Situated at 43 Miller Street in Pietermaritzburg, Traffords restaurant is one of Pietermaritzburg’s newest culinary attractions and is a unique establishment, as I discovered when I had dinner there recently. Owned by local businessperson Penny Hatting, Traffords is a throwback to the restaurants of the 1960s and 1970s, when fine dining was the order of the day.
Hatting named the restaurant after her late father, Trafford Swanepoel, who loved fine food and fine restaurants and treated his family to meals at some of the best restaurants in the country. “Trafford’s epitomises the fine dining I was exposed to as a young girl, so I thought it would be apt to name the restaurant after my father,” explained Hatting.
Trafford’s has a small menu, but the food is made from the finest and freshest ingredients, resulting in some superb-tasting dishes. I went straight to the main course, selecting the orange-infused oxtail with mashed potato and vegetables, which sounded like a good deal at R95.
Indeed, the oxtail proved to be an excellent choice. The meat was succulent and delicious, the vegetables crunchy and full of flavour, and the mashed potato wonderfully creamy and tasty. In fact, in terms of taste, presentation and overall value for money, I would rate it as one of the best oxtails I have ever had.
My mom had the smoked salmon (R45) as a starter thereafter selecting the parmesan chicken (R95) for her main course. She loved the salmon, which was served on a potato rosti with avocado and crème fraiche, describing it as “absolutely magnificent, very impressive and great value for money”.
She was equally impressed with the chicken, which was layered in a sherry cream sauce and accompanied by a helping of rice and julienne vegetables. “The chicken was superbly prepared and the vegetables were fresh and tasty, all in all a fantastic and highly recommended meal,” she remarked.
Mary-Anne, too, had the smoked salmon and the parmesan chicken and was most impressed with both dishes. “The salmon was exquisitely presented, exceptionally tasty and represented excellent value for money, as was the case with the chicken, which was superb in every way,” she exclaimed.
Tanya opted for the fish cakes (R50) as a starter and the lamb loin chops (R110) for her main course. She described the fish cakes, which were served with wasabi mayonnaise and a side salad, as “the best I have ever had” and the chops as “wonderfully good”.
Pete also had the fish cakes, describing them as having a “rich and unusual flavour”. For his main course, he had the duck confit (R130), which was served on a potato rosti with julienne vegetables. Although he remarked that the duck was “tasty and expertly cooked”, Pete was visibly disappointed by the rather small portion of meat.
Indeed, glancing across the table I was somewhat shocked by how small his portion of duck was. My friends and I have had similar experiences at other restaurants, receiving portions that were decidedly undersized, but this was quite possibly one of the most glaring examples I have ever encountered. Ninety rand or thereabouts would have been a more realistic price to pay, but to be fair to the restaurant, Pete had been forewarned by the waitress that the portion was “rather small”.
In need of a bit of cheer, Pete ordered the mocha parfait (R45) for dessert. Essentially a type of vanilla mousse drizzled in a thin layer of mocha liqueur, the parfait quickly put a smile back on Pete’s face, clear evidence that this delicious offering had proven to be the perfect antidote for a somewhat disappointing main course.
Mary-Anne and I selected the gourmet bread and butter pudding (similar to the traditional version, but containing pieces of chocolate instead of raisins) to round off our meal. As far as I was concerned, it was one of the blandest desserts I have ever tasted, and, at R45, also significantly overpriced. Mary-Anne disagreed, however, remarking that although the bread and butter pudding was “not quite what she I expected, it was still definitely worth the money because of the exquisite presentation and expensive ingredients”.
Despite a few disappointments I was impressed with what Trafford’s had to offer. All of our dishes were of good quality and expertly presented and it was clear that the chefs had put a high degree of care and thought into their work. The service, too, was above average, and the exquisite décor, comprising, among other elements, elegant wall paper, old Oregon pine floors and local artworks gives the restaurant a character all of its own.
In fact, had it not been for the significantly overpriced duck confit and the rather disappointing bread and butter pudding, I would have given Trafford’s ten out of ten. It is a restaurant that is unique to Pietermaritzburg, which, like most cities, has seen a proliferation of franchise restaurants over the years. It is refreshing that Hatting has decided to try something new in a city that is traditionally conservative, but judging by the packed house on the night, Trafford’s seems to have a bright future.
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Traffords Restaurant Contact details
Telephone: +27 (0)33 394 4364
Cell: +27 (0)83 225 0328
Physical address: 43 Miller Street, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal