HomeStandard PeopleFood and Travel: Pros and cons at Libby’s

Food and Travel: Pros and cons at Libby’s

LIBBY’S Restaurant at the increasingly deserted, ghost-town-like, Newlands Shops, again opens at nights.

I confirmed that on an impromptu visit, Monday, but it seemed at least 99,9999% of the population of Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital!) were unaware of that. In fact, at 8pm, there were only two others eating indoors. Unusually for me, I declined a table in the garden.
After another sweltering, steaming, sultry, day (at least when August-like winds stopped buffeting the capital), temperatures plummeted. I was three days off leaving on a Mozambique Channel cruise and didn’t want to risk an annoying sniffling head cold and slight sore throat getting worse.
If I’d eaten al fresco, I wouldn’t have realised how pleasant was their great background music, played at agreeable sound levels.
I might have been listening to one of the playlists on a laptop, which was at my feet, unplugged. High praise!
But on the minus side, indoor drawbacks zoomed into sharp focus. Several folk in the next door bar bellowed at each other as if they were 100 metres apart, almost drowning Hotel California and Lady in Red and the pong of their cheap chain-smoked cigarettes, constantly wafting through the dining area, was nasty, even for a long reformed former smoker, who doesn’t usually over-react to passive fag inhalation.
Despite tobacco-growing being our major forex earner, this country was among the first to ban smoking in bioscopes and theatres in the mid-70s. It seems we’ll be the last to proscribe it in restaurants, bars and other public places.
Indoors, with lights on brightly, a distinct lack of TLC of decorations (especially badly chipped skirting board paints), grease marks and a now rather tatty, sticky, unloved, carpet also let the place down.
Service was excellent, but there was no soup of the day available; several other items were on the missing list, including a mushroom starter. I fancied calamari rings, but didn’t want to eat them deep-fried. “Please inquire if chef will grill them instead?” I asked the waiter.
No, he wouldn’t!  Pre-battered, they needed plunging into a bath of sizzling grease to cook.
I went for haloumi: also, sadly, deep-fried. It was golden and came in three generous fish-finger-sized slabs with a fringe of salad and half a juicy lemon at US$4. 
But it was disappointingly dry. I pointed out the dish was usually accompanied by a robust jam or jelly: maybe plum or cranberry, to offset dryness; the best they could do was a nice mayo. In retrospect, I should have asked for the great Greek salad
(US$5) accompanying main course, to be served earlier.
A much more substantial salad than the side-garnish, with gorgeously unctuous dark purple olives, sweet pepper, cherry and regular tomatoes among other salads, sprinkled in herbs and a piquant dressing it would have helped cut through the dry but rich deep-fried cheese.
Continental style bread was fairly thinly sliced: crisp crust, with soft white crumb and came with herbed butter pats.
I rarely eat restaurant steak, but I’m travelling soon: probably to countries where steaks are rarely as good as ours; possibly twice as dear; infrequently ordered; often badly cooked.
I had superb sirloin: outside momentarily seared, inner rare: oozing, light salmon-pink hue, melting in the mouth and enhanced by exemplary vampire-repelling crispy garlic sauce, good, crisp hand-cut chips and an out-facing Hellenic salad. Main course was an economical US$10, but there’s a bill item for a single buck: presumably the garlic sauce?
I was secretly relieved they’d no pudding, although goodness knows why not. It’s only ice-cream and choc sauce and the TM across the road was probably open just before I arrived.
Waiter, Timothy, looked crestfallen reporting the lack of sweets, but offered a large –– and very good — cappuccino on the house as some compensation.
Plus items were excellent quality and titanic quantity of food, coupled with sensible pricing; service was swift, pleasantly professional; presentation acceptable.
On the minus side, hands-on management from the owners was sadly lacking. The place desperately needs some indoor TLC and tweaking. Too many items were, for no good reasons, unavailable on a compact, unadventurous, menu, reflecting middle-of-the-road, middle-class tastes.
First class ingredients, sympathetically cooked and pleasingly presented but served, very unprofessionally, on stone cold plates. Unforgiveable!
Starter, salad, steak, coffee (gratis) and two local lagers: US$24.
Libby’s, Mon Repos shopping centre, west side Enterprise Road opens Monday to Saturday 8am-9pm.

dustym@zimind.co.zw

 

Dusty Miller

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