WE haven’t yet said goodbye here to the Bulawayo trip, but I must re-focus on horrible hyperinflation.
During eight days in Bulawayo, the dearest course encountered was a one-kilo plus export quality fillet, the “Real McCoy”, at the excellent Cattleman for $10,1 billion including starch and vegetables.
A wonderful three course, plus bottomless coffee, set lunch in the grounds of incomparable Nesbitt Castle was $14 billion; breakfasts which would fill you all day at either Holiday Inn or Bulawayo Rainbow were $10,2 billion.
Virtually all hospitality trade inputs rose an average five-fold during my first week back. Learner barmen earn, now, more than the president did six months ago!
From June 1, even a school-leaver entering hospitality without an O-level (in the unlikely event anyone’s hiring!) as toilet cleaner, potato peeler or floor sweeper, pulled $127,45 billion: $65,45 billion basic; $52 billion transport and $10 billion housing allowance: a 1 275% increase on May (when they received 164% pay hikes.) Talks continue on July raises, but meanwhile “bums on seats” are down at least 50%, say restaurant bosses.
When company director Richard Matthews phoned asking how much I thought Sunday lunch at Adrienne’s, Belgravia, would be, I said the last I heard it was about $10 or $12 billion, probably budget $20-25 billion to be safe.
He smsd later, vexed that the bill was $65 billion for each of 13 guests, including a child: bottom line almost a trillion! Adrienne’s was twice voted Best Value for Money Restaurant in Zimbabwe by sister paper The Standard readers. (And probably still is.)
I was stunned at the end of a “quick” Jaipur curry. It was far from quick: rice just wouldn’t boil on reduced Zesa voltage. I’d had mixed Indian starters to kill time (as I love them.) Mutton curry came first sans rice, but with extra naan. “No, no” I protested, “you can’t do curry-and-rice without rice, tut-tut.”
We waited until the owner’s wife cooked some at home, delivering it! I had three, instead of two, lagers due to the delay, then ice-cream.
Not glancing at the menu, having been away a week and thinking the bill would be around $10 billion, I was shocked to be charged $15,6 billion, even after a discount on mains due to the rice snafu!
A sudden June 19 invitation to lunch at CafÃ© Ilala, Richard Rennie Galleries, was aborted as owner Gilles Perot’s father died suddenly in France and the family had dashed there, shutting the garden eatery.
I told South African hosts Adrienne’s or Great Wall were the two closest outlets. Chinese it was and, again, we made the mistake of not scanning menus.
A chicken and sweetcorn soup, spring rolls for three, sweet-and-sour pork, Szechwan chicken, beef and mushrooms, egg foo-yong and soft noodles, a beer and two waters cost….wait for it…$186 billion without a tip (say $200 billion with.)
Candidly, we didn’t have that sort of loot: it would take eight visits to the bank, drawing the maximum $25 billion daily, to get $200 billion liquid, without spending a cent. If you started on Monday you could draw sufficient cash by the following week’s Tuesday to buy a supposedly “cheapo” lunch for three! (If you can live nine days on zip!) Ignoring the Catch-22 scenario that by the time you had $200 billion for lunch, it would probably cost $400 billion!
This can’t be serious, I thought!
Explaining our predicament to a charming young oriental lady, speaking little English and no Shona, we opted to pay real money. She settled on US$29. From US$30 we had a stack of Zim dollar change, including a $5 billion “agro” cheque. They would be better called “aggro” cheques: they cause much aggravation!
Now $29 is probably a morning’s minimum pay in the States; it’s about Â£15: well under three hours’ stipend for a 23-year-old asylum seeker in the UK. How long does it take you to earn – and clear after tax and stoppages —— $186 billion? It would even take the newly plutocratic barman over a month
Incidentally, Chinese soup, a chicken and soft noodles dish, vanilla ice-cream and a lager at Shangri-La, Bulawayo, two weeks earlier was $5,174 billion. I had to take supper very easily as I’d grabbed a wad of red $50 million notes instead of red $500 millions from the mini-safe. A waiter claimed arrogantly I was $1 billion short.
A Chinese lady receptionist (again little fluency in English or SiNdebele) said there was just enough to cover food and a small tip. I told her to forget a bloody tip, due to the server’s attitude (or dishonesty), giving change to a beggar outside!
There is clearly much profiteering happening. I changed my mind about eating at City Bowling Club as the manager was shirty about my describing their tasteless hot-dogs in less than glowing terms, in a column, when they were $1,6 billion. On Friday, they cost $30 billion, burgers $35 billion, omelettes a stratospheric $65 billion; they demanded a preposterous $8 billion for a cuppa!
Moving to Harare Club: grand soup of the day (chicken-and-veg) and toast, huku vindaloo with much rice, good sambals, ice-cream and lemon sauce and bottomless silver pot of great coffee cost $13,25 billion. Caveat emptor!
By Dusty Miller