Kapitan′s Balcony Hotel

Kapitan′s Balcony Hotel on the corner of Grey Street and Victoria Street (renamed Dr Yusuf Dadoo Street and Bertha Mkhize Street respectively) was owned and run by Ranchod Kesur Kapitan from about 1925. Ranchod′s father, Kesur Jivan Kapitan arrived in Durban from India in 1887 and set up a business here. Kapitan′s Balcony Hotel operated a vegetarian restaurant to cater for Indian immigrants, and was also well known for its sweetmeats. The restaurant occupied the ground floor of 154 Grey Street, as well as the first floor of a building at 189 Grey Street, and became a landmark of the Grey Street area as an extremely popular gathering place. Patrons included celebrities like John Schlesinger, Ken Gampu and Curtis Cokes, in addition to political leaders from a wide variety of organisations who met at Kapitan’s for meals and strategy sessions. Ranchod Kesur Kapitan also opened a branch of the restaurant in Johannesburg, which was a favourite haunt of Nelson Mandela before he was sent to prison. It is believed that Durban’s world famous Bunny Chow curries were first made in Grey Street, possibly at Kapitan’s Vegetarian Restaurant. Segregation laws prevented African customers from eating inside the hotel, and they were served through a hatch directly onto the street. A hollowed half-loaf filled with curry avoided the need for plates, and resulted in Durban’s staple take-out meal. Indian shopkeepers were known as “banias” and the phrase Bunny Chow could mean “food from the shopkeepers”. Kapitan’s Balcony Hotel was closed in 1977.

Location

Address: corner of Bertha Mkhize St and Dr Yusuf Dadoo St
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
steven.kotze@durban.gov.za
031 311 2239

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