This provided an interesting and different venue from the usual outdoor affair, with its attractive brickwork, museum to the history of Afdis, pleasant lingering tones on the nose of wine brewing in days gone by, and great wooden barrels. The cellar features a large bar and fully equipped kitchen and the ceremony itself was held in its largest open area on a small red carpeted stage.
Wonderful background music was provided by Tony Vas on saxophone and Alexio on percussion and with around 130 guests, comprising the awards finalists and a sprinkling of representatives from the team who year round back Zoap — The Standard, The Cheeseman, Afdis, Lake Harvest and Mahatma Rice, this venue made it a very different and intimate affair, creating a sense of timelessness.
A series of short addresses began proceedings. Speakers were Malcolm Hollingworth of Afdis, Raphael Khumalo of Alpha Media Holdings, Anthony Kinnaird of Mahatma Rice whose revelations about the history of his product which dates back to the 1960s, and the ancient origins of rice itself, proved especially enlightening, Phil Nyarirangwe of Lake Harvest. Rosie Mitchell, the competition manager since its inception six years ago, spoke about the increasingly competitive environment for the trade and the equally increasing fastidiousness of the dining public and so, the reviewers.
Then it was on to the much-anticipated announcements of the winners and the awards themselves, which were presented by representatives of all the sponsors, including Nevanji Madanhire, the Editor of The Standard.
In two categories, the winners were self-evident. Not for the first time, Family Restaurant Leonardo’s scooped Family Restaurant of the Year, as the lone Family Restaurant which attained a 5 plate rating in 2011. The whole Marini Family were delighted to come up and collect the award. O’ Hagans had the great honour of being the first Pub Restaurant of the Year, a category introduced for 2011, and again, the single such establishment to attain the hallowed Five Plates.
There was a big surprise in the Coffee Shop of the Year category, dominated for the past four years by Tony’s Coffee Shop in the Bvumba, which in addition, won the illustrious Award of Excellence in 2010. For 2011, Tony was pipped to the post by Harare’s The Cocoa Tree, in a very close competition indeed, which led to a very long debate at the judging session! Genevieve Trépant and Anne-lise Rose of The Cocoa Tree were amazed and delighted, Tony Robinson obviously very disappointed after his amazing total five awards so far, and the contest is well and truly on, to see who will scoop this award for 2012!
Gill Harrison of Willow Bean was thrilled to bits to win Deluxe Coffee Shop of the Year, another brand new winner.
A further new winner was revealed in the Speciality Category, again, much to their surprise. Eve’s Garden in Harare scooped this award, with their health food focused restaurant, with very stiff competition from the other finalists, both previous winners, The Shop Café and the Dehli Palace.
The Deluxe Family Restaurant of the Year brought us yet another new winner — the Jungle Junction at Victoria Falls Hotel, which has retained an excellent Five Plate Rating ever since it entered Zoap.
In the Deluxe Category, there were no less than 10 finalists and it is no wonder that the eight judges took an entire day to finish their difficult task, with this category chewing up the most time of all! What a fine list of top restaurants, and all who made CONTINUED FROM PAGE S4
their way onto it, can be justly very proud indeed. In a minutely close contest, a new winner took the award — The Palm at Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls. This category was dominated for four years by Makuwa-Kuwa at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, then in 2010, Makuwa-Kuwa was finally beaten to the prize by Victoria Falls Hotel’s Livingstone Room, and The Palm ups the ante again in this category by being a new winner and proving that competition really has heated up in the Zoap awards.
The Award of Excellence for 2011 went to the Inn on Rupurara, one of the Inns of Zimbabwe, for their consistently excellent performance for the duration of the competition.
No less than 28 service personalities were nominated for the Service Personality of the Year Award — the oft unsung heroes of the trade — and most of them made it to the ceremony and were proud as punch to receive their framed finalist certificates and badges. These were presented by Chef Gonzo of Meikles Hotel, Winner of the Personality of the Year Award for 2009 and a well-respected celebrity chef who later also gave an excellent cooking demonstration using Mahatma Rice.
The winner, Phillip James, of Victoria Falls Hotel, was absolutely over the moon and sported his special winner’s waistcoat announcing his award, for the rest of the event.
The Boma at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge was the uncontested winner, once again, of the Most Imaginative Dining Experience, with its fabulous spectacle of music, dance, massed drumming, and wonderfully African themed setting, including some genuinely traditional fare for the diners such as mopani worms and traditionally brewed beer, as well as a barbecue that offers every kind of meat imaginable.
The Livingstone Room, which narrowly missed scooping Deluxe Restaurant of the Year again, nonetheless won the Most Imaginative Menu Award for 2011, and as an innovation, an award was also given to the Most Imaginative Menus in the six other entry categories. These were; Coffee Shop, the Indaba Book Café in Bulawayo, Deluxe Coffee Shop, Willow Bean, Speciality Restaurant, The Shop Cafe, Family Restaurant, Peppers, Deluxe Family, Miller’s Café, and Pub Restaurant, O’ Hagans.
The Wine List of the Year saw this award return to a previous winner, La Fontaine at Meikles Hotel, in a very close contest. This went to The Livingstone Room in 2010, and before that, for two years in a row, to Miller’s Grill.
The Personality of the Year Award is given at the discretion of judges and sponsors, in consultation with the trade to recognise both excellence in their profession, and a strong service and community orientation and willingness to get involved in tackling problems and challenges of mutual concern in their own trade, who with this hands-on approach, has earned the winner the respect and admiration of their peers.
The winner for 2011, Amanda Wessels of Sophisti-catered, who also catered the ceremony itself, threw the spotlight on this important and oft overlooked branch of the profession, the outside catering industry. Amanda is popular both in the trade and out of it, very professional in her work, a great perfectionist, and always willing to get involved in problem solving and helping others when the trade faces challenges.
She has also assisted Zimbabwe on a Plate much over the years with expert advice and by participating in several brain storming sessions and briefings.
To reach the finals in the Zoap awards is an excellent achievement in itself. The judging session to identify the winners for 2011 was the most challenging ever.
The environment in which restaurants operate continues to be tough, yet in that inimitable Zimbabwean fashion, the restaurateurs soldier on, and keep serving up great meals and offering the public a memorable dining experience.