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EatingOut: Excellence of Emmanuel’s

My main course — from a choice of five — was a wonderful escalope of turkey cranberry crepinette. The description underneath was “seared turkey with cranberry-flavoured faggot topped with chestnut and potato quenelle and choux-de-Bruxelles rosti.”

I’m assuming everyone bothering to read this column knows escalope is a piece of tender, fat- and bone- free meat, flattened and rolled?  Think of escalope de-veau (veal). Yanks call it, more prosaically, a scallop but that can be confused with the superb shellfish of that name!

Cranberries are, of course, the traditional sweet accompaniment to savoury turkey dishes. Crepinette is the French word for “faggot” (in the culinary sense) a sort of loose sausage-like item, in this case made with shredded and minced dark turkey meat, contrasting nicely with the attractive white flesh of the escalope. Faggots (often served with peas and mash) in parts of the UK’s north and Midlands are often confusingly called “ducks”. (In British West Yorkshire “savoury” ducks.)

Quenelle, in cooking, is usually the French word for pike, a fighting cannibalistic fish, I don’t think is found in Africa. In this context, quenelle is a delightful combination of chestnuts and potato roughly egg-shaped. In the non-pike fish sense, quenelle owes something to the German word for dumpling: knödel.

Choux-de-Bruxelles are that must-go-with turkey vegetable Brussels sprouts. Here, in the rösti, they were mashed and combined with potatoes as a nice variation on the Swiss breakfast dish.

Three conventionally cooked sprouts were in a garnish enhancing the tower-like presentation, which was also served with potatoes Dauphinoise, broccoli, red cabbage and mixed roast vegetables.

It was quite delicious…in fact a masterpiece…a breathtaking combination of contrasting flavours and textures.
When Emmanuel’s first opened, just over a year ago, the then recently returned from the UK exec chef, Steve Hyde (born in Kadoma), who taught, among many others, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay their stuff, leaned towards the itsy-bitsy nouvelle-cuisine of the West End and Home Counties gastro-pubs.

As I forecast, this didn’t go down too well with most male clients, whom I described as probably: “Miners, ex-farmers and hairy-arsed rugby players with commensurate appetites; we don’t dine demurely and daintily like dizzy debutantes at the Dorchester.”

I found the new Zim-adjusted portion challenging, but enjoyed every morsel. Alternatives were pan-fried fillet of Kariba bream in foaming butter, served on braised chick peas, roast tomatoes and peppers, with Parmesan tuille and pesto.

Or supreme of guinea-fowl: breast stuffed with forcemeat, flavoured with garlic, bacon and herbs, served on champ potatoes with red wine sauce.
Or grenadine of venison, presented with orange, ginger and garlic compote. And for the odd vegetarian among us, red onion tart tatin: poached with chili and garlic, baked and topped with a honey-glazed puff pastry.

The basic three-course pre-Christmas lunch or supper costs a very reasonable US$29, but I’d chosen a starter carrying a US$3 supplement. And, believe me, almost translucently thin, home-cured citrus smoked salmon (lots of it), cured with lemon, orange and fennel and served with delicate squares of brown bread and butter was worth every cent of three bucks.

Options were chicken liver parfait “duchesse”, served hot with Madeira sauce and a light salad garnish; or wild Ruwa mushrooms risotto; or pork shank terrine (confit: flavoured with leeks and prunes and served with a light apple jelly.) Or soup-of-the-day which, on Thursday, was…you’ve guessed it…butternut!

It always seems a pity to actually eat the sweets at Emmanuel’s, as they are still-life works of art. Included in the packaged deal is Xmas pudding with brandy sauce; date pud with apricot ice-cream; white-chocolate-and-blueberry cheesecake; or berry jelly with honeycomb ice-cream.
For another US$3 supplement (taking bottom line to US$35…accounts will flay me!) I had the “trio” of desserts.  It’s actually a quartet, as you get the date pud, cheesecake, berry jelly and (separately) honeycomb-ice.

Tea or coffee is included; I ended with a splendidly frothy cappuccino.
Emmanuel’s is a rather larney fine dining establishment overlooking attractive gardens, which were alive with birdsong. I couldn’t, initially, see any of the avians, but a trio of ground scraper thrushes flew down and comically hoovered the manicured lawn for bugs and a greater blue-eared starling I didn’t expect to see two minutes’ drive from the CBD showed off for punters. (Actually, as traffic robots rarely work, it’s often more like a 15-minute journey. Allow up to two hours if it’s raining, with associated irresponsible driving anarchy and gridlock!)

The more blue-collar (but still exceptionally fine) Palms Restaurant in the hotel proper offers a mouthwatering four course pre-Christmas menu at US$24 for lunch and US$28 for supper.

I believe both outlets (like nearly everywhere else in Ha-ha-ha-hare, Africa’s fun capital) are full for Christmas Day lunch (different menu) and New Year’s Eve.
l dustym@zimind.co.zw

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