HomeStandard PeopleFrom the sublime to the ridiculous…

From the sublime to the ridiculous…

With a few drinks and a tip, you’re looking at near US$50 a head for the memorable meal I had (see review last Friday’s Zimbabwe Independent) with Belgian rabbit stew as main course.

The previous meal out was possibly the cheapest for years:  acceptable sweet-and-sour pork with noodles and a cool-drink, costing a total of US$6 at the Shangri-La/Chopsticks outlet in the first floor food court at Joina City.

Joina and I should go back a long way! When I joined the permanent (not freelance) staff of what’s now AMH in March 2005, a diary item was a supplement on the “upcoming” opening of the city centre mall and office complex.

It was about a year ago that the towering building finally opened. They’re still looking for more tenants. For some reason the supplement fizzled out; until last Wednesday I’d not set foot in the Joina joint. But that’s possibly because I normally avoid downtown Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital) as fervently as I would leprosy.

But following my car being totalled by a cretinous youth whose “brakes failed”, I had to report at the rather grim, grimy, gloomy and forbidding ZRP Central Police Station with vehicle documents. A company driver dropped me; I told him not to wait…it may take hours…. I’d walk back.

He was amazed. After all it must be all of 2,5km!
The Inspector I saw couldn’t have been friendlier or more efficient. I was in-and-out in 12 minutes.
Fighting my way through a CBD thronged with folk patronising a huge “bend-down boutique” (a probably illegal flea-market dealing mainly in used — probably stolen or smuggled — clothes nudging  the Charge Office: the noise was horrendous!) I hobbled uncertainly over long stretches of broken pavements towards Joina.

Built largely with Kuwait loot, I thought I’d pop in to see what, if any resemblances, there were to the huge Aladdin’s cave shopping malls in the oil-and-gas rich Persian Gulf Emirate states of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Yes….! There were very few resemblances, especially after a year of trading in Africa! For some odd architectural (or security?) reason there are no exterior shop windows: lust acres of dull grey concrete brightened up with a bit of signage indicating a few of the outfits trading within.

But escalators worked…. which is a first in Zimbabwe, other than in four-and five-star hotels… for me in yonks. Did the moving staircase at Central Post Office ever move? When did the once fabulous Barbour’s department store’s lifts last operate?
Probably still somewhere on this computer is a whiskery oddly-worded invite to visit Joina’s first floor to “Sample your favourite Afrikan cousin at Sondela.”

I no longer have African cousins, but if I did it’s highly unlikely I’d want to sample she, or he, in a shopping mall! I assumed they meant “cuisine” rather than “cousin” and put it in File 13, not being over fond of sadza and bones.

There’s an Indian restaurant/takeaway called Saffron;  Chicken Hut piri-piri chicken establishment (they were very good at Chisipite…far better than Nando’s); Cee-Cee’s (which I’ve tried at Celebration Centre) and “AFC”, which comes perilously close to plagiarising the name and theme of KFC. And as KFC are returning to Zim… hokoyo AFC!

KFC will re-open at Borrowdale Village soon. Very popular down south and in Europe, it’s the successor to Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken. Meikles Group has the franchise. Let’s hope they do a better job on this than they did with Black Steer steakhouses, Bulldog pubs and Clicks stores… all of which were disasters locally!

You order and pay for your food at the selected outlet and, with any luck, grab a table and chair in a communal eating area. Coincidentally, the Iranian-owner of Café Nush at Avondale, Ramin Khalatabari, was there eye-balling opposition and joined me. He had a quarter of chicken and chips eaten with fingers out of a brown bag as HIS outlet had no plastic cutlery.

My Chinky was plated, knife and fork provided. What can I say: it was a substantial plate of very good noodles and acceptable chunks of deep-fried dead pig in a batter which could have been crisper: But ok for six-bucks with a can of “pop”.

Between shopping mall food and wonderful US$15 soups, I was delighted to be a guest at Italy’s National Day at the official residence of that country’s Ambassador, Signor Stefano Moscatelli, on Friday and was amazed by how many folk I knew who proved to be Italians, half or quarter-Italian or married to Italians: It really is a small world.

Lee Vermaak, of Gourmet Girls did the catering, using — I suspect — mainly local ingredients, as the sad Euro-depression hits these sort of functions and wheels of lovely cheese, whole hams and processed meats are now rarely flown in by any embassy. (Wine was also South African!)

In the erraced gardens, waiters served trays of bruschetta topped with oven-roasted vegetables and basil pesto, chicken and sundried tomatoes; fabulous mini-pizzas with tomatoes, chicken, salami and mozzarella and bread sticks wrapped in pancetta (Italian bacon).

There were a generous number of serving tables, sensibly spaced, on which were displayed a buffet of herbed chicken livers, white beans and red-peppers; char-grilled courgettes, red peppers and red wine-pickled mushrooms; sundried tomatoes and mozzarella.

I loved chicken breasts with olives, feta and tomatoes in a Napolitano sauce and there was suckling pig in Mirto (Sardinian liqueur flavoured with myrtle) and the most delicious pink rare roast beef with caramelised baby onions and wild rocket and pasta with creamy basil pesto, which was splendid.

Baskets of olive-and-rosemary, foccacia and grissini breads and dinky sesame-sprinkled cocktail rolls with proper butter were superb.

Sweets were mini-chocolate éclairs and brownies and Italian ice-cream scooped into cones.
I’m so looking forward to the Queen’s Birthday Party at the British Residence on Thursday where, a little bird tells me, there will again be Stilton cheese (the Real McCoy) on the buffet to help mark the 60th year of Her Majesty’s reign.


By Dusty Miller

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