A legend returns to Durban.
With a heritage dating back to 1958, the name Three Monkeys Coffee Bar is one that resonates with many locals, particularly those of the more elderly variety (*ahem*).
At the risk of getting myself embroiled in a running battle over the history of this establishment*, the original home of the Three Monkeys Coffee Bar was the African Life Arcade, 362 West Street – at least in the 70s and 80s, when Bob Humphreys owned it. The restaurant moved to the Pine Arcade during this era, before finally closing its doors.
Well-known for consistently delivering great food at La Bella Café, and with an impressive list of restaurants to his name over the last four decades, owner Bob Humphreys decided to open the newest incarnation of the Three Monkeys Coffee Bar in the Glenwood Village shopping centre.
The kitchen and a few of the tables make efficient use of the available indoor space (it’s hard to believe that this was an optometrist’s consulting rooms not too long ago), with some tables also positioned inside the shopping centre. Most of the tables are spread across the paved entrance to the shopping centre, and are sheltered by palm trees, lending it to relaxed al fresco dining. The walls have been transformed, inside and out, with painted murals depicting the coffee story, along with scenes of the legendary monkeys romping about.
Our waitress, Shana, was delightful with an easy manner and a sense of humour. The menu sticks to the café basics: breakfasts, hamburgers, wraps, tramezzinis, open sandwiches, salads and their legendary hotdogs. The Tuesday Special was a large scone and tea, served to coincide with Pensioners’ Day at the Spar, which I thought was a nice touch. One the burger front, there is the basic Three Monkeys Burger, with the more exotic varieties echoing the eponymous monkeys: See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil. We both chose the Speak No Evil Burger, which is topped with avocado, bacon and caramelised onion. Of course, a round of cappuccinos was ordered too.
When our meals arrived, a shocked silence descended on our table. These burgers are huge. The avocado and bacon topping wasn’t just present, it was very, very generous. The avocado had been sliced into thick strips, fresh and firm with not a hint of a brown spot in sight. The bacon was perfectly done, and browned to the point of being crisp on the edges. A basket of chips and a neatly arranged salad rounded off the presentation.
There was no way I’d be attacking this with my hands.
The bamboo skewer stabilised the burger, keeping the ingredients in place as I carved off each mouthful. The patty was succulent, done medium well, and was dispatched with great difficulty (but a lot of enjoyment). A lot more effort went into the preparation of the salad than I am accustomed to for a burger side, and it rounded the meal off nicely.
Despite being satiated after the mains, the Strawberry Cheesecake had attracted my attention as it was in my direct line of sight, and I had to comply. It was tasty and firm, without being too sweet. I shouldn’t have gone this far, but I was glad that I did.
I returned the next morning to sample the R25 Three Monkeys Breakfast. Naturally, I also needed to make sure about those cappuccinos. Their espresso blend is a medium/dark roast and is extracted very well, and consistently, by their baristas.
Finally, a decent cappuccino at Glenwood Village.
The breakfast consisted of two soft poached eggs (as ordered), a generous helping of bacon (billed as two rashers, but actually quite a bit more was served), a slice of tomato and a slice of toast. Once again, the service was quick and friendly, with used items being cleared efficiently, and drinks being topped up by the passing waiting staff.
This café restaurant is wonderful. For so long, this centre has struggled to find its culinary groove, with the slow demise of Butcher’s Block, followed by an uninspiring Silverani’s, and the final ignominy of the restaurant space being converted into a PEP store. Unless you were keen for Chinese food, the bagels from Glenwood Spar were your best bet. This is no longer the case.
The legend is indeed back in town, and it’s punching well above its weight.
Three Monkeys was reviewed by Big Daddy of The Taste Detectives.