We hadn’t been to La Fontaine at the Meikles for quite some time, so were rather pleased to be asked to review it.
By Le Connoisseur
La Fontaine is this long-established iconic hotel’s luxury restaurant, and has the kind of old world elegance and charm that come with a long history and careful on-going attention to detail.
We were in the mood to be spoilt — why else go out for a luxury dining experience after all — and so, indeed, we were.
While we can also appreciate new-fangled ideas and modernity as demonstrated in some deluxe entrants to the competition, there is always a place for the more traditional approach, and this is what people come to La Fontaine to find, I expect.
There’s a certain comfort and reminiscent pleasure in returning to places one has been many times in one’s life, to find the experience essentially as it has always been, while also enjoying regular innovations and specials on the menu.
The gentle music provided by the unobtrusive yet skilful pianist is exactly right for this old world setting, and a very pleasant change from the supposedly “background” vibes in many establishments that can so often make conversation difficult or simply begin to irritate.
The pianist offered a fine repertoire of familiar tunes that added to the relaxed ambience. The lighting is just right, too, and the tables beautifully and elegantly laid.
Plenty of other patrons were enjoying their meals as we arrived, fairly late, from another function, an eclectic mix of Zimbabweans and visitors, some of them, I expect, also staying at the Meikles, which is currently undergoing renovations — though these are not inconveniencing clients at all.
Our only slight disappointment came as we studied both menu and wine list. The latter had us gasping at the prices, which seemed inordinately high, particularly for many of the readily available from merchants and supermarkets, and inexpensive, South African wines offered, to the extent that we opted not for a bottle but for one of the few wines available by the glass.
This is something new at La Fontaine, where wine prices used to be reasonable and offering wine available at US$6 from a local merchant for US$30 is not a step in the right direction for wine sales in La Fontaine, regardless of international conventions as regards wine mark-ups in restaurants.
Corkage at US$10 is also over the top, especially when the wines offered are so expensive, and that popular soft drink combo, the Club Special, was heftily priced at US$5 too. Moving on to the menu, we were a little let down, being used, at La Fontaine, to a wider range of options, and a bit more imagination than we found.
That being said, the food we ordered and ate was excellent; the soup and the sautéed mushrooms as starters were divine, our pepper steaks, dramatically and skilfully flambéed at the table, and all accompanying accoutrements, were delicious, and all plates were very nicely presented.
The desserts trolley is always a pleasure to behold, this night being no exception and of course we couldn’t resist, in spite of feeling sated already, and the liqueurs and brandies trolley is a wonderful added extra touch to this elegant dining experience.
When offered coffee, it now being rather late, at first thinking better of it and the potential for caffeine-induced insomnia, we tried our luck and asked if decaff cappuccino was an option.
This is something all our coffee shops and restaurants might want to start thinking about, for it is a relatively common request by visitors to our country who are used always to having this alternative available.
Waiter Luke rose to the occasion by stating that while not on the menu, he would make a plan.
He bustled off and returned not long after bearing decaff cappuccinos from one of the other in-house outlets. We were suitably impressed by his dedication to our particular requirements, and the cappuccinos were top notch too! The La Fontaine experience remained as per our memories of so many times past, a thoroughly enjoyable one.
Expect to spend US$40 – US$50 per head
Meikles Hotel, Harare