HomeStandard PeopleEating Out With Dusty: Absolutely Bejazzled!

Eating Out With Dusty: Absolutely Bejazzled!

Well, something like that: it turned out to be Bejazzled (almost an anagram!)

I’m very fond of jazz and, while preferring the original traditional New Orleans foot-stomping stuff with soaring cornet or trumpet, trombone and clarinet and gravelly-voiced soloists, can settle for the MJQ, Dave Brubeck and many more of the more commercial “modern” jazz combos

I was next door to Bejazzled, chatting with the Greek owners of Papa’s Meze and Grill, when I heard the haunting music of talented Blackberry Jazz, a local quartet enhanced by diners popping on-stage to jam a favourite number.

I’d planned to eat at Bejazzled anyway and was invited to join the table of a pal in the legal lark, his wife and sister-in-law back from years working in the UK.

Oddly they weren’t planning on eating, just partaking in a few dops and enjoying the very enticing sweet sounds being produced a few metres away.
Well, I had to eat to wring 1 000 words out of the place, as I’m not a music critic and have virtually run out of adjectives on the subject of jazz.  But I know what I like… like what I know…and I know I liked Blackberry Jazz.

They didn’t know me from Adam the Gardener, so was very impressed when I ripped a page from my notebook, scrawled “Take Five, PLEASE!” and possibly five seconds later the iconic Dave Brubeck major hit was being performed: And very stylishly, notwithstanding lack of vital saxophone.

James Daniels and his pal, local specialist surgeon Alban Bowers, have recently taken over the business. Jazz is live Fridays and Saturdays; on a top-of-the- range sound system other times; planned is a Sunday afternoon jamming session.

The menu is still a work in progress, but most popular lines from Blue Banana (Thai) cuisine) and Baobab Grill (steakhouse) are available. African ethnic décor and artifacts have gone. Theme colour is matte claret on the walls, shiny claret overlays on tables.

I ordered a Western-style home-made rich, creamy and dense chicken soup, redolent of subtle herbs and spices and anointed with four crispy golden garlic croutons at US$4. Thai alternative was tom-yum (hot and sour vegetable soup with coriander, lemongrass and chili) for US$5.

Satays are US$5, spring rolls US$4 and US$5, samoosas US$3-US$4, deep-fried haloumi cheese US$4, mushrooms US$5 and “main course salads” US$8-US$15.

A friend who’d taken a party there the previous weekend had spent a week repeating how marvelous their Thai red (mild) prawn curry was and — having ordered it — I must agree. You can’t have too hot or spicy a curry with fish or seafood or you’ll nuke delicate flavours of principal ingredients.

Mine, heat-wise, was certainly mild but deeply intense, packed with plump, pink crustaceans, the sauce featuring coconut milk, curry paste, herbs and spices. As you would expect, prawn curry is at the top end of the price range, at US$20 with vegetables it’s US$10; beef or chicken cost US$14.

Starches are steamed rice (US$2), fried rice with spring onions and fried egg (bit like egg-foo yong) US$3, Pad-Thai egg noodles, tossed in peanut sauce, topped with chopped groundnuts are US$4 and chips or mash at US$3.

Green curries are hot: vegetarian US$10, fish US$16 and beef US$15.

James Daniels’ wife, Pru, took my orders. Their son, Jamie, is on a gap-year after earning a BSc at Cape Town Uni, and was helping out before returning to do a Masters. As far as I could see all waiters, barmen and chefs from earlier days have remained on board.

And they’re still serving the same exotic dishes: delicious boneless Indian lamb curry, with steamed rice, roti and sambals, for instance at US$20, chicken cashew nuts, a house special at US$14, beef with oyster sauce and mushrooms at the same price and Thai-style seafood special of prawns, calamari and hake at US$18.

On the Western-style side of the menu, whole rack of pork ribs at US$16 was perhaps Heath’s trademark dish. Steaks include T-bone at US$18, rump or fillet at US$16, with chicken schnitzel or half a huku costing US$12. These prices include chips, rice or mash.

I couldn’t finish the handsome portion of curried prawns and rice but the girls at the table were delighted to attack the perhaps a third remaining in serving dishes and declared the cooking excellent.

After a post-prandial chilled Pilsener lager (or three), chatting with the Daniels about their plans, enjoying more of Blackberry Jazz’s mesmerizing rhythms and even having a swift dance to a bar or two of a very cool Blue Rondo a la Turque and a guest jammer girl’s powerful rendition of Nat King Cole’s haunting Falling Leaves, I was arm-twisted into sampling a superb crepe Suzette at US$4, but as that’s not the most photogenic dish in the global cookbook, you can salivate over my picture of their coconut banana: the ripe fruit sliced and rolled in coconut, deep-fried to golden brown and served with ice-cream, also US$4.

In the interests of sleep, I declined coffee or speciality liqueur coffee, bade my hosts farewell and was amazed when I checked my chronometer to find it just after 11pm. I thought this sophisticated outing had gone on until the wee hours.

On live jazz nights, there’s a cover charge of US$5 for diners; US$10 if you’re not eating, which raised a few moans, but I regard it as a sound policy, hopefully keeping out the noisy and unwashed.

Bejazzled, Newlands Shopping Centre (east side), currently shuts Sunday, but watch this space!


dustym@zimind.co.zw

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