Because when I did enquire of Leonardo’s proprietor, Danny Marini — as I finished the Borrowdale Village restaurant’s trademark pudding: lemon meringue pie, on Wednesday lunchtime — the answer was:
“Wednesdays — today — and Fridays, nowadays.”
He explained that the grand Loch Duarte oysters I’d eaten on my last visit to Leonardo’s almost a year ago used to be flown in my Air Zimbabwe on Mondays and Fridays. But now AZ’s flight plans and future are a total mystery to everyone, Dutch-based air freight carrier, Martinair, brings in the gourmet Caledonian goodies.
Apart from oysters, they carry live and smoked mussels and Scottish salmon in its various presentations and other mouth-watering products of Scotland’s seas, lochs and rivers, landing them midweek and on Fridays.
Mind you, the last time I ate Leonardo’s luscious, lovely oysters, they were US$15 a half-dozen at Saturday supper but two courses on the Mediterranean speciality outlet’s Monday to Saturday lunchtime menu costs only a great-value-for-money US$12 as a table d’hôte deal.
The package offers spicy Spanish-style chicken wings, piri-piri chicken livers, foccacia ala Greca (mini folded Italian-style pita breads filled with mozzarella and feta cheese, olives and garlic) or superb home-made Italian-style tomato soup I plumped for.
First of all a basket of still warm, very cheesy, home-baked foccacia is served as a gratis amuse-bouche, no matter which dishes are ordered, a la carte or TDH, lunch or supper.
These are more-ish in the extreme; especially dipped in a garlic sauce, with a delightfully chilled refreshing article of a moderately intoxicating nature!
I had two or three slices left when the soup arrived: a deep, bowlful, hot and steaming, filled to the brim with rich, tomatoey-goodness, redolent of the very important FRESH (not dried) basil, a herb which brings out the full flavour of organically grown tomatoes.
In addition to the foccacia I’d held back on, there was a small bowl of hot, crisp, golden croutons which help make this dish (US$6 if ordered separately) almost a meal on its own for many.
Leonardo’s boasts a comprehensive Mediterranean-style menu. Locally-born Danny is half-Italian; half-German. His father, veteran Harare restaurateur Tony Marini, is full Italian. Danny’s wife, who often helps out is locally born of Greek extraction. Their food hails from Portugal to the Balkans.
I was clearly on a tomato kick on Wednesday, because my main course was polpette: light, baked not fried, Italian-style meatballs made with the finest minced steak, and fresh garden herbs including rosemary and parsley. This was served on a generous bed of in-restaurant made totally al dente whole-wheat fettucina pasta, the whole almost bathed in a tomato- spices-and-herb-rich Napolitano sauce, which took me straight back to Naples!
Other mains on the US$12 deal include pasta with cream of chicken and broccoli; spinach and ricotta cheese cannelloni; chicken tikka and pepper dew or Mediterranean pizzas or the one named after Signor Marini (Senior): a la Tonio: with mozzarella, bacon, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
I was tempted to order what is very possibly the restaurant’s flagship main course: half a piri-piri chicken which, with chips or starch of choice and a couple of fresh vegetables, is also on the TDH list. Then there’s chicken schnitzel or pork chops chasseur.
Popular items from the a la carte menu, which is available at lunchtimes and is the sole tariff available on evenings, include:
Vegetarian phylo baskets; deep-fried mushrooms; haloumi or crumbed goats cheese with plum jelly all US$6 starters. Goats cheese and olive tarts; garlic infused snails, or a calamari and scampi combo are US$8; Carpaccio of beef US$9 and steamed Scotch mussels US$15.
They serve five delicious main-meal sized salads, particularly appreciated by the lovely, lithe ladies who lunch languidly at US$10 (Greek) to US$14 (salmon Caesar.)
Fish and seafood dishes include bream fillet at US$16, calamari at US$17, fish paella at US$19, prawns US$22 and grilled Scotch salmon steak with lemon butter costing US$25.
Order the half piri-piri chicken other than from the lunchtime US$12 two-course special menu and its US$12 on its own! Chicken Parmigianino is US$14 and the chicken Kiev I happen to know is even richer than the average Zanu PF Cabinet minister costs US$17.
A well-hung, grass-fed, personally selected, export quality 250g fillet steak or 300g sirloin will set you back US$16 and a 500g T-bone is US$19. Accompanying sauces are US$2/US$3 apiece. The mushroom version is like a side dish of button fungi and worth every cent. Grilled pork spare ribs are US$22.
Puddings may sound a bit OTT at US$5-US$7, put the quality is impeccable. So much so crème Brule was already sold out fairly early, but I thoroughly enjoyed a light-as-a-bubble home-baked lemon meringue pie with appealing traditional citrusy tartness.
Leonardo’s is fully licensed, but there’s no corkage if you BYOB. They open lunch and supper Monday to Saturday and close all public holidays. (So you’re out of luck tomorrow and Tuesday!). Booking is highly recommended. The day before my visit, 64 punters lunched; most were still there at 6pm!
l Leonardo’s, Borrowdale Village. Tel 883158; 0772 990.