No introduction is needed for this restaurant as it is well-known and long established in Bulawayo. However, for the benefit of visitors looking for a slightly alternative dining experience — New Orleans is found in Hillside along Banff Road just before the Hillside Dams. Originally a farmhouse, the conversion into a top-class restaurant has taken nothing away from the charm of the old building, with bay windows, French doors and glossy parquet flooring.
Turning off the road into a spacious and secure parking area, one can immediately start to relax and think about the gastronomic delights waiting to be sampled. It was a sultry evening when we chose to treat ourselves and the sight of whirling ceiling fans was a welcome relief. After being warmly greeted by the maître d’, we were shown to a table by an open French window through which, later on in the evening, a gentle breeze wafted.
The décor of this restaurant, as the name might suggest, has a strong feel of the “American Deep South” with lots of Mardi Gras artefacts such as beautiful masks, large brightly coloured carnival posters and “Cajun” menus everywhere. The tables are dressed in sumptuous white damask with runners in spangled, sage green gauze and this is repeated in the draperies which are held back with old gold curtain clasps. The overhead lighting is subtle with extra table lighting provided by a candle seated in sand and covered by a large glass bowl. As we sat taking it all in, our waiter came with the menus and asked for our preference in drinks. Once this decision was out of the way, we could peruse the menu. There is a good variety of food to be had at New Orleans, some with wonderful names and unusual culinary combinations. Drinks in hand, a gin and tonic and rum and coke, both with lots of ice and lemon slices, we made a choice of smoked salmon and prawn cocktail to begin, followed by bream fillets and a Garrick steak.
A wine menu was asked for and after some deliberation between the whites and reds, we ordered Brampton Shiraz as we’ve never had a wine from Rustenburg (which is found in the north west of South Africa). Our bottle of Brampton Shiraz did not disappoint and is the smoothest Shiraz I have ever tasted. Our starters arrived just as the first glass was poured and so began a wonderful evening. The salmon gently infused with prawn had a delicate smoky flavour and the crisp bed of lettuce and creamy mash potato almost turned this dish into a main course. So, it was quite a relief to wait a bit for the mains!
This arrived with sincere apologies by the waiter for the delay but we were quite content to have a small digestive break. He dextrously handed the plates to the table and then our taste buds went into overdrive as flavours drifted up from the piping hot food. The bream fillets had been sautéed in a delicate orange marinade and then crisply fried so that they were oh so succulent and aromatic. My partner’s Garrick steak was large, juicy and outrageously stuffed with mushrooms and herbs — his eyes lit up. Both dishes were accompanied by roasted potato slices and lightly steamed vegetables. When the maître d’ came to enquire how we were enjoying our meal, we let him know in words of many syllables!
Good food cannot be rushed and they know this at New Orleans. So when the last morsel had been consumed, and the plates had been removed, our waiter came back to ask if we would like ‘something sweet’. We contemplated this for a while, whilst finishing off the last of the wine and allowing everything to ‘settle’ and then called for the dessert menus. I felt I needed something light and sweet to round off the meal and asked for the lemon cheesecake while my partner required a chocolate fix. So it had to be the chilli chocolate pudding with mint. Won’t say any more on this — you will have to visit New Orleans and see what you think! Our desserts were followed by cups of rich filter coffee.
Altogether a delightful dining experience is to be had at New Orleans. The ambience is so very relaxing, so don’t have anything else planned for later on in the evening and let the Mardi Gras take you on a culinary journey where your taste buds will be thoroughly spoilt.
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Deluxe Restaurant 5 Plates Expect to Spend US$25 – US$35 per head Banff Road, Bulawayo