ADRIAN and Lesley Orford run Alo, Alo (their initials, geddit?) a restaurant also named after the couple’s favourite comedy.
It’s one of Harare’s newest and finest eateries, close to the CBD, but with ample parking, indoor or shady outdoor seating, chintzy cottagey dÃ©cor, with oodles of atmosphere; fine cellar, great food, well-cooked, personally by Lesley.
The menu features current global favourites locally sourced, as ecologically-soundly produced as possible.
Blackboard specials change Tuesdays; I went Wednesday to sample them, initially, in the beautiful Zen-peaceful garden.
Soup was home-made cream of mushroom and onion with croutons, so garlicky the vampires will avoid me until 2010.
The broth was deeply intense, redolent of a myriad finely balanced natural herbs, needing not a grain of extra seasoning.
Breads were waiter-served on a broad, wide tray, covered hygienically with crisp, clean linen tea-towel. I helped myself to a small bap-like glazed warm roll and butter with a crisp water bread.
Truly the zeros have returned speedily and with a vengeance. Soup of the day was $3,6 million. (Cheques are acceptable, if you don’t appear too obviously villainous;) there’s 90% discount if you can scrape up cash.
Later I moved indoors, near the till, and effective dollarisation was patently clear.
Maybe three out of five punters whispered, asking if US dollars or rand were acceptable to settle bills whose bottom lines were already, only five weeks after so-called “revaluation”, again in squillions.
I’m sure the answer wasn’t “certainly not, give us local currency this instant!”
Delicious sounding – and looking —— starters included Thai fish cakes or crumbed mushrooms at $4,8 million and beef carpaccio, $6 million. A mixed hors d’ouevres platter (presumably for at least two) was $9,6 million.
I arrived without a booking, around 7pm, spurred by the fact my Zesa was “shed” at 4.48am and was still off.
We’ve had no mains water for weeks, and when there’s no power, the borehole’s kaput.
I initially ate outdoors where it was blessedly, blissfully, slightly cool on a sweltering night.
The Orfords try to limit covers to 40 as every dish is cooked personally by the always amazingly well-groomed proprietress.
That night something went wildly wrong, bookings-wise, and there were 52 punters indoors or on the stoep and me in the garden, under the palm trees at a candle-lit table below a star-bejewelled velvet black African night.
A few things to remember about Lesley’s culinary creations: portions are enormous; if doing supper, skip breakfast and lunch. Everything’s very rich. Steaks and chops to which I’d be wary over adding salt and pepper are slathered in cream, butter or cheese-based sauces.
Don’t have a separate salad: even soup comes with a substantial, delightfully fresh side salad. Between potage-du-jour and main course, there was more unordered but gorgeous greenery on my plates than you’d find on St Pat’s Day at Hillbrow Irish Club!
My main course was prosaically described as pork fillet, but it was an enormous slab of dead pig, cooked superbly.
Thickly cut to avoid that “dryness” which often comes with pork, the tender meat was crumbed and topped with spicy apple fritters and a generous smear of grilled cheddar.
I chose chips, a tall heap of thinly cut golden ones, for starch but there was mash, baked or rice, a Kew Garden of exotic salads, deep-fried, but light-as-air onion rings, spinach in tempura batter and a mirepoix of vegetarian goodness, baked in halved gemsquash all for $12 million.
Main courses are (or were last Tuesday) between $9,6 million (pasta and vegetarian dishes) and $18 million: steaks, lamb cutlets, fish of the day) which, when you slash 90% off for using the folding stuff, isn’t too bad…is it???
Friends of mine tell me if you pay in forex, Alo, Alo is “for nothing”.
I’ll take their word for it. Currently I have several overseas and cross-border jaunts planned and my rapidly dwindling US dollars, euros, pounds, pula, rand and meticals are saved for places where, quite sensibly, they wouldn’t touch Zimbabwe dollar with the world’s longest bargepole.
Smooth, suave, subtle Adrian is meeter, greeter and seater (and in charge of warm farewells.)
It was a deadline day and I was shattered. I had hardly seen Lesley since arriving about two hours earlier, but with such a lovely meal (and a couple of lagers) enjoyed slowly in the fresh air, kip called clarion-like and I had to leave without a goodnight. She still slaved in the galley, only half of one table having “gapped” for a plane, when I went, just after 9.
Readers may recall Alo, Alo as Gilles Perot’s Le Tam-Tam: in the grounds of Alliance Francaise, opposite David Livingstone School.
Open daily, but shut Sunday and Monday nights. Full English breakfast is served weekends.
Booking recommended. Tel 734974-7; 011602165/ 011602245
By Dusty MillerÂ