I planned to venture much farther than Milton Park for this restaurant review, but as the jolly old Municipality — in its infinite wisdom — had, finally, decided to renew white lane markings on Prince Edward Street and as there was bad-tempered, snarling, nose-to-tail gridlock (read total anarchistic chaos!) from Samora Machel Avenue to PE School, and beyond, I totally gave up on reaching Rowland Square.
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
Already well into the conventional lunch hour on a busy deadline day, I pulled into Spring Fever, also known as Café Plaaskombuis (Afrikaans for farm kitchen) to grab a quick meal.
Spring Fever first saw the light of day at Karoi, when it was so popular that it saw off almost all competitors in feeding and quenching the thirst of tired travellers trekking between Ha-ha-ha-rare and Kariba, Chirundu, Lusaka, the Copper Belt or points north.
That, of course, was the green light for one of “The Comrades” (a so-called War Vet) to “liberate” the eatery, the adjoining farm and a profitable filling station and since then do…apparently nothing with them! (Thoughts of dogs and mangers seem appropriate.)
Rightful owners Piet and Elise Oosthuizen moved to Harare and set up business at Westgate, just before that white elephant almost totally collapsed in the wake of wholesale farm invasions. (To be fair, I hear it’s picking up again.)
They opened at Rowland Square two or three years ago and have thrived on serving a growing number of keen supporters the sort of honest to goodness farm style cooking they want in generous helpings.
That the owners are very much hands-on, open daily, serving sit-down breakfasts, brunches, lunches and high teas, take-aways, frozen bachelor meals; do outside catering and teach general cooking, bespoke baking, cake decorating and flower arranging, may help account for their success.
Spring Fever seats two or three times the number it did when I was last there (in September) following extensions and alterations which began in November (my waiter assured me).
It was quite a nippy day after a straight fortnight of sometimes almost unbearable heat and humidity, but it was still pleasant to sit in the garden: A riot of fragrant colour; butterflies fluttered by and the trees were alive with birdsong.
The menu is deceptively extensive, but I was rapidly running out of time and wasn’t exactly ravenous. If you are hungry there are steaks and chops, fish and chips, curries, potjies (Afrikaner stews), pastas and huge toasted sandwiches with mountains of good chips.
I thought the ploughman’s platter sounded as if it may possibly tick all the right lunchtime boxes: ham or chicken (I chose the former) with a range of well-kept local cheeses, a comprehensive salad, brown bread and butter, pickles, chutney and a great crunchy piccalilli (or was it mustard pickle?) at US$8. All the boxes were well and truly ticked.
Before and with it I sipped an ice-cold home-made lemonade which just took me straight back to the once lovely old farmhouses which once studded our landscape and helped to feed the world. The generosity of those farmers and their long-suffering wives was famous…even in the most trying of times. Home-made lemonade was a trademark welcoming drink.
The lemonade was tangy, sharp with a pronounced citrusy zing and served in a tall broad heavy glass with lemon wedges and ice-cubes at US$1. (They aren’t licensed to sell alcohol, but welcome BYOB customers: No corkage fees.)
Between mouthfuls of delicious unfussy food I devoured large chunks of an Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus thriller and listened to the high-pitched, almost chant-like, sales spiel of waiters outlining the café’s chicken braai with chips and salads on a Friday at US$10 and a three-course help yourself as-much-as-you-can-eat buffet on Sunday for US$20 (half price for the under-10s and over-80s!)
Lunch finished with a still warm home-baked individual apple pie with lots of sultanas folded in to the filling. Candidly it was more like apple crumble in texture, but I’m probably being pedantic. With a generous dollop of vanilla ice-cream (or fresh cream if preferred) the cost of pudding was US$3, washed down with a pot of refreshingly fragrant lemon rooibos tea at US$2.
Bottom line: light main course, cool drink, pudding, hot drink: US$14.
Spring Fever, Rowland Square, Milton Park. Open daily until mid/late afternoon. Unlicensed café style eatery (BYOB). Reasonably child and handicapped friendly. Smoking/no smoking. Wide range of up-to-date free reading. Telephone 0772 711 985. firstname.lastname@example.org