This is surely paradoxical, as I’m pretty certain we’re also in the top three countries for divorce!
Check Dusty’s What’s On Diary (below left) and there’s Valentine’s events listed at various hotels, clubs, pubs and restaurants from February 12 to February 18, although the actual feast of lovers (pass the sick-bag, please!) is — most inconveniently — on Monday February 14.
I say “most inconveniently” because Monday’s not a great night to take out the love of your life (or The Missus!). Far better the actual day falls over a weekend.
I’ll be on my way back from an eight-day luxury cruise on Brilliance of the Seas in the Persian Gulf on the 14th, flying somewhere between Dubai-Addis Ababa and Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital) by Ethiopian Airways.
So I won’t be faced with the harrowing choice of which fragrant, pouting lovely I’ll shower in red roses, chocolates, teddy bears, champagne, expensive perfume and entertain for dinner! (If you believe that, you’ll credit anything!)
Almost every outlet in the country worth its table salt will offer a “special” menu on that day and I was fortunate enough to be invited to Meikles Hotel’s discreetly tucked away Livingstone Room on Tuesday to sample executive chef Chris Gonzo’s proposed menu at a chef’s table laid on for the specialist Press.
Oysters have, shall we say, reputedly aphrodisiacal properties (but last time I ate a dozen, only 10 worked!) and Chef Gonzo starts a Valentine menu with a seafood platter of freshly-flown in from Scotland large, juicy, “oysters” (well, one!), accompanied by prawn-and-pineapple skewer and Scottish mussels steamed in white wine with a gratinated chorizo crumb. This went beautifully with a still warm in-house baked brown roll and butter.
One of our number was allergic to seafood (shame, eh? …more for greedy me, though!) and the kitchen quickly knocked up carpaccio of beef with capers and gratinated parmesan cheese as a replacement dish.)
Then there was a good-sized “marriage” of spinach-and-tomato soup, served steaming hot in a coffee cup: deep, intensive, herby flavours and full of vegetarian goodness.
Following this we had an attractive retro (very retro: Victorian/Edwardian) palate-cleansing chilled watermelon and mint sorbet, I found sophisticated and refreshingly different.
There’s a choice of two magnificent main courses and I was torn between what looked a handsome helping of dill-scented salmon (I suspect flown in from Scotland along with the oysters, mussels and scallops with which the country’s major restaurants are currently awash, but provenance unstated) with saffron mashed potatoes, steamed fine beans and tarragon-white wine and — mustard sauce) and the dish I finally plumped for.
This was prime rack of deliciously slow-cooked lamb cooked in rosemary and mint, served with “turned” potatoes (looked and tasted like roast to me), butternut puree and a rich lamb “jus” (gravy to you!)
The pudding was hedonistically, decadently rich (and totally scrumptious): chocolate-and-ora-
nge stack (layers of Tia Maria chocolate sponge and light orange mousse served with sharply tart frozen raspberries and whipped cream).
I wasn’t sure I relished the sound of the cheese course: French Camembert drizzled with golden honey. I enjoy both items tremendously but was dubious about wedding them together). It worked well. The cheese portion was generous, honey subtle, by no means overpowering, the dish served with wafers, pecan nuts and plump purple grapes.
We finished with coffee and petite-fours.
On St Valentine’s Day this wonderful gourmet spread will set you back US$40 apiece in the La Fontaine Restaurant, with dancing to the resident band, or in the specially re-opened for the occasion Bagatelle Restaurant of fond, nostalgic memory, with a cabaret by young local crooner Josh Ainslie.
There’s a special deal on accommodation, including honeymoon suites but I feel that anyone who can thoroughly and energetically use the principal item of furniture therein for its design purpose, after ploughing through Chef Gonzo’s masterpiece creations, deserves the Pope’s Special Award for Services to Procreation!
This will be a sell out, I suggest you book early.