Situated at the very top of the Vumba, there is really no need for Leopard Rock Hotel to cater for casual diners.
By Le Connoisseur
The very steep, curvy, potholed road which takes about 45 minutes from Mutare sees to that!
Diners at The Conservatory therefore, are more than likely to be hotel guests or occasionally, as in our case, people who come early to enjoy this unique French chateau style hotel, which the Queen Mother described during her visit in 1953 as the most beautiful place in Africa.
The hotel has long been a popular venue for weddings and other celebrations, and on the day we visited there was a large birthday party of Russians in the Club House.
On arrival we booked our table in the Conservatory restaurant, described in the publicity as the “dinner restaurant”.
There is also La Roche Restaurant, which serves buffet style meals and The Terrace, which serves light meals and snacks throughout the day.
In anticipation of a hearty dinner, we then set off for a brisk walk round the golf course, spectacular views and very little danger, as there were very few golfers on the course. A bonus was seeing impala in the adjoining game reserve.
Onto the serious business and pre-dinner drinks in The Napoleon Bar, which serves both dining rooms and had a disappointingly stocked bar.
It did however have a selection of games behind the bar and we settled down to Scrabble with our pre-dinner drinks, accompanied by a complementary plate of crisps and nuts.
Our reception in the dining room was less than welcoming, and they seemed to have no record of our booking and suggested we go to the other dining room. Finally seated at a beautifully appointed table, our waitress took our order.
She was clearly not familiar with the menu. We opted for the garlic mushrooms (US$8) and tempura king prawns, followed by roasted trout with lemon and dill (US$20) and chef’s steak (US$18, sirloin, cooked medium) with crispy garlic sauce for me.
We also ordered a bottle of Boland Cellars Cappuccino Pinotage (US$20), which our waitress placed on the table unopened.
After prompting she opened and poured it, no tasting offered, and left it on the table for us thereafter to help ourselves. After considerable time she returned to advise us that there were no prawns. I substituted an order of garlic mushrooms.
A beautifully presented amuse bouche of chicken and mashed potatoes was a welcome intervention, as it was a long wait for our mushroom starter arrived.
Although served on cold plates, the button mushrooms in a cream sauce were hot, well-cooked and again beautifully presented, accompanied by a small salad of fancy lettuces.
Both main courses were served on cold plates and my steak and vegetables (cauliflower and broccoli) were cold. I sent it back to be heated. What was returned to my table was a correctly hot plate, on which was a newly cooked piece of very rare steak, without garlic sauce.
Our waiter agreed that it was not cooked medium as ordered. At this stage I chose to abandon my main course, given the time already spent. The trout however was well-cooked — though lacking the promised flavours of dill and lemon.
Desserts were Leopard Rock special (US$9) for my guest, which was apple pie and custard imaginatively moulded in the shape of a rock, and for me, chocolate cake and fruit sorbet (US$6), which was a delightful sweet and sour combination.
The Conservatory is beautifully appointed and the great care taken in the presentation of the food does it justice. Unfortunately, the service did not.
Deluxe Family Restaurant
Expect to spend US$35 to US$55 per head
1 Eggardon Road, Vumba