Arnaldo’s of Graniteside has been in existence for years but has fairly recently undergone a change in management. Due to its position, it is only open on weekdays for breakfast and lunch and, sensibly, doesn’t do dinners or weekends. It is themed as a Portuguese restaurant and has entered in the speciality category. However, in common with other Portuguese restaurants here, its cuisine, I suspect, has far more to do with the former overseas territories of Goa and Mozambique than the mother country, Portugal.
It was a hot October day and due to heavy traffic I was later than I intended but luckily my guests were similarly affected. We arrived simultaneously and were gratefully led to our table under the cooling thatch and quenched our thirst with iced drinks — a refreshing rock shandy in my case. A basket of fresh bread with dipping sauces of garlic and chicken gravy was brought to the table to whet our appetites.
The menu is not extensive, and includes the ubiquitous peri peri chicken, steaks, pork chops, bream and prawns. There are also beef or chicken stews and prego rolls. For the non-carnivores a Greek salad appeared to be the only option. However, there was no sign of the expected Caldo Verde, Chorico sausage or bacalhau nor the anticipated baked custard desserts. Out of interest I checked the wine availability, and while there was no list as such, a handful of Portuguese and local wines were on offer.
To start with, we shared servings of peri peri chicken livers, beef kebabs and fried haloumi cheese with sweet chilli sauce. The livers and kebabs were good but the haloumi was overcooked and consequently rather chewy. Our main courses comprised peri peri chicken and chips and prawns with Portuguese rice. The chicken was well-cooked, moist and flavourful and the chips were fresh and crisp. The prawns were cooked to perfection but there were few of them, although the serving of rice was extremely generous. I happily helped myself to some of the savoury rice to have with my chicken, as the waiter had advised they no longer did “half chips, half rice,” my preferred choice.
The menu only advertised ice-cream and chocolate sauce for dessert, but we were advised that there was also chocolate mousse. My guests ordered one of each, and I confess that I stole a spoonful of the mousse, which was dark and rich with cocoa. Unfortunately the only coffee on offer was “instant” so we declined and headed back to work, comfortably replete, reeking of garlic and having had a pleasant break from the office.
The restaurant has a captive market in Graniteside where there are few or no other sit-down establishments to my knowledge. If I worked there, I would be a fairly regular customer. It offers good food, relatively quick service and prices are reasonable — the half chicken and chips at US$9 offers extremely good value for money. However, as a Speciality Portuguese restaurant it could go much further, in terms of serving truly authentic fare.
Speciality Restaurant (Portuguese)
Expect to spend US$15 and US$25 per person
7 Bessemer Rd, Graniteside, Harare.