By Le Connoisseur
For us, Friday lunch time is when the weekend will start to make itself felt quite strongly. The other Friday — following Oscar Wilde’s maxim that everything can be resisted except temptation — we simply gave in and decided that it was the weekend indeed, and that the right moment had arrived to treat ourselves to a nice luncheon.
So we went to try out L’O de Vie. This is a lovely luxury Belgian-French restaurant situated in Newlands shopping centre, just opposite the large TM supermarket. The menu on offer is creative, with a pleasant continental flair that would not embarrass any such establishment in Brussels or Liege! The blackboard standing at the entrance and offering the day’s specials mentioned frogs’ legs, and instantly I was transported to reminisce about small village restaurants in Belgium or France, offering seasonal bests, done with love and care, based on hundreds of years of gourmet tradition. Before entering, I had my starter organised already!
We found a pleasant table inside, the outside verandah seeming just still that little bit cold on a winter day. We admired the table linen, the décor and the elegant ambience. Adjusting ourselves to the continental fare on offer, we first of all focused on getting ourselves a nice bottle of cool and crisp white wine. This proved no problem, and soon we sighed happily at the lovely bouquet of our chardonnay, well-oaked, certainly able to stand up to whatever delectable dishes we might order to go with it.
I had already chosen the frogs legs — when will one ever have the opportunity again in Harare? — and my wife found that the Crevette (North-sea shrimps) and tomato would suit her fine. As a main course she went for the Belgian classic of beef simmered in beer (Carbonnade Flamande), while I chose a pork chop with red cabbage and apple.
The waiter coped with our wicked weekend mood quite admirably, fending off our impish jokes with politeness and imperturbability. Soon our starters arrived. The Crevette came nestling inside a hollowed-out tomato, accompanied by a lovely homemade green peppercorn mayonnaise. The frog legs, Grenouille, were served with a deliciously strong garlic and herb sauce. Both starters were absolutely lovely, the shrimp carrying a full flavour of the North sea —not in any way resembling those anaemic and tasteless morsels one often is given — and the frog legs were done to perfection, tender and enhanced beautifully by the garlic and herb sauce.
We drank our wine, we had our Crevette and Grenouille, teased the waiter mercilessly, and felt quite soignée and continental! Apart, that is, from the paper napkins that were given us, rather than proper linen; a somewhat surprising disappointment given the general ambience of L’O de Vie.
The main courses came soon after we had finished our starters. The Belgian beef stew did not have the promised green beans, nor did my pork chop have any red cabbage and apple. But there was mashed potato for me, and chips and a ratatouille for my wife. It was rather careless not to have warned us of the changes in the food actually to be served. But what we did get tasted lovely again, so we did not grumble too much.
Having enjoyed our main courses, and finished the bottle of wine, we reckoned that there was still a need for further “victualising”. The desserts offered a sabayon and also a white chocolate pannacotta. I had the first, my wife chose the latter, and they were brought with alacrity, as we had now run into closing time! We enjoyed the sweets tremendously.
As the name of the restaurant is L’O de Vie, which is the name for the grape distillate (eau de vie) that is used as the base for cognac, I ordered a coffee and cognac to end the most sumptuous lunch of the year. The cognac was a little known one, and very pleasant, the coffee was fine.
Newlands shopping centre
Expect to spend US$20 – US$40 per head