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Gecko Gardens got room to improve

 

 

It is a part of the Imba Matombo group whose stable now also includes Pangolin Lodge and Highlands Park. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but under previous management it was branded “Arnaldo’s at Gecko Gardens” so I wondered whether the Portuguese theme had survived the change. Restaurants are few and far between in that area of Harare so I then surmised that it would be a popular family restaurant for the local residents of Glen Lorne, Kambanji and Mandara.

As a finalist for Wine List of the Year in 2010, I imagined a convivial pub with festive families enjoying peri-peri chicken such as one experiences at certain well-known and very popular Portuguese establishments in town. Well I was right on the first point — it is still a Portuguese themed menu; although one of the waiters said they are planning to change it to Italian.  But I was very wrong on the rest!

On a pleasant April evening, the day that schools broke up, we arrived at the restaurant taking the children for the treat of a weekday night out and to celebrate the end of term. The welcome was warm, from the guard in the car park to the friendly waiters who permitted us a choice of any table. We were evidently, and rather ominously, the only diners that night although there was a solitary drinker at the bar.

Drinks were ordered and arrived together with a plate of homemade bread, together with a bowl of garlic and another of what was described to us by the waiter as “chicken soup”. It certainly had the consistency of soup and was tomato-based with a pleasant bite but served luke-warm.

The menu was perused and although not extensive, it has something for everyone, excepting vegetarians who had little choice other than salads.  There were four starters, mains included the anticipated chicken but also steak, pork chops, fish, prawns and a number of “combo” dishes. The menu warned to allow 30 minutes preparation time for the chicken — an encouraging sign in my book.

After ordering I requested the wine list — (remember it was a finalist last year!), but there wasn’t one. Two South African reds were all that was available and I made my choice. Obviously our muted conversation was audible to the staff and after a comment about the lack of background music it made an appearance, albeit at a low volume.

Then the bad news. The starter of Halloumi with chilli sauce was “off” as was the beef kebab ordered as a replacement. This only left two starters from the menu that were available — chicken wings and chicken livers. I have to say however that the livers were excellent — flavoursome and pleasantly hot.
The peri-peri chicken, ordered medium-hot, was less successful. It had hardly a hint of peri-peri and had an unexpected breadcrumb coating that was terribly oversalted. The flesh itself was nicely moist though and the Portuguese rice, cooked with tomato and onion, was a good accompaniment. The other main course ordered was a special of the day of grilled bream wrapped in bacon and was enjoyed.

The table salad too was fresh and crisp with a liberal smattering of olives. The children ordered rib burgers with chips and were happy with their choice.
Only one dessert on the menu — the ubiquitous ice cream and chocolate sauce which the children had while we finished off the last of the wine — a very drinkable Nederburg Duet and reasonably priced.

Not the most successful foray to this Glen Lorne eatery which certainly needs to up the ante.

Deluxe Family Restaurant
2 Plates
Expect to spend US$20 to US$30
Sunninghill Close, off Enterprise Road, Glen Lorne, Harare.

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