IN a recent column, I perhaps over-casually dismissed stratospheric price increases in eateries, shrugging off the fact a main course at Meikles La Fontaine spiralled from $40 billion to $360 billion in 17 days as sadly inevitable in hyperinflation hit Harare.
The next night I was at Komba Hari, Rainbow Towers and pleasantly bamboozled that mains were “only” $120 billion. Yet, four days later, St Elmo’s grill began at around half-a-trillion.
As I keep saying: caveat emptor.
Rainbow Towers has dual prices, but not tallying with any inter-bank, Old Mutual Implied or runaway “Roadport” rates!
Excellent piping hot mushroom soup, relished with rolls on a frigid night, was US$6, or $24 billion (all Meikles starters were $110 billion); smoked salmon $120 billion (US$28), grilled crocodile tail with chef’s salad $81 billion (US$19) and a local combo: mopani worms, pickled Kapenta and chicken bites, $65 billion (US$15.)
La Fontaine’s rump may just have been slightly larger, a tiny tad juicier, than the T-bone griddled before me – part of the theatre of dining out —— at Komba Hari; Meikles chips were better, Komba Hari’s veg nicer; sauces similar, but I could have entertained two guests at Rainbow Towers for the cost of one main at the older hotel! (On that night…haven’t been since!)
One whinge with the T-bone was much of the ultra-tender fillet side of the cut was trimmed, leaving a sort of porterhouse plus, not true T-bone. Why “they” do this beats me, but it happens globally.
Didn’t fancy one of a fairly limited sweet choices at Komba Hari, but I had enjoyed pleasant La Fontaine puddings. Possibly variety was down as both places were filled with election observers, apparently keener on filling inner persons than monitoring “democracy”
Breakfast in Rainbow Towers’ temporary mezzanine floor set-up just isn’t the same as it was at Harvest Garden, which f&b manager Richman Bhuwa, said over coffee would re-open, after four months’ refurb, about a week after you read this.
Again there were wall-to-wall election functionaries, feeding faces with bacon, eggs, bangers, beans, steaklets, cereals, fruit, pastries and preserves and lashings of excellent coffee, but an echoing Jacaranda Room din was horrid, there was no toast and whatever they substituted for butter was frankly nasty. I plan to be first in the queue when Harvest Garden’s back in business and brunch, lunch or supper return (hopefully) to normal.
Did a double, then treble, take at St Elmo’s, Wednesday menu; a few wannabe diners took disbelieving stares at prices and disappeared.
Owner Robbie Mellor admits cringing at his own tariff, but said he was cheaper than… (reeling off a list of Harare middle-of-the-road outlets). All input costs increased daily, breweries hiked prices four times in a day he said —— yet claimed to be stock-less —— suppliers demanded forex for many local items, wages, rent, fuel, utilities, indeed all overheads, were uncontrollable and unreliable.
You must, of course – when comparing —— remember St Elmo’s product quality and huge helpings, dictated by a South African franchise, perhaps out of touch with local appetites and possibly reality, vis-Ã -vis our wages?
Crumbed mushrooms, for instance, were the biggest, tastiest and tenderest button jobs I recall: six on an escargot plate, with crisp coating, terrific tartar and garlic sauces and chopped chilies in olive oil: a meal on its own for many at $172,5 billion. Cheapest starters were chicken livers, $143 billion; dearest snails, $228,25 billion, with soup $192,5 billion; salads from $165 billion (French) to $254,1 billion (avocado-and-chicken).
From daily specials board, chicken schnitzel overlapped the plate on two sides and with good chips, mixed salad and a generous splodge of mightily mushy mushroom sauce was $395 billion…then!
Were I in a more carnivorous mood, rump was $701,25 billion and Desperate Dan-sized T-bones $871,75 billion. Pastas are from $357,5-$453,75 billion; standard pizza $350-$450 billion; large ones $700-$900 billion.
St Elmo’s is family-orientated, with discounts for juniors, groups and parties. There’s a play area and at weekends often a clown, who unerringly terrifies my little friend, Michaela (7)! Kiddies menu $137,5-$206,8 billion.
I ended with outstanding ice-cream and choc sauce, beautifully presented in deep fluted sundae glass, topped with 100’s and 1000’s: $137,5 billion.
Due to a dearth of local drinks, I had very more-ish RSA-made Savanna Premium dry cider. Not quite as dry as expected, it was superbly chilled and when you’ve sipped three x 340ml bottles in al fresco sunshine, you know you’ve partaken!
A bonsella: had enough schnitzel, salad and even unusually acceptable cold chips in designer doggy bags to skip supper!
St Elmo’s gives 10% cash discount for cash, charges 50% premium on cheques; they shut Tuesdays.