And what a mountain of mouthwatering mainly meat presentations was served to the monthly men-only gathering!
For instance, I, and two other members, had crisp, delicious esbein: a German speciality dish featuring pickled or cured smoked pork shanks. The meat takes on a more-ish, smoky, flavour and I was not the only one to comment on it looking like half a dead pig, served on heavy wooden platter, alongside a mountain of chips and young, julienne vegetables at US$18.
Oxtail casserole was popular and members struggled to finish what proved to be enormous — over-facing even — platters of gorgeous, rich, offal-ly goodness at US$12 apiece.
Chef-proprietor Clive Jones seems to only cook the dishes he himself enjoys, which doesn’t seem a bad philosophy of gastronomic life in Harare’s apparently ever burgeoning dining scene.
Wife, Tracey, the other half of Msasa’s version of the Teletubbies takes orders, meets, greets and seats and her dad, Eddie, sorts out bills and tabs. Other family members and close friends run the bar. (They serve the nicest full English pint of draught Pilsener or Castle Lager I’ve encountered anywhere in Zimbabwe: always sparkling, pulled, properly and professionally, to the brim, with light frothy head at US$1,50.)
The restaurant laid on a selection of Greek-style meze snacks especially for us; gratifyingly gratis. At one stage the family ran Hellenic Club, Eastlea, before moving to their first own place, The Office, Msasa. They’ve been at Spook House for about 18 months, a period which has been very much a work in progress, construction wise.
Starters featured lovely, warm continental bread (and butter) with a garlic-infused skordalia, magical chicken livers and giblets in a rich sauce with the usual pepper-iness understated.
Other mains chosen by members included gi-normous, beautifully crumbed golden chicken schnitzels (US$10) they’d sold out on an executive recce of the outlet a week earlier; splendidly chunky, wonderfully aromatic beef curry, at US$12; great grilled calamari, US$10.
Fish and chips fans went for more manageable US$8 pub-sized portions, rather than the quite correctly called “large” helping at US$12.
Puddings weren’t “on” on Friday; I don’t think they’re served with mid-week meals, but I noticed apple crumble and custard was “on” after a traditional Sunday joint of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at US$10.
As usual, I saw no sign of any spectres or spirits other than Messrs Afdis’ inestimable products, but Clive is the latest in a very long line of tenants to claim they have seen a ghost at the venerable double-storeyed Cape-gabled property.
Spook House, 190 Mutare Road, Msasa. Tel 486102.
Turning to Tunisia
I usually eschew politics on this page and in life in general, but regular readers will recall I fairly recently visited the holiday paradise of Tunisia, now in turmoil after a bloody coup.
I first visited an almost undiscovered by tourists Tunisia in the 1960s, when the then reasonably popular anti-colonial leader Habib Bourguiba ran it. He was eventually thrown into a mental asylum, on the grounds of age and lack of ability, by his successor.
He died, raving and raging in 2000, aged 96 and has an impressive mausoleum.
The successor was Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who, as president, has bled the North African country dry for 23 years. He and his much younger wife, the former hairdresser Leila Trabelsi, narrowly escaped Tunis with, among much more, 1,5 TONNES of gold, valued at US$38 million stolen in ingots from the country’s Reserve Bank, heading for either Saudi, or — more likely — Dubai.
She was known as the Imelda Marcos of the Arab world…for some extraordinary reason not the Imelda of Africa!
On my last visit, ordinary Tunisians would — daringly, I thought, — spit openly on the president’s ubiquitous likeness on banknotes and coins when spending or receiving them and jeer and heckle when he appeared on TV. (As he did with ultra-monotonous regularity.)
I thought these folk must all be agents-provocateurs and refused to get involved, but now the Sahel worm has well and truly turned.
Let’s hope the situation is sorted out soon, because this is one of Africa’s premier tourism destinations.
(Incidentally on three recent visits to Egypt I heard the man-in-the-souk have almost nothing but good to say about their own dictator Hosni Mubarak, who seems surprisingly popular.)