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Serenaded at La Serenata!

I was in Highlands on Wednesday and the attractively rambling La Serenata (Italian for the serenade) was overdue for a visit.

Report by  Dusty Miller

It was a good job I called that day as — the next — chef-proprietrix Lauren Pyle was planning to leave for a week on the Mozambique coast.

Well so far to the south of Mozambique that I shuddered at the thought of her spending days driving there and back, battling with customs and immigration, especially as her nearly five-month-old baby, Matthew, would be in the party with mum, dad and his half-sisters!

Matthew was born in the UK and Lauren’s horror story of their journey back to Ha-ha-ha-rare courtesy of a couldn’t care-less British Airways via Jo’burg would be enough to put most people off flying for ever.

La Serenata always looks packed, judging by the car-parks, bursting with 4WDs, but the yuppies are usually tied up with conferences, company bonding sessions, product launches, strategy meetings and other talkfest activities from corporate life.

Until one of these seminars broke up and 40 hungry middle aged men descended on the indoor dining room, there were only a handful of punters inside and I sat in splendid isolation outdoors on a rustic bench, under a massive umbrella, next to an attractive tinkling waterfall, tumbling into a lily pond.

Since Lauren returned from Britain with her armful of mischief, she’s had to take things a little easier, professionally. The restaurant no longer routinely opens for breakfast and they’ve dropped the popular Sunday lunch carvery/buffet, which several of my formidable militia of food informants raved about. Sadly, I never made it there in person on a Sunday.

Nowadays there’s a US$18 two-course business lunch which comprises cream of butternut soup, with an understated citrus kick in it, which comes with croutons and continental bread. (Other starters vary between US$6 and US12; salads are around the US$10 mark.)

That’s followed by a choice of piri-piri chicken with French fried and a side salad or lightly spiced grilled tilapia with lemon butter sauce on a savoury rice or braised pork chops with chips and roast vegetables or spinach-and-feta cannelloni with a herbed tomato ragout.

that represents solid value for money in a place of the statue, reputation, ambience and professional service of La Serenata.
From the main menu, my “succulent braised shin of beef, slow cooked in red wine, served with creamy mashed potatoes and roast vegetables” lived up to the promise of its description at US$16.

Mains are between US$12 (kebabs or pasta) and peak at US$17 for a well-hung export quality fillet or rump steak with sauce and starch of your choice.

Light lunches cost US$7 or US$8 apiece and comprise interesting, nourishing sounding toasties served with chips or salads.
The dinner menu is dearer than the lunchtime tariff, peaking at US$24 for Loch Duarte salmon or queen prawns.

The most interesting sounding pudding: home-made brandy snap baskets served with a medley of seasonal fruits, ice-cream and a raspberry coulis was unavailable, but an apple crumble/tartlet with vanilla ice-cream proved pleasant.

The fairly recently purpose-built red-brick restaurant sits amid a couple of acres of lush, verdant, sculptured landscaped gardens and their core business takes place there with marquees and the like often being seen as wedding receptions, product launches and corporate events proliferate.

There’s an on-site art gallery and a picture framers.

Currently they open Monday-to-Friday for lunch and supper, Saturday supper only, but Lauren said that soon, she will be launching a Saturday family bar-and-grill day with popular affordable food items served indoors and out and things like a jumping castle for the wee’uns.

La Serenata, 146, Enterprise Road. Fully licensed. Smoking not allowed at indoor tables but permitted in the bar and at the outdoor tables. Child/handicapped friendly. secure on-site parking. Telephone: 0772 336 223.

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