IT seemed ages since I last visited Leonardo’s, Borrowdale and, checking undated reviews on my computer, it must be some considerable time as on one visit a steak, pudding and two beers were “under $1 million” of the “old money, $1 000 of the new (when that was worth about US$10), and on another pizza was $10 500. Will history ever forgive, or vaguely understand, “Giddy” Gono for raping our currency?
I had not before tried the crumbed deep-fried rich goat’s cheese with plum jam and salad garnish starter owner Danny Marini recommended and I relished. On a previous visit it was $245 000 of the old money. It now costs $30 million of the new which, of course, was $30 billion before “zeros became heroes!” (Ha, ha!)Other starters included deep fried Haloumi cheeseÂ or chorizo at $30 million, Greek dips $29 million, deep fried mushrooms $32 million and carpaccio – usually – to die for, at $42 million.
I rarely eat beef now, but fillet steak is $85 million and sirloin (which I thought the king of steaks when “on” red meat) $83 million. I had whole baked Nyanga trout, like all fish dishes “SQ” (subject to quotation”); the quote was $55 million, or $65 million de-boned, stuffed with minced chicken, garlic, herbs and lemon, poached, topped with cream of white wine, carrot and leek sauce.
Mains come with a choice of starches – I had creamy herby mashed potato – broccoli and squash with more salad garnish and tangy tartare sauce.
Other fish dishes were bream fillets, prawns with garlic or piri-piri sauce, flash-fried calamari and fish paella. I tried that once. Candidly it wasn’t as good as ones eaten in Marbella, Ibiza, Torremolinos or the Canary Islands but they are much closer to fishing grounds!
Cuisine is Mediterranean: the best of France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Danny is half-Italian, half-German, his wife of Greek descent.
The place was about a third full, but with some of Zimbabwe’s No 1 spenders! Some well-heeled lunch punters last Friday had Federal colours for peeling the folding stuff!
When the hub-bub of genteel conversation dropped to mere bellows, I thought I heard the mellow tones of a young “Old Blue Eyes” on a well modulated, discreet hi-fi, crooning hits of the 60s, 50s, even 40s. Was it him or the young bloke who does a passable impersonation?Â Danny was semi-offended I even hinted that, in a Marini-owned restaurant, anyone but the real Francis Albert Sinatra would entertain.
Leonardo’s serves splendid salad: Greek, insalata continentale, chicken Caesar and goat’s cheese from $38-$45 million. Substantial portions, they are a meal for many ladies who lunch; often more than enough – served with croutons – for guys who graze and gourmandise.
Ladies’ portions of mains are available. Specials are pasta $52 million-$60 million; pizza and calzone $56 million-$60 million.
Danny has a fine wine cellar and often imported cigars, but the day I went was out of Pilsener. I had to settle for Bohlinger; vexing I hate paying substantially more cash for significantly less lager!
Puddings are $28 million to $32 million, the last figure being the price of a grand crÃ¨me brulee I thoroughly enjoyed.
Main reason I hadn’t been there for yonks was that the phones have been “down” months, but give constant unanswered ringing tones. Trying to book for lunch for two a week earlier, I guessed they hadn’t re-opened from Christmas, which made sense as shops were horribly empty. Driving past that night to Borrowdale Club, half-way to Helensvale and gone! lights were on; it was busy. Clearly the cognoscenti had traced an unlisted phone number (850681: jot it down NOW!) or Danny’s mobile: 0912 247 990.
Leonardo’s opens for lunch and supper Monday to Saturday…. one of few outlets open Saturday lunch, but shuts Sunday. Up a challenging flight of stairs and with steep steps to the PKs, it’s not over-disabled friendly. Smoking and non-smoking tables, it has a service bar for pre-prandial drinks.
Steak, pudding and two beers, nowadays, would cost about $150 million which, come to think of it, is still about US$10 on the “parallel” (black!) market or was on the day I went with the Zim dollar in total unchecked perilous freefall but, hopefully, a faint glimmer of light at the end of what has been a very long, dark, dismal tunnel.