Echoing Els’ unique and easy style, Big Easy Winebar & Grill is unpretentious, comfortable and fun, the place to be among friends. It’s Farm-to-table, seasonally driven menu offers a combination of fresh from the grill food, local specialties and Ernie’s personal favorites, inspired by the cultural crossroads of South Africa. Alongside Ernie Els signature wines will be an extensive wine by the glass offering, featuring up and coming wine-makers.
Big Easy Winebar & Grill is located in a prominent location just off the lobby of Hilton Durban and also directly accessible from the Durban Convention Centre plaza. The Els influence can be seen throughout with the many personal touches that have been introduced. The Lounge area is stocked with wines from Ernie Els Wines portfolio and showcases a feature wall filled with golfing memorabilia, replica trophies and action images from Ernie’s 70-plus professional tournament victories; while in the Private Dining Room diners have the opportunity to enjoy a more intimate, yet still comfortable environment. The addition of Big Easy Winebar & Grill is expected to bring a resurgence of energy to the popular property, currently the only five star hotel in Durban’s CBD.
Earning his nickname ‘Big Easy’ as much for his effortless golf swing as for his big heart and philanthropic efforts, Ernie Els is synonymous with all-round excellence; pursuing the best in sports and leisure, while always staying true to his love of family and country.
“Having travelled the world and dined out literally thousands of times, I understand the essence of what makes a great restaurant. It has to have warm hospitality and a fun, relaxed environment – somewhere to enjoy spending time with friends and family over a great bottle of wine and a meal,” says Els. “The ethos behind Big Easy Winebar & Grill is to provide all of those qualities. This really is my kind of restaurant in every sense.”
Els goes on to say, “We are excited to be part of one of the world’s most iconic hotel brands through this partnership with Hilton and Durban offers the perfect launching-pad, with its laid-back vibe and idyllic weather. It’s a great fit.”
Simon Lazarus, vice president of food and beverage, EMEA at Hilton Worldwide, said, “At Hilton we have a passion for excellence in food and drink and have been creating amazing memories for our guests for nearly a century. We are always exploring ways to create new experiences and finding great partners who share our vision, while also being authentic to the local destination. In Ernie Els and his team, with the creation of Big Easy Winebar & Grill, we believe we have a winning combination for Hilton Durban, bringing something entirely new to the city.”
Executive chef Janine Fourie and sommelier Eric Botha have been handpicked to run the restaurant. Chef Fourie, who completed her professional chef diploma at the Granger Bay Hotel School in Cape Town, brings 16 years of local and international experience to her new position, most recently as Executive Chef at Knai Bang Chatt, a boutique hotel in Cambodia and aboard the Relais & Chateaux luxury cruise-liner, Worldwide.
Sommelier, Eric Botha, was mentored by well-known wine selector, Allan Mullins and has numerous Cape Wine Academy courses to his credit. Throughout the past 10 years he has gained valuable experience at The Vineyard, Singita Game Reserve and ‘Maze’ at The One & Only. Most recently Eric has held Sommelier positions at Bel Punto and The Oyster Box in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as consulting to The Chairman.
While the focus is on comfort, and creating a ‘home from home’ ambiance, the culinary emphasis will be on fresh, locally sourced produce, free range and organic meat and fresh seafood, with the restaurant open for lunch and dinner daily. The wine list, includes Ernie Els wines, and a selection of the best of the rest South Africa has to offer, as well as a local craft beer selection, the finest whiskeys, cognacs and cocktails.
The Big Easy project at Hilton Durban brings together a dynamic, international creative team. The vision of interior designers Virserius Studio, an award-winning hospitality interior design firm out of New York and Paris, was to create a space that was ‘beautiful, friendly and open, to ensure that everyone who visits will feel comfortable.’ The Big Easy Winebar & Grill in Durban, is South African in nature, combining several unique spaces, all tied together by inviting rustic elements such as wood-beamed ceilings, beaten copper, rich textured leather upholstery, brushed concrete and handcrafted furniture.
The open plan interior of the restaurant comprises a Chef’s Table and open Kitchen, where diners can get up close and personal with Chef Fourie and watch the chefs at work in the heart of the restaurant. A large bar with an impressive wine bottle display, a dramatic floor to ceiling backdrop and a copper bar counter, dominates the east end of the space. Outside, the Terrace with upper and lower decks, for al fresco dining and chilling, features a lush green foliage wall, as well as locally-sourced furniture and accents, honouring South Africa’s rich artistic heritage and natural beauty, where guests can fully immerse themselves in the magic of the outdoors and Durban’s idyllic weather.