As the river performs a dog-leg around the south eastern boundary of the Bulawayo Central Business District, and situated at a respectable distance, is a coffee shop, aptly named “River Café”.
The restaurant occupies an old Dutch gable house and is set on a large parcel of land that includes a plant nursery and enough space for a children’s playground.
The seating is open and spacious with skylights in the roof. A couple of benches can be placed on the lawn in front of the playground.
The setting is quite peaceful, especially given the close proximity to the centre of town.
Being open on a Sunday morning is useful, especially if you find yourself at a loose end first thing in the morning and do not want to make your kitchen dirty with a fry-up!
I wanted to rush down to the River Café to get in early as it can get quite crowded, which would just prolong the hunger pains.
We were the second couple to arrive, so had timed it perfectly.
After placing our orders the waitress returned from the kitchen to explain that one of our items was not available.
We settled for the Traditional breakfast and the Quiche and Salad, both accompanied by a coffee.
Although we are not coffee aficionados, we were quite disappointed with what passed as filter coffee and as there was very little milk, there was no mistake of putting too much milk in! The traditional breakfast was up to standard without any complaints, so in part the mission was accomplished.
The Quiche and Salad had been delayed with an explanation that the quiche was still heating.
If we had given this statement a little more thought at the time, we would have been more prepared for what was a very disappointing meal.
The salad and the quiche filling were quite fine, but unfortunately the quiche pastry was both soggy on the side and slightly burnt underneath
By the time we had left, only two other couples had arrived. This was certainly not the humming venue we remembered from the past. I think that a bit of shine has been lost from the River Café.
The gardens are still very well-attended and the children’s playground has been replaced with new equipment, but there did seem to be a little bit of complacency from the staff and kitchen.
As an eating public, we can be very fickle and get bored with a venue very quickly, and this must make it hard for any restaurant to keep up the very high standard that they achieve upon first opening.
What I have seen happen at a number of coffee shops is that a few regulars or friends get paid the most attention.
I have said to myself many times, “The friends and regulars always return, look after the occasional clients as they might not return”!
Although we were disappointed with this visit to the River Café, we know that they can do better and we will go back for an easy meal on a weekend morning.
For those with children it is an ideal venue as the children can run around expending energy in a secure environment, complete with playground.
Coffee Shop, 2 Plates
Expect to spend US$5 – US$15
The River Estate,
Corner 12th and Oak Avenues, Suburbs, Bulawayo.