Big Easy Winebar & Grill, Durban | Media

Learn How To Plate Like A Pro This #ValentinesDay

Plating has become a huge part of our relationship with food. From taking pictures that will induce envy from our social media friends, to watching online videos with tips showing how to plate like a pro. It has changed the way we approach food- we go to the restaurants where our friends post these works of art and it's something that chefs have picked up on and over the years most have worked hard at making sure their plates are Michelin star restaurant quality.

Chef Sbu Nhleko, who was recently appointed the Head Chef of Big Easy Durban by Ernie Els at the Hilton Hotel, has worked hard to make sure his plates impress his patrons. Last year I attended a champagne dinner he cooked for and was impressed by his plating, as where the other guests. And yes, the food didn't just look good, it tasted amazing, too.

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big easy durban new year's eve party

Big Easy Durban Holiday Events 2017


The end of year is fast approaching. For a memorable year-end function, that your colleagues will talk about for months to come, celebrate a successful year in style at Big Easy Durban. Set menus, including a welcome drink. R325 - R495 per person.


The season for celebration is here! Head on over to Big Easy Durban for a toast of Christmas cheer.

Enjoy an evening with family and friends where you can share in good laughter and create special memories with a set three-course menu and welcome drink on arrival. R425 per person.


It's the most wonderful time of the year and there's no better way to celebrate Christmas than spending the day with the ones you love. Treat your family to a Christmas lunch at Big Easy Durban while you sit back and enjoy live music entertainment. R700 per person (food only), R950 per person (includes food and wine pairing).


New Year's Moët Dinner

Enjoy a five-course dinner prepared by Chef Janine Fourie. This includes a glass of Moët & Chandon Champagne and delicious Party the night away with the DJ from 19:00 through the countdown and way into 2018! All guest will receive a R200 beverage voucher. R1100 per person

New Year's Eve Party

Enjoy an unforgettable New Year's Eve at Big Easy Durban! Indulge in a three-course Big Easy Platters, book for two guests and receive a complimentary bottle of Big Easy Wine. Seating in the lounge, bar and outside area only. - R600 per person

Kindly note that full pre-payment is required to confirm the booking. To make a booking, please email Mildred Mgobozi Children under 12 pay 50% and children under 6 are complimentary

2017 diners club winelist award winner

Big Easy Durban shines bright like a diamond at Diners Club Winelist Awards

Diners Club International
View the List

"Big Easy Durban was awarded diamond status in the 2017 Diners Club Winelist Awards. The winners of this year's Diners Club Winelist Awards were announced at a special ceremony, which was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga.

Diamond status is the highest accolade in the Diners Club Winelist Awards and entrants should obtain a total score of 91 percent or higher to receive it. The judging panel consists of experts in the restaurant and wine field, reviewers, the media, chefs, as well as members of the South African Sommeliers Association."

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big easy golf foundation

Golfers hit the sweet spot for Big Easy Foundation

Get it Durban

"More than R50 000 was raised for The Ernie Els Centre for Autism South Africa at the third annual Hilton Durban “Big Easy” Golf Cup held at Durban Country Club, which has been ranked as the 5th best golf course in South Africa by Golf Digest."

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lamb shank bunny credit chris wessling las vegas

Food Wine and the Big Easy

by Nicola Jenvey

"THIS year’s Mercury Wine Week pays homage to the 165 years the province’s leading morning newspaper has been ensuring citizens begin their day wholly informed of the news.

Raising the bar in innovation and prestige, The Mercury will host an exclusive food and wine pairing dinner on August 29 in the Hilton Hotel’s Big Easy Winebar & Grill by Ernie Els the night before Mercury Wine Week opens at Greyville Racecourse.

The sumptuous five-course dinner will showcase the talents of the Big Easy Durban’s head chef Janine Fourie with the award-winning Ernie Els Wines performing the ideal backdrop to the culinary sensations.

Born in South Africa, Fourie completed her in-service training as well as her professional chef diploma at the Granger Bay Hotel School in Cape Town. She has spent the past 17 years gaining valuable local and international culinary experience both front and back of house.

At the end of 2002, Fourie travelled to the UK and, inspired and eager to learn, she was overwhelmed by the vast variety of fresh ingredients available.

As a junior sous chef at the Ramada Hotel in Docklands, Fourie worked side-by-side with internationally acclaimed Michelin star Belgian chef Steve Van Remoortel in an experience she describes as one that has enriched her culinary knowledge.

As a leading South African ambassador and one of the most recognisable faces in the world of sport, Ernie Els has long demonstrated a passion for excellence. His focus, discipline and commitment have led to extraordinary golfing success – and these are the same qualities inherent in the wine brand that carries his name.

Ernie Els Wines managing director and winemaker Louis Strydom says through Els’s global travels, he has been exposed to and appreciated some of the world’s greatest wines. In 1999 he decided to pursue his passion for fine wine with the creation of Ernie Els Wines, establishing his flagship investment in Stellenbosch.

The menu for this prestigious dinner has only been served once before – to Els – and demonstrates the fluid interaction between exquisite food and outstanding wines. On arrival guests will be treated to a canapé of baked chie cheese bruschetta with onion and star anise marmalade, rocket salad and cherry tomato served with the Big Easy Chenin Blanc.

This will be followed by a chilled green pea soup with Mozambique prawn salad, langoustine pâté and poached Norwegian salmon paired with Ernie Els Sauvignon Blanc.

Next is Josper smoked duck breast with butter pumpkin curry purée, coriander chickpea fritter and coconut chutney matched with the Big Easy Rosé. This is followed by slow-roasted rolled Karoo lamb loin with apricot and chorizo, balsamic onions, mojo verde and zucchini spaghetti, accompanied by the Proprietor’s Blend (the winery’s blend of Rhône and Bordeaux wines).

Finishing the evening will be a baked red plum and orange tart served with white chocolate rose panna cotta, lime biscotti and vanilla anglaise as the ideal companion to the Big Easy Sweet Spot, a dessert wine worthy of every accolade.

An event not to be missed:

The food and wine pairing dinner takes place on August 29, 2017, 6pm for 6.30pm. Tickets are limited and cost R600 per person, and include the five-course dinner and accompanying wines as well as one entrance ticket to The Mercury Wine Week.

The Mercury Wine Week will be held at Greyville Convention Centre on August 30 and 31 and September 1. It costs R120 per person if purchased in advance by iTickets (opening July 31) or R140 at the door. Wednesday to Friday 5.30pm-8.30pm."

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big easy burger credit chris wessling

Get It Durban

The Best Burgers In Town
Get It Durban

"If there's anything we have to thank the Americans for it's the humble hamburger, which history tells us first appeared in the 19th century as an American meaty sandwich. Well, the burger has come a long way, it's crossed borders globally and has warped into one of the most loved gourmet food choices. We've rounded up some of the best burgers Durbs has to offer.

We like to think of this one a pretty gourmet experience involving a burger and a great place to linger with friends while sipping on a craft beer or colorful cocktail

Meat: A generous helping of local organic prime beef patty.

Bun: The patty sits pretty between two soft and fragrant flour-dused buns.

Toppings: Plum tomatoes, onion marmalade, mature cheddar, bacon and rocket leaves, served with onion rings, 'Big Easy' fries and a trio of relish and sauces.

What's so good about it? It's a mouth-watering, fresh, homemade burger topped with crispy greens, made more indulgent by the sweetness of crunchy onion rings and the sauce on the side. Definitely a winner for a late afternoon, early evening graze with a cold one."

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chef janine fourie

Get It Durban

Mmmm…. What’s for lunch at the Big Easy?
Get It Durban

"Who doesn’t love the luxury of a lunch-time invite to dine as special guests, and be the first to cast eyes upon and indulge in mouth-watering new menu ideas? Well, that’s what we did recently when we were invited to the Big Easy Winebar & Grill Durban by Ernie Els at the Hilton in Durban, to discuss the influence that social media has on capturing our food experiences, as well as sample a few of the new additions that Chef Janine Fourie will be introducing to the menu. And believe us… these are some dishes to die for…"

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chris wessling downstairsloft creative las vegas

So Suter Bill

Long overdue ...but worth the wait.
by Billy Suter

"I CANNOT believe almost two years have whizzed by since I attended the official media launch of Durban’s Big Easy restaurant, when I was still arts editor of The Mercury and editing the Goodlife supplement.

It was a fun time spent both in the airy, sophisticated interior and, more so, in the inviting restaurant outside areas, sipping wines and sampling many mini variations of the food conjured for the menu by amiable executive chef Janine Fourie.

It was a wonderful afternoon, and I was every bit as impressed with the food, service and ambiance when I booked a table a few weeks later to treat a friend to a meal there as a 60th birthday treat.

Good news is that on a long-overdue return visit last night (February 15), a lot of my favourite dishes were still on the menu.

The food and service was also still as good as I remember it. And Janine is still there and as bubbly and talented as ever."

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Biz Community

Restaurant News
by Chef Janine Fourie

"Chefs and foodies are constantly innovating and reinventing dishes and menus. From the massive helpings of meat-and-three-veg – or comfort food of yesteryear – to the extreme minimalism of nouvelle cuisine… just when you think it's all been done, someone comes up with something new.

South Africa’s food scene is no different with restaurant and food trends constantly changing. Here is a glimpse of what’s cooking at the moment.

A little-known fact for diners is that offal – kidneys, liver, heart, tripe, etc. – has numerous health benefits. Kidneys are loaded with vitamin B12, iron, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and much more. Liver is considered the king of organ meats as it is the most concentrated source of vitamin A and is also packed with iron. Heart is also a plentiful source of several of the B vitamins, as well as thiamine, folate, and zinc. Beef heart contains amino acids (which are thought to improve metabolism – good to know for weight loss) and compounds that promote the production of collagen and elastin (which assist in skin maintenance)."

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chef janine fourie

GET IT Duban

The world is head chef Janine’s Oyster
Food & Wine

Head Chef, Janine Fourie – has travelled the world and cooked and tasted a multitude of meals in the nearly 20 years of her culinary career.

“London made the biggest impression on me,” Chef Janine says. “It is such a cosmopolitan city. I moved there just after I graduated and thought I knew a lot about food and cooking – but realized I didn’t!"

“Meeting and interacting with other nationalities completely changed my perspective on what international food is all about."

Chef Janine has worked in Nigeria (where she tasted cane-rat stew), the Maldives and Cambodia (where she ate crickets!). She has also visited countries in Asia, South America, Europe and even Antarctica during three years working aboard a luxury cruise liner.

“Another very odd delicacy I tasted was Balut (a developing chicken embryo which is boiled and eaten from the shell) in the Philippines!”

As Big Easy Durban approaches its first anniversary in October, the bubbly chef reflects on the past 12 months.

“While compiling the new seasonal menu I was looking back at our first menu and remembering how the restaurant started off as just an empty shell – it is fascinating how it has evolved."

“I believe our approach to food – keeping it simple and pure, in a homely and inviting ambience – is what makes The Big Easy so unique. Also the input we receive from Ernie Els himself – he is modest and down-to-earth and I think that comes across in the restaurant’s vibe.”

Although the firm favourites remain on the menu, Chef Janine has introduced eleven new dishes, all of which embody elements of Spring.

“I’ve kept things light and fresh and created dishes with a combination of flavours – to add a different approach to the way one thinks about food. A ‘light’ meal doesn’t always have to be fish with salad.”

Being innovative was another inspiration for the new menu ...

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summer salad big easy durban

Biz Community

The Big Easy Durban Chef Dishes on Seasonal Produce
South African Restaurant News

Head chef of The Big Easy Durban Winebar & Grill by Ernie Els, located in the Hilton Durban, Janine Fourie says "Veggies should be colourful and crunchy on the plate and say 'Eat me!'" She advises that one should make the very best of fruit and vegetables in season.

“Not only will the produce be fresher than any other time of the year (when it may have been in cold-storage for a while) but also be far more affordable. Brighten up your meals by incorporating fresh, vibrant and colourful foods to boost the soul, mood, and system – an easy winter booster!”

Chef Fourie explains how she plans her menus around what produce is in season, the climate and diners’ preferences. “On cool, gloomy days I create a hearty meal to add to the menu. In spring and summer, I find there is a demand for lighter dishes. Events - like the recent Euro football championships - are also deciding factors when compiling the list of specials.”

Local Suppliers

Although farmers’ markets where one can shop for veggies straight from the farm are popular in the northern hemisphere, “they are not as prevalent in and around Durban. The Shongweni Market is probably the most well-known with the locals. The challenge in sourcing from an individual farmer on a small scale is whether they can provide the quantities required by The Big Easy Durban.”

Chef Fourie explored the province thoroughly before securing her preferred suppliers – most of them being in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands area. “We obtain our top-quality beef from Hope Meats, Wayfarer Trout supplies the very best cold smoked trout (which is ideal for salads) and Gourmet Greek provides delicious cheeses and to-die-for yogurt.”

Although meat and steak dishes are still the most popular choices on the menu (80%-90%), the vegetable does feature more predominantly now than it used to as a standard side dish of predictable creamed spinach, peas, and carrots. “Veggies should complement every meal!” says Chef Fourie.

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winemaker louis strydom ernie els wines

Capture The Sunshine

A visit with Ernie Els' winemaker offers a lesson in South African wines
- just as it did for Els 16 years ago.
by Mike McAllister

STELLENBOSCH, South Africa – A light haze caresses the Helderberg Mountain, which looms behind Louis Strydom's right shoulder as he pours one of his creations into a long-stemmed crystal glass. Shade from the oversized umbrella provides much-needed relief from a challenging hot summer day in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. The cool False Bay breeze that extends the ripening period has yet to announce its presence.

In Afrikaans, Helderberg means “clear mountain" and now, while sitting in its foothills, you understand why. The setting on the back patio at the Ernie Els Winery is spectacular, one of those life-is-good moments.

On the table in front of Strydom are a variety of wine bottles, a mid-afternoon taste testing ready to begin. It’s not unlike the scene 16 years earlier when Strydom – an award-winning winemaker – first explored the palate of his country’s top professional golfer.

When Els decided in 1999 to enter the wine business, he asked Strydom to join his project. Priority No. 1 was choosing the wine they wanted to make. Potentially, this was a problem, since Els was no wine expert. He grew up in Johannesburg, in the Highveld, a grassy plateau through South Africa’s interior. Big city. No vineyards.

“They only drink brandy and Coke there,” Strydom says with a laugh. “They don’t drink any wine.”

Els’ dad, in fact, didn’t drink alcohol at all, and didn’t allow any in the house. Els’ interest in wine only took off in the early ‘90s after he met his future wife Liesl, who grew up in Stellenbosch. But while he now enjoyed a glass, he couldn’t tell you why. And that’s what he told Strydom that day.

No worries, replied Strydom. “You don’t have to know anything about wines to know what you enjoy.”

He then set aside five bottles, each one placed inside an unmarked bottle-store paper bag. This would be a blind taste test. Strydom didn’t want anything – the grape, the color, the label -- to influence Els. The only thing that mattered was taste.

“What the hell am I tasting here?” Els asked, still feeling out of his element.

“Just tell me. Just talk to me,” responded Strydom.

Els remained unsure. These guys with the oakey and the smokey and all this, he laughed to himself.

“Listen,” he told Strydom. “I’m not gonna tell you what I’m smelling or tasting. I’m just gonna tell you what I like."

So he did. A sip from the first bottle. The second. Third. Fourth. Fifth. It was that fifth and final bottle he enjoyed the most -- a classic Bordeaux-style blend with five varietals.

Strydom then went to work.

ernie els winery

Ernie Els Winery, Stellenbosch

A year later, the Ernie Els Signature wine was introduced, utilizing those five varietals – 62 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot, 5 percent Petit Verdot, 4 percent Cabernet Franc and 4 percent Malbec. It was an immediate success, akin to a golfer making his pro debut by winning The Open Championship. Wine Spectator gave it 93 out of 100 – no South African red wine had ever been rated that high.

Since then, the Ernie Els Signature has annually received 90-plus points for every vintage. Platter’s Wine Guide, the country’s top wine annual, has given it 5 stars on four occasions. It continues to set the tone for all of Els’ wines each year – a high-end product that consumers will appreciate and enjoy.

“I trust him – and I did trust him back then – so I knew he would come up with a good product,” Els says of Strydom. “He just wanted to see what I liked. I’m glad that first meeting went well.”

When it was released, the 2000 Signature sold for R450 in South Africa. At the current exchange rate, that’s just over $31 in U.S. dollars. If you’re a wine connoisseur, you’re probably not flinching at that price. But 16 years ago ...

“It was the most expensive wine in South Africa,” Strydom says. “And it came out of a brown paper bag.”

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ernie els ion

What’s cooking with Ernie?

Durban - Billy Suter talks to golfing great Ernie Els, owner of Durban’s popular Big Easy restaurant at the Hilton Hotel. Where he talks about his food and drink likes and dislikes, and what he gets up to in the kitchen.

What meal is your favourite - and what is your least favourite?
My favourite meal is steak. Least favourite? That’s a bit trickier because I like most things. I’d say anchovies. I definitely avoid those.

What is your first food memory?
My mom’s home cooking, specifically her oxtail. They’re happy memories. My brother Dirk and I used to eat so much when we were growing up that she almost couldn’t make the plates big enough.

As a child did you ever develop a taste for unusual foods or unusual combinations of foods?
I used to love scrambled eggs on toast with a blob of strawberry jam on the top.

What’s the first thing you ever cooked?
Choppies on the braai - very happy memories. Thinking about it, not much has changed since then.

What is the dish you tend to cook most often?
Steak on a braai. As I said, that’s my favourite meal in the world.

What do you like and/or dislike about attending dinner parties?
I’m okay with dinner parties. Obviously, you want a nice crowd in there and to have a bit of fun. If it gets real quiet, I’m not so keen on that.

What has been your biggest kitchen disaster?
There have been a few, but I’ve learnt my strengths and my limitations, so you’ll only find me in charge of the braai these days.

What has been your biggest culinary success?
You won’t be surprised to hear that all my culinary successes have me standing at the braai. It’s something I enjoy doing, cooking for the family or for my buddies; enjoying a few beers or a bottle of quality red wine. That’s the good life, man.

How serious a wine fundi are you, and what is your favourite tipple?
I’m very serious about my wine; it’s a passion of mine and, of course, also a serious business for me.
We’re producing some wonderful wines at Ernie Els Wines in Stellenbosch and that’s always my go-to choice, especially our signature wine, a Bordeaux-style blend based on cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
We’ve won quite a few awards with that one. If I had to choose something else, it would be a top-quality red wine from the Napa Valley in California.

What kitchen utensil can you simply not live without?
A steak knife … but you probably guessed that already!

What’s the most kitsch thing in your kitchen?
Not really my department, but honestly I don’t think my wife, Liezl, does kitsch.

What are some foods you simply refuse to try?
None. I’ll try any food once.

What is your favourite restaurant in Durban and what do you usually order there?
The Big Easy Winebar & Grill, obviously. We pride ourselves on the quality of the steaks. I’ll take the “Big Easy” burger any day, as well. That always hits the spot.

Fave cooking ingredient?

What marks the most memorable meal you’ve had?
That’s a tough question. Travelling as much as I have these past 25 years I’ve been fortunate to enjoy just about every cuisine under the sun, beautiful food from all around the world. It’s one of the biggest perks of the job we do.

Who is your favourite celebrity cook?
Don’t have one … but one of my favourite restaurants is in the US - the Key Grill in Palm Beach, Florida. They make a spectacular grilled Chilean sea bass, with sauces on the side.

What do you rate as the sexiest of all foods?
They say oysters, don’t they? I’m not really a fan, to be honest.

What do you tip in restaurants?
I’m a good tipper. I really dislike meanness.

Have you/would you send a dish back at a restaurant if you were not happy with it?
It would have to be pretty bad, but yes I’d send something back, or maybe just order something else. I wouldn’t make a big deal of it. Anything with anchovies would definitely go back, though.

Favourite dessert?
I would have to go for chocolate ice cream.

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ernie els durban hotel

"A Hole In One"

International Golf star Ernie Els launches his Big Easy Winebar & Grill, at the Hilton Durban hotel

"Els, who jetted in from Johannesburg between tournaments, moved easily amongst the crowd, excited to have him in South Africa's coastal city of Durban, bumping into old friends and chatting to guests at the party, many of who couldn't resist the opportunity of a "selfie" with the sporting icon.

Although the restaurant has been operational for three months, this was the first time Els had seen the final it his "stamp of approval," during his speech to the gathered audience.

He also praised the vision and innovation of the various partners involved in the project; the Hilton Hotel Group, the design team of Therese Virserius and the restaurant opening team.

With Head Chef, Janine Fourie at the helm, the restaurant's culinary emphasis is on fresh, locally sourced produce, free range and organic meat and fresh seafood. With a commitment to farm-to-table delivery, the menu is a taste sensation from across the nation, delivered to perfection. The Big Easy serves a fresh, seasonally driven menu, sourcing ingredients and produce from artisan suppliers and featuring classic dishes, authentic local specialties and Ernie's personal favorites.

Alongside Ernie Els signature wines, the bar is stocked with an extensive collection of selected quality wines, many of which are available by the glass, and feature up and coming wine-makers. Wine aficionados will also be able to enjoy the entire Ernie Els collection, comprising 10 wines, as well as Ernie Els Vintage wines from 2002 and 2006.

To complement the wine selection, a comprehensive portfolio of local craft beer, fine whiskeys, cognacs and cocktails is available, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Sommelier, Eric Botha is on hand to add his considerable knowledge and advice to the dining experience.

The interior of the restaurant focuses on comfort, with a contemporary South African aesthetic. The Chefs Table and tastefully appointed Private Dining Room are welcome additions, to the usual restaurant layout.

A lounge, with large screen TV monitors, for (and other sporting events) and a large Bar with an impressive wine bottle display forming a dramatic floor to ceiling backdrop, dominates the space at the east end, while the dining area, looking onto the large Open Kitchen, is unobtrusively cordoned off by the "bottle wall."

The Els influence can be seen throughout with many personal touches, including custom-made furniture and a feature wall filled with memorabilia, replica trophies and images giving the venue a homely ambiance; while in the Private Dining Room, guests have the opportunity to sit down in comfortable style, as if in the company of "The Big Easy" himself.

Outside, the stylish Terrace is ideal for al fresco dining and chilling. A foliage wall, as well as locally sourced furniture and accents, honors South Africa's rich artistic heritage and natural beauty.

Over the coming months Big Easy Winebar & Grill will be introducing Sunday Jazz Sessions, regular events and wining and dining specials. "

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eric botha sommelier big easy durban hiltton hotel

"Take an easy drink in Durban"

"Durban - Big Easy Durban by Ernie Els, is a new winebar and grill at Hilton Durban. Inspired by Ernie Els’s sporting passion and love of his homeland it echoes his effortless, casual style.

The new restaurant is unpretentious, yet sophisticated, and brings together great food, amazing decor and a laid-back vibe.

With a commitment to farm-to-table delivery, the menu is fresh and seasonally-driven with ingredients and produce sourced from artisan suppliers and featuring classic dishes.

Inside, the restaurant features a chef’s table, open kitchen, private dining area, memorabilia wall and large bar. Outside, the Terrace has an upper and lower deck for alfresco dining and cocktails and a retail shop stocking wine and other memorabilia.

Alongside the Ernie Els signature wines, is an extensive collection of selected quality wines, many of which will be available by the glass, featuring up and coming wine-makers. Wine aficionados will be able to enjoy the entire Ernie Els collection comprising 10 wines, as well as Ernie Els Vintage wines.

To complement the wine selection, a comprehensive portfolio of local craft beer, fine whiskys, cognacs and cocktails is available.

Sommelier Eric Botha said all their wines were enjoyable on their own and were even more satisfying when paired with one of Head Chef, Janine Fourie’s dishes.

He worked closely with Louis Strydom from Ernie Els wines to personally select everything for Big Easy Durban. Here are his favourites:

  • Dieu Donne Shiraz/Viognier
    for easy drinking, and doesn’t need to be paired with food.
  • Villiera Monro Brut
    a perfect bubbly, perfect for any time anywhere.
  • Creation Viognier
    a versatile wine that can be paired with almost every one of the dishes on our menu.

  • His Valentine’s Day selection is the Big Easy Rose, with hints of strawberry."

    Read the full article on IOL - South Africa's Premier Online News Source
    therese virserius ernie els
    therese virserius photo credit: Jethro Snyders Photography

    "Big Easy Local Flavour"

    Omeshnie Naidoo chatted to Swedish interior designer Therese Virserius, responsible for the look and feel of the Big Easy by Ernie Els, which was christened by the golfing legend himself at the Hilton Druban recently.

    Hauled into a minibus taxi with kitchen staff, interior designer Therese Virserius went on a six-week adventure around South Africa, absorbing local culture, before she could begin work on the Big Easy restaurant at the Hilton Durban.

    Commissioned by South African golfer, Ernie Els, (dubbed the "Big Easy" for his tall stature and fluid swing) the winebar and grill is the second in a series of global franchise restaurants being designed by Virserius.

    Taking her cue from the long­standing Big Easy in Stellenbosch she designed the Big Easy Malaysia, Durban and is busy working on Miami.

    Virserius is a global citizen, who, apart from the privilege of a round-trip across the country, understands the dynamics of creating a world-class venue with a distinctly local brand identity.

    Born in Sweden and having lived everywhere from Europe to China, she has two studios ( - one in Paris and one in New York. She's worked extensively in Las Vegas, on projects such as the 12 billion dollar CityCentre Las Vegas.

    Speaking from the Big Easy at the Hilton Durban, where it is located, she said creating a global brand was all about submerging yourself in local culture, developing an overall impression and then interpreting it.

    "I saw a great deal of the landscape and people and found it earth, rustic and layered,” said Virserius.

    “As a foreigner when you think of South Africa you think of a safari and animal print, but I wanted to steer clear of cliché. Instead, with leather being so easily accessible and favoured by Els, I chose to incorporate it into the furniture, which we had locally manufactured.

    "There are leather armchairs, sofas and bar stools as we've varied the settings. "We've even used cane, but interpreted it in a very contemporary way.

    "I like to think of a restaurant as a stage set and then aim to create different scenarios for the different players -it helps make each visit unique and helps create different moments."

    She said layers were other important elements in design for her. The shell of casual screed floors and rustic brick walls is layered with bamboo and rope ceilings; there are rugs, cushions an other accents too.

    The final element in her design philosophy is the unexpected. The restaurant has numerous "rooms" or private spots, divided by "wine walls" or other "screens". The result is a surprise at every turn, perhaps, a chandelier made from wine bottles or wall art made from bottle corks. "If a space is not layered or interesting, it can get boring very quickly, my advice to any aspirant decorator is to avoid flat decor schemes," she said.

    "Even if your space is rustic, such as the restaurant with its hammered copper bar and loads of wood, juxtapose it with something sleek, such as the misty glass light fittings we have used." So layer, create moments and aim for the unexpected.

    Video Showcase: Big Easy Winebar & Grill

    Hilton Hotel recently welcomed the Big Easy Winebar & Grill and The Socialite was on set to showcase Durban’s latest hotspot…

    We celebrated the launch of Durban’s very first Big Easy Winebar & Grill restaurant to open its doors at the Hilton Hotel.

    The exclusive video showcase features the restaurant itself as well as interviews with Executive Chef Janine Fourie, Sommelier at the Big Easy Winebar & Grill Eric Botha, former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Delron Buckley, the CEO of Prosport International Mike Makaab as well as Olympian South African swimmer Charl Crous.

    ernie els big easy durban

    The new Big Easy Winebar & Grill at Hilton Durban is due to open in October 2015.

    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.

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