The Cresta Oasis Hotel in the town centre of Harare boasts Café Afrique as its in-house restaurant.
By le connoisseur
There is well-guarded parking behind the hotel, which we found eventually after cruising through 5th Street for the second time and spotting the little alleyway that leads to it.
At the reception we asked for Café Afrique and were guided there by a few short words from the lady at the desk.
Entering the restaurant, we were welcomed in a warm manner by a waiter who escorted us to a nice table for two. We studied the menu, then realised we needed a drink, so accosted our waiter who took our order, a Malawi shandy, a whisky and soda, and disappeared, looking eager to get them for us.
When he brought us the menus, the waiter pointed us firstly to the set menu for the evening; soup, fish or pork chops and Swiss roll.
We were also invited to study the à la carte menu which has starters such as chicken livers in mustard served on melba toast, a chicken roulade with mozzarella, or a vegetable roll with mushrooms, brinjals, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, ginger, mozzarella and a sweet chilli sauce; there was a soup of the day as well.
For mains there was a choice of steaks, pork chops, hake, chicken stew and sadza. For dessert there was brown and white chocolate mousse, apple pie, ice-cream and chocolate gateau.
Our drinks arrived, and the whisky was welcome, but the Malawi shandy (named “shanty” both on the menu and by the waiter) lacked any ginger ale. I asked for this to be remedied, which took just a few minutes.
We made our choice from the menu: my wife opted for the chicken livers, I went for the vegetable roll with all its nice-sounding ingredients. For the main course we chose hake and chips, and pork fillet rolled in spices.
When our friendly waiter brought us our starters we fell to with some appetite. Alas, the chicken livers had no evidence of mustard, nor was there any melba toast in sight.
The vegetable roll had broccoli and mushrooms, but not really anything else: the sun-dried tomatoes, the mozzarella, the ginger, the garlic, the brinjals and the sweet chilli sauce were mysteriously absent. Both starters came with a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onion.
We awaited what mysteries our main courses might bring. These soon arrived, and on one plate we saw a stack of generously cut chips, arranged like logs ready for the fire, with two hake fillets jauntily standing up against it, with the same salad as our starter. The pork fillet dish boasted a similar stack of chips and salad. My wife’s hake was fine.
My pork dish did not in any way fit the description on the menu, being neither the cut of meat described, nor being rolled in spices.
Passable dessert and a wrong bill
For dessert I had the Swiss roll, as the chocolate mousse was not available.
I ordered coffee to go with it. The roll was passable. The coffee was proper filter coffee. Then the bill arrived and here, the mystery deepened, bearing as it did, no relation to what we had had, other than the hake.
It was eventually corrected, more or less.
Expect to spend US$25 to US$35 per head
Cresta Oasis Hotel, Nelson Mandela Avenue, Harare