Sorry, if you looked forward to reading more about my recent trip to England, Scotland and France.
Report by Dusty Miller
I’ve been back at work under a week and have had hardly a second to start transcribing pages of notes or sorting out nearly 3 000 photographs taken on two cameras.
(Incidentally 1 132 e-mails came during my five-and-a-half weeks away, plus 93 Junk Boxed. Of these 17 were of any importance or current significance on downloading! Two snail mail letters arrived at the office and one at home!)
So that gives me an opportunity to spill the beans on a very well-kept secret.
During my sanity break from Zim, Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society held its monthly lunch at Piccobello, at 47, Glenara Avenue, Highlands and I received nothing but praise for it from members.
It opened about four years ago, but I hadn’t visited, mainly because I’m rarely in that vicinity at lunch and at night the road’s ultra-scary.
There are no working street lights (like never!); white lines long since disappeared; there are pot-holes for Africa. and battered old chicken buses, overloaded with katundu and passengers, boasting one headlight (if any) probably jammed on full beam, hurtle crab-style due to broken suspensions along Glenara 24/7.
(There’s also sometimes a pong of raw sewage hanging over the vlei area… something that seems to have miraculously disappeared recently).
Anyway, none of those things are the fault of, nor can be remedied by, brother-and-sister owners Jovan Ilic and Ana Momcilovic, Serbians and an excellent hands-on team running this mainly Italian-themed eatery.
They sent an invite to a newish Wednesday evening jazz night and as I love most jazz and was in the area looking at a new US$6 million conference centre, refurbishments and extensions at Cresta Lodge, Greendale, went along.
I’m not really a cocktail party, things-on-sticks snack person, but had nibbled at the Press briefing, so didn’t want a conventional three course dinner a bit later, sitting in shirt-sleeves on an attractive elevated al fresco dining area on a balmy Central African night.
With glass in hand, perusing an interesting, if fairly predictable menu of all-time favourites and listening to a great combination of modern jazz and smooth silky standards of the 1940s, 50s and 60s from BlaQberry Jazz, I thought: “This is what living in a sub-tropical climate in the tropics is all about!”
A month ago it would have been too cold, in a couple of months it’s likely to be too wet, so do yourselves a favour and go there on your next free Wednesday night before the rainy season!
I had mushroom soup with croutons (US$7). Just wonderful: full of fresh, fragrant, forest-found fungi in a thick creamy, herby broth with enough garlic for extra oomph. Other soups are US$6.
Between courses I visited the spotless comfort room. Two tables of diners ate indoors… their prerogative… but scores of us enjoyed the fresh air. Returning through a cosy bar: culture shock… several Eastern European types smoking!
I have just travelled thousands of kilometres, by plane, ferryboat, coach, bus, train and car and hardly seen anyone smoking. (Other than in Addis airport, where it seemed almost compulsory… even in the one small section clearly marked with the international no smoking sign!)
I had coffee at a table where an elderly Yankee hippy ate half a huge chicken and chips, slurped half-litres of St George beer, smoking strong shag tobacco in a Sherlock Holmes pipe! This was at 7:15am local time. My body was still on London time: two hours earlier. It made me feel positively ill!)
From the salad section I had caprese, the Capri dish of tomatoes, what passes in Zim for mozzarella cheese, basil and capers with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That was also US$7, other salads peak at US$10.
And from the antipasti (starter) list it was crumbed, deep-fried Patagonian (how’s that for a carbon footprint?) calamari with tartar sauce, also US$7. I shoved both dishes on the one platter and was pleased how successfully textures, flavours and colours complemented each other.
At the cocktail party, my friend Bryony Acutt said Piccobello served the best take-away pizzas in the country; their sit-down helpings certainly looked scrumptious.
Focaccia is cheapest at US$4 for a medium one and US$6 for large; Piccobello, with ham, bacon, salami mushrooms and olives costs US$14/US$18, the same as “Meat Delight”: Ham, salami, bacon and sausages; frutti di mare, with tuna, salmon, anchovies, shrimps, olives and capers is US$13/US$17. Portions were big.
Pasta varies from US$10 for primavera (courgettes, brinjal, mushrooms and red onion, seasoned with pesto Genovese tossed in tomato sauce) to tagliatteli filetto (strips of steak) and gnocchi quarto formaggio at US$13.
Main courses range from US$14 (fish and chips or mango chicken with fries) to US$21 for well-matured T-bone with baked spuds and Jack Daniels sauce; or a salmon dish sounding basically like Peruvian ceviche (quite delicious) at a buck more.
Puddings are US$5-US$7 and at that top end the tiramisu was possibly the nicest I’ve eaten out of Italy. It was as light as a bubble, rich and creamy. Liquor content was perhaps a little understated and the coffee element hardly there. But it suited my palate.
In France, a fortnight earlier, my daughter had to give her tiramisu to her husband as the coffee flavour was too intense.
My own coffee that night was a cappuccino made with cream as the machine was broken (how unusual in Ha-ha-ha-rare… Africa’s fun capital!) which came with three small delicious biscotti.
Piccobello is fully licensed: you needn’t eat to enjoy a sundowner on this hilly feature lapping up a breeze. They open daily from 11am to 11pm and folk were still arriving as I left at 9:30.
Not too handicapped friendly; children welcome; safe, secure parking; smoking or non-smoking tables, indoors or out.
Piccobello: 47, Glenara Avenue (between Enterprise and Samora Machel, near Glenroy Shops). Tel 0733 436 191 or 0733 403 604.
Dusty Miller rating 4-stars September 2012.