Last Wednesday I gave a TV interview to charming Justine Gerardy of Agence France-Presse’s South African parliamentary bureau at the rather swish Mojo’s Restaurant, East Road.
No, neither she nor her bosses at AFP wanted my trenchant views on African democracy (oxymoronic, I’d say!)
On a stint as locum bureau chief, Harare, she thought a TV piece on Zimbabwe’s possibly paradoxical burgeoning restaurant scene may make interesting viewing.
It probably did.
I don’t own a telly, so I’ll probably never know. I didn’t see a single foot of my last few interviews for “the box”.
However, I outlined how dollarisation had helped investments; very tenuous — probably temporary –– political stability boosted restaurateurs’ confidence and aided tourism and the general availability of goods, scarce, if not totally unavailable, through years of sanctions against our pariah nation, since UDI, had impacted on a changing scenario.
All went well until Stan Higgins phoned to say he’d filed a piece I was waiting for and e-mailed pix. The news crew was perplexed until they realised the distinctive Nokia ring emanated from my trousers! They kept cameras running for added realism!
Having waxed sagely in Mojo’s spectacular al-fresco dining area against a backdrop of a Victorian fountain and new permanent marquee, to be officially launched last night –– having had each word filmed, taped and written in what looked like Gregg shorthand –– the interview ended; we wandered to the front of the restaurant for Justine to talk on camera to proprietors.
Julie Webb (ex-Imba Matomba, Gecko Gardens and Leopard Rock, etc) and Mohammed Samy (ex-Harare Sheraton and Sheraton Luxor, Egypt etc) opened in April. You wouldn’t recognise Mojo’s if you’d only seen its predecessors, Blossom Manor or Haddow House. Squillions were spent. It’s breathtaking.
En route, I pointed out fine fixtures and fittings, pressed napery, heavy flatware, gleaming silver, crystal and china, as a tantalising smell of magnificent steak, expertly barbecued, wafted mouthwateringly on a summer breeze and said:
“The sad bit is that 97% of Zimbos can’t even dream of eating here.”
Justine thought that a great line for camera –– a sound bite (or byte?). So we shot it there and then. Later, I realised I’d stood beside a computerised print-out pasted to the wall stating: “HAPANA BASA, NO JOBS!”
I’d told Justine about several restaurants newly opened in the good dorp of Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital), detailed some which changed tack cuisine-wise and others extended and refurbed beyond recognition.
What I didn’t know, until the next day, was the attractive CBD Bronte Hotel was in the throes of doing just that. I happened to call there for late morning coffee in attractive, cool, verdant palm-filled shady gardens and the next minute was shown round final touches being added to what looks a very likely winner.
Emmanuel’s is the Bronte’s brand new up-market fine dining a la carte restaurant, due to open today, but looking to me as though it may be slightly delayed.
“Zimbabwean time” doesn’t simply mean the two hour variation between GMT and here. It’s the difference between when the builder/plumber/painter/garage mechanic/printer tells you your job will be ready and when it actually is!
I’m sure all those trades (plus the profession, calling or whatever of advertising rep-ing and insurance selling) need an in-depth course in lying as part of the training!
Whatever, Emmanuel’s (it’s named after original owner of the hotel, Emmanuel Lutz) will be worth waiting for….and I’ll tell you more here or in the pages of our sister papers “just now”… (that means “sometime” in Zimspeak!)
On Thursday I ate lunch outdoors on a broad stoep fronting Bronte’s Palms Restaurant. The temperature nudged 40C. I was mightily surprised anyone ate indoors but, through French windows, heard intense, strident Americans and Scandinavians discussing “programmes” with locals. Very popular with international NGOs, embassies and TWGs (Third-World Groupies) is the Bronte.
I saw nothing wrong with the day’s no-choice table d’hôte menu in scope or price and thoroughly enjoyed a piping hot, nutritious, very delicious potato and leek soup, nicely presented, of good quantity with croutons, dinky warm roll and fresh butter.
Offered a second roll, I was tempted…but declined. The dish was US$2 and (with that extra roll) could be a light meal on its own for many.
Main course was “pan-fried” (I’ll ask menu writers one last time: what the hell else can you fry in other than a pan? Tea-pot? Old takkie? Baseball cap?) stuffed chicken breast with Provencal sauce. The huku was delicious, generously portioned, stuffed with spinach, etc; whole boiled parsley potatoes superb.
Sadly the “bouquet” of mixed veg gets a bit of a brickbat, as some components: broccoli and julienne carrots especially –– were on the raw side of al dente and indigestible. Courgettes and sautéed onions were fine and, overall, at US$8 I couldn’t really complain.
There was a choice on the US$2 pudding course. I went for “apple pie pancake”: small cubed (presumably) Granny Smith apple with a generous sprinkling of sultanas in an eggy rich, but light, golden crepe, topped with vanilla ice-cream. Alternatively fresh fruit salad and ice-cream. Why no apple Charlotte? (Bronte…geddit?)
Service was friendly and fast. The a la carte menu, featuring steaks, fish and pasta at between around US$7 and US$12 was also available. T-bone steak with a mountain of crisp, golden chips served at the next table (thankfully in a break from bellowing into Blackberries) looked good enough to go back for the next day!
Soup, main course, pudding, local lager, pot of tea: US$15.
Bronte Hotel, Baines Avenue. Residential: open breakfast, lunch, supper and light meals daily. Tel 707522/721429.