Most restaurants in Harare are sited across the northern suburbs, with a sprinkling in the CBD and Avenues, but a notable exception to this fact in recent years has been the successful and popular daytime dining venue, Tinkabell. It’s in the New Ardbennie area, close to a wide swathe of the industrial area and not far from the longstanding southern suburbs of Waterfalls and Hatfield.
restaurant review with Epicurean
I should think that a significant portion of its trade comes from these industrial sites and neighbouring suburbs, but the owners have always sought custom from folks across the city. It’s a long drive but, as I have always found since first enjoying a meal there a couple of years ago, it’s very much an oasis of charm and delight and definitely worth the trip.
Created by Rui and Jasmine Fonseca on the premises of Rui’s engineering business, Tinkabell is named after Jasmine’s grandmother, whose culinary talents delighted generations of her family and whose memory is captured in the title of Jasmine’s own culinary venture, inspired by granny and dedicated to her. I like this story and feel sure that this matriarch would approve without reservation, as Jasmine has put in place a very good dining venue and one whose praises the Epicurean and many others, have been singing since it started.
Our group of three dined there most recently on an extremely hot Wednesday lunchtime, arriving well into the lunch hour, when a number of diners were still in place. In the past most of my experiences there have been on a Friday or Saturday, when there’s been no rush to get back to the office on the part of the diners; I think quite a few industrial sites businesses close early on Friday and the folks who head on to Tinkabell come for a late lunch and stay on until dusk before heading off home.
As always, there was a very warm welcome from the staff and from both Jasmine and Rui. You don’t see much of Jasmine, in fact, as she is invariably in the kitchen herself, and her personal touch is reflected not only in the style of the cuisine on offer but also in the quality of the finish. The Portuguese influence is very strong and older diners no doubt cast their minds back to memories of dining out in Mozambique when they take their seats and order food.
Before sitting, though, we checked out a new facility at the restaurant: this is Jasmine’s Deli, source of pastas, olive oil, wines, cheeses, speciality marinades, pies and croissants. It’s very attractively set up close to the entrance and is sure to be a popular feature. Sited around the bar area, it’s also where a happy hour (or two) takes place each Wednesday and Friday late afternoon. The wine selection is good and includes a number of Portuguese wines, all of which are also on the wine list for the restaurant. Although we didn’t have wine with lunch that day, Rui very kindly gave me a delightful red to take away for sampling and this was enjoyed several days later with dinner. It was a Porta Da Ravessa from Alentejo, a superb multi-varietal offering that I chilled to 16 degrees Celsius and found smooth and a great accompaniment to beef.
Dining at Tinkabell is on the terrace, overlooking a garden and water feature that houses a number of ducks and geese. The garden also features children’s play equipment and it’s a great venue for family dining. Occasionally there’s entertainment laid on, but even when not it’s a charming and relaxed venue and we loved feeling cool after the hot drive across town. Our waiter for the day was James Taengwa, and we were very pleased with his attentiveness and efficiency, something that I can say all the staff there seem to have in abundance.
The menu has changed since I last visited, so it was a chance to move away from dishes previously sampled and enjoyed. One of my guests went for one of the combos, and enjoyed a hearty and visually delightful mix of sirloin steak, quarter chicken and prawns, accompanied by salad. The second guest, a vegetarian, selected a baked potato with cheese sauce, mushrooms and stir-fried vegetables. I chose the grilled prawns, served with exceptionally good Portuguese-style rice and a salad. This was a superb selection and each of us enjoyed a tremendous meal that was both generous in portions and flavoursome.
We moved on to desserts and here we saw some real culinary mastery from Jasmine: a chocolate mousse, a chocolate cake with ice cream and, for me, a lemon cheesecake with ice cream. This was, again, a superb selection and the cheesecake was one of the tastiest and enjoyable desserts I’ve had in a long time; the dessert offering changes regularly but I can without reservation recommend a sampling of this for any diner… it’s not to be missed!
The new menu contains most of the longstanding favourites of diners, but there’s a few new choices on offer, and names have been given to many of the dishes, featuring the names of family and friends of Rui and Jasmine, which offers a homely and friendly touch. A daily special board heralds additions to the menu.
Starters range from $5 to $10 and include treats like chicken giblets, crumbed mushrooms, salmon, asparagus and cream cheese, prawns in a garlic sauce and mini lamb chops. The chicken selection ranges from $12 to $15 for good-sized offerings, while the red meat section — $16 to $18 — has t-bone, sirloin, ribs, fillet and lamb chops, as well as Arabian Delight — a lamb shank creation at $20.
Seafood includes hake fillet, kingklip, sole and prawns ($12 to $20), while the combos section — very popular and really pleasing to eye and palate — have double delights such as half-chicken and prawns and hake and prawns, as well as triple delights that offer mixes of beef, chicken, boerewors, lamb chops and prawns. These are extremely hearty in size and run from $20 to $25. There are also burgers, a vegetarian section, salads and trinchado — the latter either chicken or beef, served with chips. Prices in these areas range from $8 to $18. One of the salads that caught my eye was the Seafood Wonder: prawns, salmon, asparagus, olives, pecan nuts, raisins, peaches and a seafood dressing ($18). Desserts are as offered by the waiter and change from time to time, priced around $5.
Jasmine told us of some upcoming events, including a pensioners’ lunch, when oldies have a free lunch (accompanying family will need to pay for themselves, of course). To run on a date in November, this is an annual treat from Jasmine and will be advertised, with booking essential. Christmas day will also feature a special luncheon with entertainment and advance booking, which is essential, is already open. Rui told us they plan to introduce a loyalty card, which will have special offers and will be welcome as people cope with the current economic woes we all face.
Tinkabell is one of Harare’s great delights and a must-do venue for everyone who enjoys good food, great ambience and, especially, a value-for-money experience. The welcome is warm and the journey across town is, I feel, rewarded every time. Rui and Jasmine, and their team, put a huge effort into this superb dining venue and they deserve to succeed. The restaurant has not been opening on Sundays of late, but may open up on this day again soon; it’s open at the moment Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm and on Saturdays from 12 noon to 5pm. Sometimes there are evening events and these are usually advertised — the restaurant’s Facebook page is worth liking.
Tinkabell is at Q4 Upton Road, Ardbennie. Travel from the Harare CBD along Simon Mazorodze Road, turning left into St George’s Road (that’s at the intersection where, if you turn right, you move into Southerton), and then first right into Upton. Call (04) 661697 or 664745, or 0774 532184 or 0772 735177. E-mail email@example.com (yes, the spelling is different on the e-mail!) or visit their Facebook page.