SOMEONE was thumping the Reps bar claiming it was impossible to buy a T-bone steak in any decent Harare restaurant for less than $5 000 since the currency r
Eyes looked at me expectantly but I could neither confirm nor refute this assertion as it is not a dish I often order. I knew they were $5 800 at Leonardo’s, Borrowdale; recalling it from the menu of a week earlier and Russell, the Café Med manager in the same shopping centre, had mentioned the night before that T-bone there was $5 000. As he said it with some pride I assumed that was probably good value for money.
Less than an hour later I was in Adrienne’s for Sunday lunch, as were several of the pre-prandial Reps bar flies. “Mr Five-Bar” wasn’t there, however, which was a pity as he would have seen (or even ordered) a “Beefeater” T-bone at $3 500: exploding his theory.
There are T-bones and T-bones, however. Anthony Behrens is now a partner in Café Med. Readers will know him from running the excellent butchery at Honeydew Farm.
Arguably the finest steak house in Central Africa is Bulawayo’s Cattleman, owned and run by two Irish brothers-in-law, one of whom in real life is a cattle rancher, the other a butcher specialising in selling succulent steaks. (Incidentally they always order the sirloin!)
I seem to remember Adrienne’s T-bones being of exceptional quality and more than reasonable quantity in the days when I frequently ordered drippingly rare blood red beef and life was far less secure for Mashonaland’s mombes.
Adrienne’s vegetable soup of the day was memorably good: steaming, piping hot, chock full of thick, chunky vegetables and a little pasta swimming cheek-by-jowl in a nourishing, flavourful broth. Accompanied by good continental bread rolls and proper butter it was also sensibly priced at $500 for a good deep no-nonsense earthenware bowlful. You can pay up to $2 500 at certain establishments for twee little demi-tasses of thin, almost bouillon-like “soup”.
Sautéed mushrooms with herbs, which I can highly recommend, were $1 400, button mushrooms a l’Escargot (Adrienne’s owner Nick Mandeya and sleeping partner Atillio Vigoritti once owned the then fabulous L’Escargot Restaurant at the Courtney Hotel) were $1 700, as were tuna pancakes and salad. Chicken liver pancakes (ordered as a main course by meeter, greeter and seater, Erines and chicken giblets a la mode were $1 100.
I settled for the special Sunday roast lunch: lots of good, tasty lean pork, crackling, apple sauce, rich gravy, roast potatoes, creamed spinach and roast butternut. This was a bargain at $2 000, but then Adrienne’s was named Best Value for Money Restaurant of 2004/2005 by readers in our sister paper, The Standard’s, latest Restaurant of the Year competition.For the not-so-hungry there were pancakes or baked potatoes filled with ham and cheese, Bolognaise sauce, creamy chicken or fresh mushroom, each $1 700 perhaps with a salad ($500-$1 500.) Vegetarian dishes are $1 100 to $1 900.
The “greenhouse” styled restaurant at the Second Street Extension shopping centre is light and pleasant, well-stocked with lush, green pot plants. You can eat totally inside or in a breezy alfresco “gazebo” type area. Service is extremely professional, especially from the long serving head waiter Paul. I assumed he was wearing contact lenses but on questioning him “No”. His conventional glasses got broken and he couldn’t afford the $24 000 of the old money needed for new lenses. When he squirrelled together $234 bar, his optician needed $38 million. He’s since managed without!
All steaks are $3 500, pork chops $3 300, Vienna schnitzel $2 800, Madras beef curry $3 000, mushroom-rich beef fillet Stroganoff $3 400, glazed spare ribs or braised oxtail Samanyika $3 800. During the long cold winter Nick’s lamb shank special (subject to quotation) would have gone down very nicely. The winter was five or six weeks late in finishing and rains are now threatening at least a month earlier than usual. Not good signs for the few remaining beef farmers in the country. Chicken dishes are $2 800 to $3 100 (half a Beira (piri-piri) chicken with chips, etc.)
I ended with what was supposed to be half a very pleasant fresh fruit salad and a soupcon of ice-cream. All puddings are $900 and teas, coffees and speciality coffees are at bargain basement prices.
Guests are welcome to take their own wine; corkage is not charged but the restaurant has a pleasant welcoming well-stocked bar if you prefer that route. An unobtrusive sound system played retro rock and 70s standards at an agreeable decibel level.
* Booking suggested. Tel 335602.
Adrienne’s, 2nd Street (Sam Nujoma) Extension, Belgravia, Harare.