The Secret Diner
Umhlanga Arch, 1 Ncondo Place, uMhlanga Ridge
Open: Monday to Saturday 7am to midnight, Sunday 7am to 6pm
Call: 074 795 9305
Hats off to anyone in hospitality opening anything in the middle of a pandemic, but the new Legacy Yard, inside uMhlanga’s recently opened Umhlanga Arch, will be a winner.
The Arch is a mixed-use development, home to BMW showrooms and top-end shops and boutiques, plus modern office space. There’s also a four-star Hilton Hotel and a block of flats to complete the picture. Up on the fifth floor landing it is almost like a piazza, with a park flanked by designer stores and the Legacy Yard, a food court unlike others, with a series of bespoke outlets offering high-quality and unusual culinary delights.
The stylish, distinctive and eclectic decor at Legacy Yard.
The design is modern and vibrant, with its exposed brick and dynamic colourful murals, hanging plants and distinctive retro emblems and organic elements. It has a similar feel to the village’s Chefs’ Table.
And then there are the views, taking in the coastline all the way from uMhlanga to Durban.
In the middle is a bar which all the seating areas hang off – but you could also enjoy a craft gin and tonic out on the grass in the square.
To give you a taste there’s Super Smokehouse, an offshoot of Florida Road’s Super Burger that is one of the city’s better burger choices. In addition to its juicy home-made burgers and secret sauce, there are the likes of slow-cooked brisket or ribs, or even its own Super smoked sausages. These can be accompanied by smoky beef fries or super fries – smothered in a cheese sauce – onion rings or slaw.
Pizza offers a range of hand-stretched options straight out of the woodfired oven, including a Popeye, with spinach, feta, Parmesan and aioli, or one with lamb coriander and tikka sauce. The vegan option includes roasted cauliflower, spring onion and tahini drizzle. All available in two sizes.
Mama Wanda Health Bar offers a choice of greens, you then pick your protein and your drizzle to build any salad that takes your fancy. It also offers a range of quiches, and smoothie bowls or muesli and granola bowls for breakfasts.
There’s also The Bachao Story, an outlet that specialises in a selection of chaat and street food from Mumbai. Think rolls, dosas (rice pancakes) or paratha filled with Kerala fried chicken, or black pepper paneer, or Bombay lamb mince, augmented with the likes of masala chai, or limca (an Indian lemonade), or mango lassi.
The Chicken Joint offers everything that’s best about everyone’s favourite bird, with at least three different batches going onto the rotisserie just while we were there. Whether whole, half or quarter, or as prego or chicken mayo rolls, it’s available with sauces like smoky barbecue, peri-peri and lemon and herb, and sides like sweet potato fries.
Wasabi, predictably specialising in sushi, is the latest venture from Durban’s Thai chef Roger Watchara Siravaganakul of Green Mango, whose sushi options have always been top notch. There are a few simple noodle dishes from his native Thailand.
Edward Papaphotis, of Momenti Artisan Gelato, sells a range of handcrafted small batch ice creams to tempt even the most ardent non-dessert person like me. Papaphotis studied ice-cream making at a university in Bologna, the culinary capital of Italy. He also offers a range of delicious vegan sorbets.
The Butterscotch Cafe and Deli do a range of delicious coffees and cakes and some unusual deli items. My friend couldn’t resist the lime and tequila pickle.
With one of Durban’s famed baristas, Selby Ntombela, better known as the Black Mamba of Old Town Italy fame in charge of the coffee here, you can bet it’s good.
Upstairs is an open-air cocktail bar with swing loungers called the Backyard, which I am sure will soon become the in-place for the young and trendy.
The Bachao Story specialises in Indian street cuisine.
Spoilt for choice, we relished a salad from Mama Wanda’s, opting for greens with goat’s cheese, avocado, dry chilli, nectarine and red onion in a raspberry garlic and mint dressing (R55). We topped it with a protein of Palma ham (R45) making for a superb and generous salad. Other options include a Thai slaw with mango and carrot and Thai dressing, or greens with sesame seeds, avocado, baby spinach, grapefruit and walnuts in a salted tahini dressing. Protein options might include spicy tuna or coronation chicken. Mama Wanda makes the humble salad a feast.
Next was sushi from Wasabi. We shared a deep-fried salmon roll and a prawn fashion sandwich (together R160) which were excellent.
Instead of the breads and wraps from The Bachao Story, we opted for Chaat Toppers – yes, that’s what they call them. The pani puri (R60), crispy little pastry shells filled with a bean-based curry which you then top up with spiced mint sauce, were explode-in-the mouth sensations. We also loved the mozzarella pakoda (R60) which was mozzarella – in India it would be cottage cheese – wrapped in batter and onions and deep fried so you had this crispy outside and melting middle. The butter chicken bombs (R75), which is minced butter chicken, crumbed and deep fried, were worth trying. You can also get a Love Triangle platter for two which gives you a full taste of the different options.
The Butterscotch Cafe and Deli do delicious coffees and cakes.
We had no space left, but had to have ice cream for dessert. Although the range is endless, we settled for favourites – my friend loves real vanilla, and for me pistachio on crisp home-made waffle cones.
There’s no real service as such: you place your order at the food outlet and you’re given a buzzer which rings when the food is ready to collect. Most of the offerings are quick, so there’s no real wait. And there’s a team of waiters clearing up tables and keeping the place orderly who will gladly assist if you’ve ordered too much food to carry to the table, or forgot to bring a knife and fork.
And, yes, most of the paper and “plastic” packaging is biodegradable.
Ambience: 4 ½
The Independent on Saturday