Can a restaurant survive a change of venue? This was a question posed on a number of occasions by Dusty Miller, when he was the food writer of The Standard, and it seemed the answer to that question was, in most cases, “no”.
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However, he qualified that conclusion with the example of one or two restaurants that bucked the trend, most notably Alo Alo, which went from the Avenues to Mount Pleasant and thrived.
The success or failure of a physical venue change came to mind when I dined recently at Delhi Palace, now situated in the easternmost section of Sam Levy’s Village in Harare. It started off in the Greystone Park shopping centre back in the mid-90s under the very capable and amiable stewardship of Bob and Nicky Savania and then after Bob passed away it was closed. It re-opened there some time later, but then moved to the shopping centre around TM Pick n Pay Borrowdale. Now it’s nestled between the Mugg and Bean and Food Lover’s Market, under the ownership of Peter Marchussen. The site has been a restaurant since this particular retail and office block opened, starting off as 360 Degrees and, more recently, Prime Grill.
It’s too early to say how it will fare in this new position, but I have always thought that it must be every restaurateur’s dream to operate in Sam Levy’s Village, the prime retail centre of Harare right in the middle of the northern suburbs — the source of most of Harare’s dining-out population. Time will tell, but our visit there was a pleasing experience and I would say the only requirement now is for the team there to get the word out about their new home; a number of people, on being told I had dined there, simply said they thought it had closed.
We were welcomed by a familiar face — Ryan — whom we had met when he was a manager of Gita Ranchod’s Spice Lounge in Milton Park. He seems pleased to be in the new position and is working with Marchussen to build up the business.
On the Wednesday we had lunch, business was slow, but it would appear evenings and weekend lunchtimes are steady.
The restaurant has an indoor seating area, but by far the more pleasant option is the terrace, and although this looks out into the busy eastern car park of the shopping centre, it’s buzzy and interesting.
My guest ordered bhajiyas for starters, chilli bites deep fried in a savoury batter and served with a very tangy sauce. I opted for the potato sago, which I have not tasted before, and enjoyed with a hot chilli and spring onion accompaniment. For mains, my guest had a very satisfying platter of tandoori lamb chops, tender and tangy, while I went for prawn salan, served mild and with naan bread. Portion sizes were extremely good and the content was equally praiseworthy, both tasty and satisfying.
For desserts, we selected the two genuine Indian sweets on the menu — kheer and kolfi. The kheer was excellent; it is a rice pudding made of rice, wheat, tapioca or vermicelli with milk and sugar, flavoured with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios or almonds. Kolfi or kulf, is a popular frozen dessert often described as India’s traditional ice-cream — this, too, was excellent.
Delhi Palace has a big menu and it features much of what folk have come to expect of Indian-style cuisine, and prices are reasonable. Starters range from $3,50 to $5,50 while chicken dishes run from $9 to $16,50, lamb from $17 to $22 and beef from $15,50 to $16,50. Seafood and fish are priced in the area of $15 to $18, but there are options of 1kg of prawns at $28 or 2kg at $52. Vegetarian dishes sit around $15,50 to $16,50 and kebabs are priced between $12 and $15. There are children’s portions running from $6 to $12. Side orders for dishes are priced between $1,50 and $4 and include raita, naan, dhal, vegetables, fried potato, roti and lassi, the latter a popular buttermilk creation served either sweet or savoury. The menu states that lassi can extinguish flames! Desserts include the kheer and kolfi, as well as a series of western-style offerings and range from $4 to $6.
The menu features a selection of heat offerings, from mild to hot, essential to cater for everyone. I often hear that people stay away from Indian restaurants because they don’t like hot food, but this is not necessary as the options are there. It’s all spicy, of course (and that’s why we go there!), so if spice is a problem I can understand reluctance.
The restaurant is open every day from 12 noon to 2pm and again from 6pm to 9pm, and it would appear bookings are a good idea on Wednesday evenings and at weekends. Saturdays feature a chicken tikka special, and entertainment will soon be introduced; the lovely duo FabFusion — Brennan and Faith Wyngard — will perform there on the last weekend of each month on Friday evening and Sunday lunchtime. In addition to serving on site, the restaurant offers a takeaway service, too.
We enjoyed the cuisine and ambience and found the service efficient and welcoming. Here’s hoping the transition from different locations to the new site will prove lasting and successful!
Delhi Palace is in Sam Levy’s Village, Borrowdale, Harare, close to the cinemas, and can be reached by calling 0783 909775, 0783 090 776 or 0712 450928. E-mail email@example.com