I’m not sure how they did it but Harare’s newest and most exciting unlicensed (for alcohol) restaurant to hit the scene in years features two walls literally alive with attractive plants flourishing floor-to-ceiling!
Comment by Dusty Miller
A fountain runs down one wall into a brick “wishing well” and misting machines at high level help keep diners cool on even the hottest rainless November day in Central Africa!
I’m on about the brand new Circle Fountain Restaurant, attached to TM Supermarket at Borrowdale Village. Within the eatery is Circle Chocolate Shop, where just looking at the mouthwatering range of Belgian-style products puts on weight and, by the time you read this, Circle Cocktail lounge should have opened on the first floor.
What a talented team “someone” has head-hunted, recruited…put together!
Director shareholders are Aisha Patel and Anne-Lise Ross. Aisha’s special responsibility is downstairs, which offers wonderful food from a compact but stimulatingly imaginative menu.
Meals are strictly halaal (no pork) and alcohol and smoking is banned.
Food from the ground floor can travel upstairs: to what looked at final work-in-progress stage to be a stunningly appointed cocktail bar, but the booze and fags stay above stairs!
So, a semi-symbiotic relationship between the operations?
Anne-Lise will run the cocktail bar operation. Restaurant general manager is Byron Brewer, who I met when he worked at Meikles Hotel and the former Miller’s Grill; deputy gm, the amiable dreadlocked “Ezzy” (Elelo) Sarangika who is of Malawian stock and seems to have worked everywhere!
Very able chocolatier is locally born of Indian-Muslim stock Waseefa Ahmed and Kuda Kutyauripo is boss of the bakery division. Executive chef is the young, locally born, Gordon Ramsay lookalike Shane Ellis (ex- Meikles, Miller’s Grill and La Serenata.)
But I heard no Ramsay-like language or flaring tempers as I toured the impressive kitchen.
The ground floor was full of punters and upper levels packed with builders and designers when I went last Thursday for lunch.
A busy, flustered but charming Anne-Lise was confident the cocktail bar (she visibly shuddered when I called it a “pub”!) would be open to a discerning, sophisticated, civilised public from last Monday.
Its sound system was already working and I enjoyed some great music, mainly from the 1980s, as I sat at a blonde pine table below the hanging gardens, cooled by the recently commissioned misters and sipping a non-alcoholic Ooppaa cocktail. (My two-year-old grandson would love to drink an Ooppaa with Oupa!)
It was lemon juice and soda water on crushed ice with lemon slices, a little sugar and an infusion of mint with loads of mint leaves and was superbly thirst-quenching at US$3!
Main course was a simple-sounding smoked salmon croissant, but the pastry — big tick and gold star to Kuda — was light and nicely moist rather than the dry, tasteless, flaky, croissants we are often served.
It was crammed with generous slices of smoked salmon, the heady flavour of which took me back to Bonny Scotland (where I was in August) served with herbed crème fraiche on a bed of rocket with additional salads tastefully presented at a reasonable US$6.
With it I drank what I wrote down as a Crapple! (Pity about that unfortunate name, I thought!). It’s a mixture of chilled carrot and apple juices. I photographed the menu, however and there it’s called The Parrot. (Surely that should be pear, peach, plum or passion fruit and carrot?)
Whatever, Byron told me it was the restaurant’s trademark drink and I can see why (US$4).
If you eat with your eyes, you’ll be filled to bursting point just looking at the lovely, colourful range of pastries, cakes, gateaux etc, on display in front of the spotless open-plan kitchen where Shane and his team do what they know best.
From it I was served the Circle Trio (of mousses). These comprised hard chocolate-encased strawberry and white cream, orange and almond and the espresso mousse of chocolate, coffee beans and biscotti: a pudding which Shane created. It was obviously sweet, but not cloyingly so, remarkably light and not too filling neither — hopefully — fattening.
It was incredibly, indescribably good, but whether it’s US$10 good in recession hit, penny-pinching Zimbabwe remains to be seen.
Talking of pennies, Anna-Lise told me the wishing well would be emptied of coins every week or 10 days and the proceeds sent to children’s charities.
A great idea, except we don’t often see coins in this workers’ paradise since long before the demise of the hyper-inflationary Zim dollar. (I use a worthless one-hundred billion Zimbabwe dollar note as a bookmark in my desk diary!)
Maybe she should encourage punters to chuck in some of the skin-crawlingly filthy US$1 and US$2 notes in circulation and give a whole new meaning to the phrase “money laundering”?
She told me up to now they’ve recovered Rand coins, US nickels, dimes and pennies (presumably United Arab Emirates) dirhams, British new pence and euro cents.
I thought the Circle operation (where Cabs used to be, but much lighter, brighter and cheerful) a welcome addition to Harare’s ever changing (and growing) eating out scene and wish the team all the luck they deserve.
It opens 8am-8pm Sunday-to-Wednesday and 8am-10pm Thursday-to-Sunday.
Presumably the pub… sorry, cocktail lounge! Will trade longer hours?
The Circle, TM Complex, Borrowdale Village. Bookings Byron 0775 888 279; Anna-Lise 0772 577 816. Landlines should be installed this week. (Don’t hold your breath on that one!)