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Open and shut cases

A reader e-mailed from Newlands asking if I knew exactly what was happening at the L’O’de Vie Restaurant — purportedly a Belgian-French themed eatery — on the east side of Enterprise Road.

Well, I didn’t and I still don’t know officially. I was aware that L’O’de Vie (it was previously Bejazzled, before that the Baobab Grill and Blue Banana Grill — simultaneously — but began life as Mozzarella’s, a South African Italian-style franchise, run by Innscor) certainly hadn’t served a meal since I returned from Australia in mid-January. Neighbours reported it last traded December 20 2012.

And a forlorn rather drab looking dusty bauble-bedecked Christmas tree in the window seemed to silently support that information. A Christmas tree still up on Zimbabwe’s Independence Day (April 18) somehow seemed very evocatively depressing.

Last time I looked in, the business was still owned by local orthopaedic surgeon Alban Bowers, but when I called to photograph the festive festoons, I bumped into the property agents, who told me it would probably be back on the market soon.

Good luck to whoever signs the lease. No restaurant has ever properly succeeded there and things have grown much worse since Newlands by-pass was (for whatever reason) opened.

‘Libby’s re-opened’
My Newlands reader passed on apparently good news that what had been Libby’s — a once hugely popular Greek-Cypriot restaurant in Mon Repos on the west side of Enterprise — had re-opened.

Libby’s, after several changes of hands, was indigenised and landlords were reportedly inundated with complaints about alleged outrageous noise levels from the former cocktail bar and ankle-deep litter surrounding the place. It soon shutdown.

I understood it reopened (perhaps two years later) minus a bar, operating as The Rose Courtyard Café and Bistro and heard good things about its cooking.

Alas when I called for coffee on Saturday, all courtyard furniture was stacked up within the café and a neighbour said the owner was forced to return overseas at short notice; standards plummeted under a manager; it hadn’t opened (then) for at least three weeks.

I’m sad when I hear of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, pubs or clubs closing — especially if it sounds a permanent move. The community’s denied a meeting spot and local facility; owners’ dreams have probably turned to nightmares; staff is laid off… perhaps never to find work again, in our sad economy; sometimes creditors are welshed on… badly.

I was particularly depressed to hear the sparkling La Serenata at Enterprise Road, Highlands had also shut while I was away after major financial and cash flow challenges, allegedly to be turned into bank offices. More so as La Serenata replaced Green Bean at the former Richard Rennie Art Gallery on Second Street, which was closed to become… bank offices!

Only when business took me into the StanBic complex at Nssa House did I learn that Bannie’s, a very good unlicensed restaurant, renowned for its excellent pastries and pies and rabbit stews from bunnies bred by the eponymous Bannie had closed…according to a security officer about three months ago. At one stage Bannie’s traded 24/7. I never actually ate there at midnight — or 2, 3 or 4am, but wished him well. It’s unusual for a capital city not to have at least one all night eatery. (But then, it’s almost unknown for a capital city not to have an airport hotel!)

‘Zhing-Zhong’
The enormous Chinese restaurant on Glenara Avenue opened to a stunned public apparently reluctant to use it, then promptly closed for months, but is apparently — sometimes — trading again. To me it looks like a third world air terminal; friends said they were the only six punters in a dining room which could possibly seat 600; with mysterious private rooms on the same level and apparently potentially eye-brow lifting goings on upstairs!

Wing Wah International (wags immediately re-dubbed it “Zhing-Zhong International”) was built on, or very close to, a vlei in record time which would suggest professionally engineered floating foundations were unlikely to have been used.

The new Chinese hotel built on what were supposed to be protected wetlands near the Chinese-built (and dangerously cracked) National Stadium is already, itself, badly cracked, before opening!

The oddly named Casablanca Restaurant on Connaught Road has been shut for some time (well its gates are locked). Another Chinese operation, it replaced Shilla: a South Korean/Japanese eatery.

Punters pulled in expecting Moroccan food (Casablanca’is the largest city and major port in Morocco) or Spanish or Italian graze (casa blanca means “white house” in most Latin tongues) to find it served little known Cantonese dishes to almost exclusively Chinese customers.

Members of the trade tell me Peppers on The Chase is closed. A sign outside proclaims it’s still open, but I suspect no one’s got round to unscrewing it. No cars have been in the driveaway the last few times I’ve gone past and I’m unable to contact management by cellphone for comment.

A bit of good news, however, on openings. I walked across Enterprise Road from my unsuccessful attempt to try The Rose, to discover that the former Vasili’s Bakery is now flourishing as Cake Link. Although they specialise in baking and icing ultra-attractive wedding, birthday and other special event cakes, they also serve the delightful Illy’s Coffee I often drink overseas. I can also recommend grand meat-filled hot steak pies with proper short crust pastry and a zingy citrusy lemon Danish.

It was pleasant to sit in the sunshine, sipping good coffee and people watching…other than for an occasional unmistakable whiff of human ordure, as if sewers were backing up! (That’s all they need in Newlands, to go with the by- pass and potholed roads looking like something out of World War I Flanders!)

I also hear a potentially great new Indian restaurant will open in Lezard Avenue, Milton Park within a few days. I thoroughly enjoyed prawn curry at Tandoor, Sunrise Sports Club, Belvedere South last Sunday, but competition’s good for everyone.
l dustym@zimind.co.zw

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