A much-loved local landmark, The Oyster Box Hotel is a popular place for both Durban locals and visitors to the area. However, it has a particularly special place in the hearts of Red Carnation Hotels founders, Stanley and Bea Tollman. It was at the Oyster Box in 1952 that the Tollmans found themselves dreaming of, one day, owning the property, and in 2006 that daydream become a reality.
Back in the 1950s, Stanley and Bea Tollman were living in Johannesburg and found themselves in Durban for the weekend. The Oyster Box property was then owned by brother and sister duo Ken and Kay O’Connor, who had developed the site—next to Durban’s famous Umhlanga Lighthouse—from a tea garden, to a restaurant and finally, a hotel. The Tollmans enjoyed dinner in the restaurant, which is now The Oyster Box’s elegant Grill Room, and Bea ordered a dish of Durban oysters. Keen to try the delicacy, as she’d never eaten it before, she promptly spat the first mouthful on the floor! She admits that this was not a very ‘ladylike’ start to the meal, but more importantly, the evening marked the beginning of a love affair, both personal and professional, that has spanned over 65 years.
Thanks to its propensity to the shoreline and Indian Ocean, The Oyster Box can be relied upon for its fresh supply of outstanding seafood. Wild Oysters occur naturally in Durban, along the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, where the Oyster Box is situated, and the hotel has been harvesting wild Oysters since the 1940s. In fact, in years gone by, when a diner ordered oysters, a member of staff would run down to the rocks to pick a few before running them back into the kitchen to meet the order. Considered a delicacy all over the world, oysters are also highly nutritious and contain a significant amount of protein as well as essential vitamins such as iron, zinc, vitamin A and B12 and calcium. They can be served in a variety of ways, from raw to fried, pickled and broiled.
Over 60 years after the Tollmans’ first visit to Durban, The Grill restaurant still has oysters on the menu in the form of its signature dish, Fame Grilled Oysters. Freshly picked and very locally sourced, the oysters are complemented by burnt scallion butter, green garlic, mustard beads, and Parmesan floss. For a more substantial meal, guests can order the show-stopping Seafood Platter for two. This is a spectacular tower of baby crayfish, baby langoustines, prawns, calamari, and of course, local Durban oysters.This hearty platter is served with lemon-infused Jasmine rice, burnt lime, habanero and dhania sauce, shellfish butter and a selection of chef’s condiments.
Guests can also enjoy a cocktail with their oysters in the appropriately named Oyster Bar. With stunning ocean views, live music and Champagne providing the perfect backdrop, make your way through the delightful Oyster Menu and experience a little bit of local Durban history.
Discover deliciously fresh and local cuisine when you visit Durban’s Oyster Box Hotel.
Image Credits: All images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.