The team behind the hugely popular and successful markets such as the Morning Trade and I Heart Market collaborated with an energetic venue called The Plant, at one of the cities urban renewal precincts – Station Drive – to bring Durban it’s very first Burger Fest, in celebration of an International Burger Day. The venue and time (5pm) was selected in part due to it being the centre of a business, industrial and creative agency hub. It was considered a convenience to have it close to those leaving work for the day.
We know that Durbanites love their Bunny Chows. But clearly, the burger is another worshiped foodstuff on the altar of feastings because most of the city arrived, thirsty for craft beer and ravenous for the beguiling burger offerings, with queues forming around the block.
I arrived early to sneak a few shots before the doors officially opened and the hungry masses flooded in. Large rows of tables and chairs were laid out in the expansive premises. Plastic kitch-cool oil-cloth table cloths created a patina of retro, brightly coloured patterns that was almost an imperceptible nod to the vintage baby-boomer fast food era of burgers, shakes and fries.
With vendors at the ready, the doors opened promptly at 5pm and people started pouring in. Despite there being another prominent event on that evening, and this being held on a work and school night, it didnt seem to diminish the crowds. The support far exceeded expectation. And no wonder, it’s a fantastic concept; who doesnt hanker for a beer and burger after work? As far as drinks go, there was the usual offering of various craft brews, ciders, coffees and juices. And the geniuses behind the Standeaven Brewery had my favourite beverage, Gin & Tonic, on TAP! That made my week. I’d like to get me a keg of that, please and thank-you.
Familiar favourites were there, grilling up and flipping signature burgers. Funny Bunny’s Stout Fondue Burger was an indulgent combination of a beef & oxtail patty, rich boerenkaas fondue, caramelised onions and pickled cucumbers in a dark bun. They also offered up a much-nommed Lukka Burger: same beef & oxtail patty but with pineapple, bacon jam, red pickled onions and served in a kitke bun. Creative and delicious. As a fun side, they had little tubs of ‘next level’ mac & cheese, with biltong and white truffle. This death by carbicide was worth it!
Vegetarians weren’t left out. Out to Lunch dished up a portobello and shroom burger, and brinjal burger. I felt that in the context of the other burger prices at the event (none more than R30, which was surprisingly reasonable) their’s was a little pricey at R40 for the portobello option, so I tried out the brinjal. It was bunless, which I was a little surprised about, but tasty enough. I would have preferred a bun though.
Letsbelocal, from Durbs, served up fantastic lamb burgers, blanketed in a cold tzatziki sauce, and the contrast did that perfect pairing justice. It was one of the best at the event.
Tonic Tam, from Zak & Tonic fame, took the Mexican route and threw together one of the most flavoursome and creative dishes at the event. Her ‘Mexican Eish’ Sliders were a quesadilla beef wedge with a beef & chourico patty (or a blackbean & corn patty), smokey chipotle crema, pico de gallo (a salsa salad), guacamole and cheese. It is one of my biggest regrets of the evening, not getting another one of those! It was fantastic.
There was also halaal options provided by Smokey Joe’s and a food truck called Turn Up, offering a delicious gourmet burger of buttermilk-soaked fried halaal chicken fillet, basted with honey butter and topped with homemade coleslaw, and accompanied by pap fries. Shew!
And then there was dessert! A diabetic-coma-inducing saccharine indulgence of creamy and deep fried glory was offered up in the form of a donut and ice cream burger by Smith’s Bakeshop, in collaboration with Legendairy Ice Cream. The appropriately sweetly named Hello Duffymoon created burger-and-fries-inspired crafty confections, namely burger cupcakes, shortbread fries and milkshake fairy cakes.
Overall, it was a fantastic and exciting event and it shows that if you stick something meaty between a bit of bread, fling in some beer and shove it into a large area, We Will Come. The volume of people attending exceeded all expectations, resulting in food running out much earlier than anticipated and leaving some people hungry for more. The organisers have taken this into account for future such events, of which I hope there will be many! As per the Slow Meat Festival, it’s clear that Durban has exceptional food & drinks talent and its worthy of celebrating (and consuming!)