A number of readers have told me that while they enjoy restaurants changing menus from time to time, they get peeved if their favourite dishes are dropped in favour of new ones in the process. I asked if, in the course of things, they let the owners or managers know of their particular likes and dislikes, and almost all said no. So my suggestion is this: if you have a favourite, make sure the venue knows it.
restaurant review with Epicurean
I was thinking of this during a recent visit to Vanilla Moon, straddling Harare’s Avondale and Mount Pleasant suburbs, where management has just introduced a new menu with quite a few additions and a number of deletions. Owner-manager Kim Greenwood told me she has retained items that she knew to be popular — which the sales statistics tell her — and has added a number of items based on suggestions from customers.
We had lunch there on a delightful Monday, sunny and with a light breeze, perfect for our al fresco lunchtime experience. During a recent period of closure to upgrade the roof of the main building, Kim oversaw a few upgrades in the garden and it is looking good, a super spot for a meal or a coffee. When it rains, guests take to the terrace, a venue sometimes used as a stage when they have open air musical events from time to time.
My guest chose from the list of burgers, and her chicken burger topped with cheese and accompanied by chips was a good choice, she said. I went for the crumbed prawns, with chips and salad, and these were very tasty. Portion size in both cases was good, making for a very satisfying meal. My guest declined a dessert but I went for a red berry cheesecake, which was outstanding and I am looking forward to going back to try it out again!
Vanilla Moon is a crossover café-restaurant, so a great many of its guests are folks popping in for morning or afternoon refreshments, while others are there for a breakfast or lunch; the venue is not open in the evenings. On the hot and cold drinks lists are all the expected coffees, teas, milkshakes and soft drinks, but a couple of interesting items stood out: the Vietnamese coffee, an espresso with condensed milk, which was superb, and the salted caramel coffee, which I must try out next time I am there. Ingredients that can be added to any of the drinks include hazelnut flavouring, cinnamon and vanilla. With so much competition among Harare’s cafes, I have seen a great deal of imagination and innovation in the selection of beverages and it is fun to try out some of the more unusual items on menus. The hot chocolates list is also interesting: Tomes Africa chocolate, chilli supreme, Black Forest, Oh! Joy (almond flavouring), Turkish delight and peanut butter are the various flavours on offer.
Breakfast is served from opening, and offerings include croissants, French toast rolls, toasted banana bread, a Full Moon (a main selection of breakfast items) and a King’s Breakfast, described as Full Moon Plus. Breakfast burrito and breakfast parfait (muesli, yoghurt and fruit) are among the more unusual offerings and sound delightful. An open omelette is also listed. Throughout the day are sandwiches, paninis and flatbreads, as well as the bakery offerings that run from cheesecake and chocolate or lemon tart through to muffins, millionaire’s shortbread, cinnamon rolls, cakes, scones, banoffee pie and chocolate chip cookies. Breakfast costs are from $5 to $10, while the sandwiches, paninis and flatbreads run from $7 to $10.
The new lunch selection, costed between $7 and $15, and includes Asian chicken or beef salad, calamari salad, a Mediterranean vegetable wrap, chicken twister, fillet steak, pork chop, fish and chips, chicken bites with salad and fries and a curry of the day. Burgers are $10 to $12, and are certainly meals on their own rather than quick-eats, each served with fries. An interesting pair of burgers were bahn mi, with spiced mayonnaise, pickled carrots and cilantro and the Marilyn Monroe – a chicken breast topped with brie, rocket and cranberry sauce.
There are a selection of retails operations on the premises, so there is a flow of people much of the time, and the atmosphere is buzzy and convivial, especially for family groups. A feature of the premises is the chocolate shop, serving chocolates made on site, as well as a selection of Tomes chocolates from South Africa. When we were there, staff were packing hampers of chocolates and other luxury items for a client’s Christmas order. Another feature is occasional musical events, and I know that with Kim and Richard Greenwood’s very musical sons, Seth and Matt, being home over the Christmas period, there are plans to do a lunchtime music session, possibly on December 22, the Unity Day holiday.
Vanilla Moon is a delightful and welcoming café-restaurant suitable for all kinds of diners, from coffee groups to business lunch diners, and is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm and Saturday from 8am to early afternoon. It’s at 8 Seagrave Road, between East Road and Sam Nujoma Street extension, and more information can be sourced or reservations made by calling (04) 333394.