Emmanuel’s is a fantastic fine-dining outlet really worth that title to be found at Bronte Hotel, with a special entrance from Josiah Chinamano Avenue.
I ate dinner there first in November with general manager Tracy Roberts, a local lass from Lion’s Den who has vast experience in hospitality in the UK where she met husband, Mark, in West Wales. Since then I took the Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society lunch there in February and returned for lunch on Wednesday as I misplaced my notes of the society do.
Innovative executive chef is Steve Hyde, born in Kadoma, raised in Mutare; back home in a mid-life career change, having headed Hospitality, Travel and Tourism at Westminster Kingsway College, London. A 47-year-old, resplendent in pristine whites and traditional tall toque chef’s hat, he shyly admits teaching Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and half of Lifestyle TV’s celebrity chefs their trade.
I am amazed at the sparkling newness of this fabulous eatery housed in the Colonial-style home of the hotel’s first owner, Emmanuel Lutz, as its core. Furniture is comfortable, sensibly spaced, linen, flatware, crockery, cutlery and crystal shone. The dinner menu is exciting, as is a still growing wine list. The food spoke loudly of freshness, careful sourcing and storing. Cooking was exemplary and presentation spectacular: like you’d find at the world famous restaurants of many of Steve’s ex-students, now global brands, running international chains of restaurants and churning out cook books.
Game comes from Mashonaland West; beef, hand-picked by Steve’s team of chefs is aged at least 21 days; fruit and veg producers grow specially and organically for this new venture; herbs and some vegetables come from the hotel’s amazingly verdant, lush CBD gardens. I’ve not before seen local lake bass on a Zimbabwe menu, but Emmanuel’s has oven-baked supreme Darwendale bass fillet, wrapped in smoked bacon, served on salt cod puree, with baby leeks, red pepper coulis and herb oil at US$19.
Dinners feature an unexpected amuse bouche. Ours were dinky miniature cottage pies, we applauded. When did you last enjoy an amuse bouche (a free starter to entertain the palate) in Central Africa?
It rained on Wednesday lunch. It has rained each time I’ve visited Emmanuel’s. Someday (monsoon permitting) I’d love to eat al fresco in the stupendous bird-filled garden!
The lunch menu is a truncated version of the evening carte, something that disappointed some of my members, but a wide spectrum of recipes is covered. This week, starters included smoked venison flavoured with lemon and black pepper, presented on crisp wild leaves with lemon and honey dressing at US$7. Or sautéed chicken livers presented, dramatically, en croute with a perfectly poached egg balanced atop the offal and Madeira jus at US$6. Seafood tagliatelle is a homemade spinach pasta with mixed fruits-de-la-mer in a rich white wine and cream sauce which costs US$7.
My US$4 soup-of-the-day was the now ubiquitous cream of butternut with a deeply intense, slightly smoky, flavour adequately but unobtrusively seasoned. It came with croutons, a swirl of fresh cream and mint garnish with a choice of (or all three) lusciously, lovely, loose-crumbed home-baked breads: tomato, cheese or olive and proper butter.
Vegetarians often moan they are left out in Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital) but Emmanuel’s takes them seriously and a dish of baked baby brinjals, filled with lentils, nuts and vegetables, roasted and served on mixed leaves with gnocchi Parisienne could well tempt many carnivores at US$12.
Chicken ballontine is a whole generous leg of huku filled with chicken mousseline and apricots, roasted and glazed with honey, served with North African couscous and a marinated salad of courgettes, peppers and herbs at US$14.
Sadly one of my favourite dishes: lamb kleftiko was “off”. Greece’s trademark “stolen” lamb dish, it comprises a third of a shoulder baked very slowly with rosemary, onions and white wine, then flash-roasted for outer crispiness. Served with very Anglo mint sauce it’s US$16 when available.
For the steak lover the dish of the day was tender filet mignon with a wild mushroom sauce at US$15.
Served by bubbly Chiara (pronounced Kiara) Faccio, a local girl of Italian lineage, I first met her meeting, greeting and seating at Leonardo’s and back from three years in London, working at the world famous The Ivy restaurant (now also in Dubai). I went for fish: pan-fried bream fillets (three of them) in an attractive tall stack, served with butter sauce, laced with lemon, cucumber and scrumptious crayfish tails a whole stack of nicely cooked vegetables, including red cabbage, patty-pans, ratatouille and much more at US$15.
There was a choice of (I think) three puddings at US$5 apiece. I opted for a rich, homemade strawberry ice cream served in a pastry tulip basket and enhanced with fresh cream, strawberry slices and mint leaves followed by one of the best cappuccinos available in the city at US$3.
As yet undiscovered by most of the chattering classes, this new restaurant is a welcome addition to Harare’s hospitality scene. A five-star plus operation in the friendly three-star family hotel, it will be a winner. Dress code: smart/casual. Handicapped friendly, but steep steps to nearest gents.
Currently it opens for lunch Monday to Friday and supper Monday to Saturday. Starting March 27, they’ll offer Sunday lunch and from the next day afternoon tea and a real posh English high tea (by appointment!)