The Oyster Box at Umhlanga Rocks brings a sea-change to your stay in Durban.
We’ve never really found a good reason for going to Durban, other than to board a train or fly somewhere else – until we stayed at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks.
You’ll know you’ve arrived because of the huge lighthouse that sits on the rocky foreshore smack bang in front of the hotel – and if it’s a case of being seen, then you’ve come to the right place.
The Oyster Box is a gathering place for the glitterati, those who want to be noticed and yummy mummies preening themselves in the latest fashions as they discuss babies and boutiques.
All this makes it sound as shallow as the watery hazards outside but Oyster Box actually rocks with energy, enthusiasm, style and pizzazz that makes it a magnet to run aground on.
It’s one of the few five star hotels we’ve stayed in that exudes fun and flair whilst retaining a smart quality image.
The building itself is beautifully fresh and light with sunshine streaming in from all directions and the layout of the common areas open and airy, rather than compartmentalised and boxy.
There’s a freewheeling ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the place that extends throughout the hotel and every nook and cranny has an interesting design or art cameo to intrigue you.
The hotel is large and outwardly imposing but never overpowering as courtyards and corners break up the scale and make you feel as though you’re in a much more modestly sized and manageable residence. Individual cottages, the Spa area and Gazebo add to the charm and the restaurant areas, again, are enticing without being pretentious.
We’d arrived in time for lunch but before eating chose to settle into the plush red leather chairs of the Lighthouse Bar upstairs to sip a G&T and enjoy the view outside, which is dominated by the Umhlanga Rocks Lighthouse.
Later, in the Ocean Terrace restaurant, despite the extensive and interesting menu, we opted for the ‘curry buffet’, which despite our resolve to pace ourselves, still ended up eating far too much; such was the appeal of the spread before us.
Our Deluxe luxury sea-facing bedroom was beautifully appointed and immensely comfortable – to the extent that we had to try it out there and then and only surfaced in time for dinner! The attractive and efficient Planter’s louvred shutters effectively blacked out the room when closed and enabled us to catch up on some lost sleep from our continuous travelling of the last few days.
Evening in the Grill Room was almost bypassed in deference to our waistlines but in the interests of reviewing all aspects of the hotel forced ourselves to indulge; albeit with a more modest choice.
My Snail Cassoulet with anchovy cream and capers, followed by Earl Grey Smoked Salmon and truffle risotto were beautifully prepared and very tasty, with Cherrie’s flame grilled oysters with garlic, mustard beads and Parmesan ‘floss’, followed by Five Spiced Duck a la Peach, with its own spring roll of roasted peaches and honey, similarly well received. Just as well we were going easy! The interleaving of amuse bouche did, however, enable us to pace our meal.
The Grill Room itself was a masterpiece in how to make a large area feel intimate, so that we were able to hold a conversation ourselves without being overheard, yet enjoy the presence of others in elegant surroundings.
The hotel itself is worth exploring and some of the rooms, such as the library, are as fascinating as the surroundings.
Breakfast was another exercise in dietary self-restraint and light entertainment as we watched the staff chase baboons away from the terrace.
To stay at the Oyster Box at Umhlanga gives little indication that you are close to one of the bigger and, for us, less appealing cities in South Africa – to the extent that we would now delay our transit through Durban simply to travel a few minutes north up the coastline to stay at Oyster Box.
Definitely our top recommend for when you’re next in Durban.
If you’d like more information about The Oyster Box then take a look at their website here:
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