades. Now, thanks to TGIFood regular Erica Platter, you can make their famous Mutton Bunny Chow yourself, at home.
This is what they have made for decades to fill one of Durban’s classiest bunnies.
In the old days, before the Umgeni riverside in this area became arguably the busiest and noisiest street in town, the Britannia was a genteel watering hole, serving pink gins to white colonials on the front veranda, and beer and spirits to black customers through hatches at the back.
Since 1983 the Brits has been owned by the Moodley family. Young Linkey Moodley, then just graduated with a Masters (Commerce) degree from the University of Natal, borrowed money to invest in the hotel; he paid off the loan in five years.
Now you will find the Thirsty Horse sports pub with big screens, a revamped restaurant lit by vast chandeliers (“snazzy with ambience”), a tote and Tattersalls for betting-mad locals, and most lately, a new multi-storey conference centre and function rooms. Linkey has been busy. But it is the Brits’ food which made its reputation, it is still an essential ingredient in the business.
Linkey’s grandmother was an “exquisite” cook; his mother, queen of the kitchen for 20 years, no less accomplished. Britannia’s reputation for stellar Durban Indian dishes was established by them, and the hotel’s masalas, while no longer made on site, are still ground to their special recipe (“secret,” says Linkey, “protected, just like Kentucky”).
Everything comes to the table covered with clear plastic domes. And there are still women in pole positions: the impeccable kitchens are managed by Rebecca Naidoo. Shamla Naidoo runs the entire hotel.