HomeWining & DiningEating Out: Delightful December days

Eating Out: Delightful December days

Most members went for their special Christmas lunch of a starter, roast turkey, all the trimmings and Xmas pud, at US$15, but I’d already sampled at least half-a-dozen pre-festive season festive boards in hotels and restaurants and ordered prosaic soup and London-style fish and chips.
So much turkey and churkey had been eaten, I was in danger of going gobble-gobble-gobble when walking!

Churkey, isn’t a cross between a chicken and a turkey, a hybridisation about as possible as successfully mating a horse and a cow! but a caponised (castrated) cock chicken, which, like Topsy, grows and grows. With much of the bulk and mass of a small-to-medium conventional turkey, it has none of that bird’s infamous dryness.

Adrienne’s shuts on New Year’s Day, probably a first; they always operated 365 days a year, except briefly at the height of Gono-ism, hyper-inflation and product shortages, when they sometimes had nothing to cook or sell, no electricity, gas or water to cook it with; there were few punters, as money was a rarity and fuel scarce. (Was it only three years ago?)

I’m sure they’ve earned a day off annually, especially as some Harare eateries are shut up to a month flanking the holidays: which infuriated many readers.

The society’s main Xmas lunch was mid-month at Emmanuel’s, the fine-dining restaurant at Bronte Hotel in The Avenues.
And most guys had — predictably — the escalope of churkey, cranberry epinette (cranberry-flavoured faggot) topped with chestnut and potato quenelle, served on champ potatoes with Brussels sprouts rösti.

I’d tried (and very much liked) that dish a fortnight earlier, so repeated an earlier starter of home-cured citrus smoked salmon, followed by delightful supreme of guinea-fowl: breasts stuffed with bacon, garlic and herb-flavoured forcemeat, served on lovely champ potatoes, with red wine jus (gravy!)
Lowveld visitors fancied something “very tasty” on a damp Saturday, preferably with live music. Bejazzled (ex-Blue Banana), Newlands, seemed just the job. They didn’t have a combo playing, but much great recorded jazz was appreciated on a state-of-the-art music system.
All enjoyed great curries, mine being a medium-heat Indian lamb one, which just fell off the bone.

Making excuses, I left at 10:30; three remaining guys went on to The Lounge, a few doors away (above Butler’s). The owner had told me there was a strict dress code and he didn’t sell beer.

Times change. Two of my pals wore shorts; imported beers were sold; they drank superb Dutch Grolsch lager, albeit at an eye-brow lifting US$9 a pop, dancing until near sun-up!

The day before Emmanuel’s lunch, I abandoned a journey to Meikles for 5:40pm and the last Grapevine Club’s wine-tasting of the year. It took 33 minutes of snarling, bad-tempered, hot, nose-to-tail driving through totally chaotic gridlock to get from the office: 1, Union Avenue to the old Kingsway Post Office.  I visited a couple of sports clubs instead. (Sorry, guys!)

Harare traffic must be sorted out, decisively, otherwise we’ll be like Nairobi or Cairo where it’s impossible to make or keep business appointments; driving from Kenyatta Airport to Parliament Square takes longer than the flight from Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital) to Nairobbery!

I was at Meikles for a Christmas lunch given for the Press by DStv, in the usually moth-balled Mirabelle Restaurant of fond memory. (It was there I first encountered and ate yabbies, the Australian freshwater crayfish — now feral in the Zambezi — I wrote about recently.) Then, we pointed out (Swiss-style) the ones we fancied, swimming around happily in aquaria and bingo! 20 minutes later: crayfish Thermidore was dished.

Local TV business news anchor, Dave Emberton, was the Mirabelle MC, hosting a pre-lunch quiz for a “nice prize”. Good-oh, I thought. I’ve competed in, compiled and compered quizzes since the age of five, let’s get on with it!

Bad-oh!  Questions were all on current satellite TV programmes. As I haven’t owned a receiver for five years and possibly watch two hours’ viewing a month, I was stumped, answering just one of 30.

Associated Press stringer Gillian (“The Girl in a Million”) Gotora, at our table, got most right, winning a handsome-looking digital point-and-shoot camera.
It was one of the nicest buffets I’ve had at Meikles in decades:  a credit to new chef Rory Lumsden, Zimbabwean-born and initially trained, but recently back from London, whom I saw walk past the door occasionally. (He’s shy!)

Entrepreneur JR Ranchod had a surprise lunch for a dozen or so at Jaipur, the Indian restaurant in which he has a financial interest, now next to Avondale Police Station. Well, it was a surprise to me! I had a call demanding to know where I was. As I had a “window”, as Yuppies and Buppie say, I leaped in the car, arriving in about seven minutes.

Obviously you can’t do better than let a Hindu order Indian food; I was totally satisfied — and very sated — with samoosas, pakoras and buttery naan bread, followed by butter chicken, medium and hot mutton curry and a splendidly flavoursome out-of-shell light prawn curry.
I hear Jaipur is soon leaving those premises: Tandoor will expand and diversify from Sunrise Sports Club (where Jaipur used to be).  Jaipur will focus on events and special occasions catering.

They operated a “pop-up” curry eatery at Kariba’s tiger fishing tournament, but sadly, their chef died after being dragged out of the camp swimming pool he’d stumbled into in the early hours of the morning.

I had to say “no” to five invitations for end-of-year functions when spending a week at Siavonga’s tiger fishing tournament (in Zambia)…but then I’m usually overseas for at least a month at this time of year and miss everything!

Happy New Year to all; see you in 2012!



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