BRENTO’s is the latest in a long line of restaurants/coffee shops…wine bars even… all boasting different monikers, that either flourished fruitfully or flunked fatally at what was the former Honey Dew Farm, opposite the Red Fox in Greendale.
Eating out with Dusty Miller
Perhaps the biggest difference now is that Brento’s Coffee Shop is operated by Chantelle Brent, a bubbly, blonde 24-year-old.
Maiden name Wilcox, her family ran Honey Dew Farm for 34 years.
When the thatched market-style building sold largely what the family grew on the rich, well-watered, soil of Greendale, punters raved about the freshness and crispness of crops plucked maybe 30 minutes earlier, no more than a few hundred metres away: A dream of a green carbon footprint, 20-odd years before the term was coined.
In fairly recent years, the Wilcox’s leased the operation to the CFI conglomerate — who made a total horse’s backside of running a business which needed the hands-on TLC enjoyed when family-led.
Later it was indigenised! While I am not implacably opposed to indigenisation, the less said about that pathetic period in its history — with no stock; inadequate staffing, broken tills, poor lighting, no change and customers boycotting the place — the better!
Several years ago, a terrible fire raged through the complex and could be seen kilometres away. On a Kariba houseboat at the time, I was one of seven passengers who had late night cellphone calls alerting us to the tragedy.
The place dramatically bounced back, rising phoenix-like from the ashes of disaster.
The name Honey Dew Farm seems to have — officially — disappeared; replaced by the more prosaic Food Lover’s Market. Personally, I think that should be Food Lovers’ Market! Whatever, a rather over-zealous askari refused to allow me in with a camera: At least not with my Canon DSLR 550D, he wouldn’t have even noticed my little pocket-sized Canon point-and-shoot or the one built into the Samsung smartphone I bought in Dubai at New Year, but I’m not really smart enough to use properly!
The food market side is in partnership with South African chain Fruit & Veg City, diversifying from its original single Zimbabwean store at Borrowdale Village.
But what are they trying to hide by banning cameras? Stock is mouthwatering: not only the eponymous fruit and vegetables (they have wonderful crisp rich-green savoy cabbage at the same price as the usual boring types) and fruit… but exotic fish and seafood, bread and bakery, butchery, and dairy — including an astonishing range of cheeses and good yoghurt.
There’s an ice-cream section and fresh, fruit rich, vitamin-filled smoothies are made to order.
There’s a garden centre and nursery, selling everything from pansy and Icelandic poppy seed packets, peas and seed potatoes to rare Lowveld-grown exotic palms; and a brightly painted safe, supervised, children’s play area; the petting zoo beloved by my children (now 34 and 32!) is back.
Brento’s Coffee Shop was busy when I called there on a stiflingly hot mid-Friday afternoon for a much-needed sugar boost after a savouries-only curry lunch with friends.
Unfortunately Chantelle was away on urgent coffee shop business, but smart, alert waiters ushered me to a table of my choice on a wide stoep, which was cool and shady.
I scanned a brightly decorated laminated, clean, “untacky” menu, which uses a fair-sized typeface for old geezers like me who frequently leave 3,5 strength readers on bedside tables.
Most prices remained unchanged from a previous visit at Christmas 2011! Last time, the Sunrise Breakfast (still US$6) was bang on the money, featuring two eggs as bright as a five-year-old child’s painted suns, crispy bacon, grilled tomato.
And at US$13 (up a dollar), the Biggie Breakfast is sure that: bacon, sausage, steak, mushrooms, chips, baked beans, grilled tomato, two eggs and a fried banana with toast.
Smoked salmon croissant, featuring “slithers” of the delicious fish (tut, tut, they mean “slivers”: snakes slither) with creamed cheese and chives looked superb at US$8 then, it’s now a tenner, topped with cream cheese and chives and served with a salad.
New on the list are eggs Benedict: US$7 plain, US$9 with bacon or ham and US$10 with smoked salmon. Fluffy three-egg omelettes are US$6-US$7 subject to fillings.
There’s a wide selection of light lunches, goodies on toast, baked spuds, pasta, savoury (and sweet) pies and the like on a refreshingly unpretentious list, plus waffles and cakes, hot and cold drinks.
A pancake stack, in which crepe layers were separated by cinnamon, maple syrup and fresh cream (topped with a glace cherry) proved as delicious as it looked; then and now US$5.
And that’s what I paid for my recent mid-afternoon snack after shopping for a gift in the nursery. Sadly apple crumble was “off”, having sold out in the lunchtime rush, and a subsequent one baking wasn’t quite ready.
Hot pecan pie, featuring lots of nuts, soft fruit (raisins? sultanas? currants?) bound together with golden syrup, served with rich vanilla ice-cream decorated with a glacé cherry and a generous pot of rooibos lemon tea were great value for a fiver.
A former Dominican Convent pupil, Chantelle tells me that (like many folk in the trade) she has had no formal training or qualifications in hospitality or catering, but is fulfilling a lifelong dream to run her own bijoux, boutique coffee shop.
And, believe me, doing a fine job. Her latest brainwave is a help-yourself buffet of salads, cold meats, pickles, curry, meatballs, vegetables etc, costing just US$1,50 for each 100g serving and available noon until 2pm Tuesday to Fridays.
Brento’s Coffee Shop, 16, Greendale Avenue. Tel 497505. E-mail:
Not licensed to serve alcohol. Shut Mondays. Eating indoors or out. Child/handicapped friendly. Smoking/no smoking. Safe, secure parking on-site if you get there early!