Peppers is not shut!
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
That was the message, loud and clear — at least Strength 15 — from bubbly blonde owner Liane Lombard with her trademark infectious laugh, when she rang last week, having read in The Standard of April 21, that the newish restaurant on The Chase, where Mount Pleasant meets Groombridge, had ceased trading; (along with half a dozen other Harare eateries.)
Well it had according to other members of “The Trade”. I expressed some doubts in my column and a pal’s teenage daughters scoffed at the story over Sunday lunch as they were going to karaoke at Peppers the following weekend. (Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings…!)
To prove she was still in business, Liane invited me to lunch or supper “anytime” and I accepted the former on Tuesday.
And sure enough the joint was jumping jovially with quite a few customers (I got the impression they were mostly regulars) eating and drinking indoors, on the stoep by a sparkling swimming pool (even if its pump eructated, burped and made sundry other rude body-like noises before it was thankfully turned off) and in the mature well-treed garden.
Liane could probably have expensively and almost certainly unsuccessfully tried to sue me for my “Open-and-Shut Case” story, but, instead, she joined me at one of the restaurant’s several rustic benches, along with young daughter, Caprice, too unwell to return to Gateways Junior School that day and their delightful Pom x Heinz 57 Varieties puppy, Waffle.
Well at least Liane based herself at my bench briefly. She was up and down answering cellphone calls, confirming bookings, ordering food and beverages.
Sadly I didn’t have loads of time to spend swopping hospitality trade yarns with her as I studied a compact menu which still manages to offer a wide range of food and drink at affordable prices, as it was deadline day for one of our sister papers.
She remembered that on a previous visit, about 15 months ago — three months after it opened — I’d raved to her and in writing about the 200g creamy chicken livers with bread US$10 starter plus/ light lunch course; but I’d forgotten that detail and ordered deep-fried mushrooms — a whole generous stack of them — served with a pleasant sweet chili sauce at US$6.
Other starters (I suspect Peppers is possibly a place where the cognoscenti order two or three appetisers or salads and go easy on mains!) included crispy battered tempura vegetables with mayonnaise and haloumi cheese, crumbed or plain, and deep-fried both at US$6; carpaccio (raw thin slices of cured beef or venison) at US$8 and piri-piri chicken livers, US$5.
Salads vary in price from US$3 (side salad), through US$7 for Greek, to US$9 for crumbed chicken or chicken tikka salad, peaking at US$10 for a tuna and avocado platter, when avos are in season.
Young Caprice (Liane’s previous restaurant at Pomona, La Caprice, was named after her), proved wise beyond her years, ordering an English all day-breakfast, which looked and smelled wonderful. You usually can’t go wrong ordering eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes and buttery toast, when eating out in Great Britain or the former British possessions.
Light meals are popular these days and Peppers offers crumbed, deep-fried wrap, with chicken mayonnaise, chef’s special chicken with tzatsiki sauce, crumbed chicken with tomato salsa or tuna or vegetable wraps at US$8. Toasted sandwiches are US$5 and open sandwiches with chips and salad are US$9.
As is often the case these days, I fancied fish for lunch. A basket of prawns, calamari and hake with chips costs US$15 and prawns with chips, salad or roast vegetables US$18. But for US$12, I had the fish and chips special. Eschewing the deep-fat fryer, I ordered and thoroughly enjoyed hake fillet (bream is the option) grilled instead of deep-fried, with beautifully cooked chips (which I assumed from their uniform size were of the bought-in variety, but you can’t have everything), roast veg and a hint of salad with lemon wedges.
I’ve heard good things about Liane’s red meat dishes; a 300g fillet steak with wedges, chips, rice or sadza, salads or vegetables was US$18; 250g rump with onion marmalade, onion rings, etc US$15 and a 500g ditto US$20; Portuguese-style Prego steak roll will set you back US$12 and a burger, with or without cheese topping, and chips US$8. Chicken dishes are from US$8 (quarter chicken and chips) to US$14, for a huku schnitzel. Vegetarian pasta costs US$10.
Liane reminded me (too late) that on a previous visit I waxed lyrical about their trademark South African dessert, Malva pudding (US$6). I’d already ordered cake-of-the-day which was a creamy chocolate confection as light as a kiss, served with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. Coffees are by Illy’s; I had a very pleasant cappuccino at US$2.
Peppers, 147, The Chase, Mount Pleasant/Groombridge. Opens for meals noon-10pm Tuesday to Saturday; noon to 8pm Sunday and Monday opening varies. A good venue for private functions, weddings, etc.
Restaurant is child and handicapped friendly. Smoking/no smoking areas, indoors and out. Fully licensed. Well-stocked bar. Safe on-site parking. Tel Liane 0772276319. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Peppers is obviously still alive and kicking, but, since my April 21 article appeared, 360 Degrees at Borrowdale Village has, sadly, ceased trading. This was probably the single most expensive standalone restaurant to be ever opened in Zimbabwe. It launched just before Christmas 2012.)