St Elmo’s is something of an institution, recognised as one of the best family restaurants in Harare and very much a venue for celebratory gatherings where informality is key. Over a couple of decades it has earned for itself a positive reputation and I know a great many people who are “regulars” of the most loyal kind.
When it first opened, it was in the 7 Arts building at Avondale shopping centre, and in those days the centre was home to three cinemas and a fairly buzzy scene both day and night. The closure of the cinemas and the scaling down of theatrical activities in the 7 Arts (very sad indeed!) brought about a change in business and Rob Mellor, founder and owner, looked around for a new home.
Before doing that, however, he had spread his wings and a couple of years ago opened a second St Elmo’s in Sam Levy’s Village, well-sited in the forecourt of the Ster Kinekor complex.
Avondale business demanded a rethink and he undertook a massive refurbishment of the building that once housed Da Eros restaurant in East Road, Begravia, close to Reps Theatre, moving there in late 2015/early 2016, I think. I had not been there so decided to try it out recently, choosing a Wednesday lunchtime rather than the likely-to-be-busy Friday or weekend alternatives.
It wasn’t hectic but trade was good and I know a great many Harare restaurateurs who would drool over numbers of people there that day for a meal. So there are St Elmo’s venues, still: Belgravia and Borrowdale.
The Belgravia venue is huge – come to think of it, so is the Sam Levy’s Village outlet — and it is very much driven by the need to host and accommodate families and parties, with loads and loads of fun things for the young folk to do while parents relax; I noted lots of CCTV coverage of the play areas so parents can keep a watchful eye, which must be a very suitable arrangement for them. It’s modern and buzzy and entirely suited to good, family-style dining.
My guest and I sat indoors, and enjoyed very attentive service from John Kwangwari, our delightful waiter. There’s a big menu and we took our time to peruse and come up with a selection of variety; not easy when the choices are both numerous and tanatalising.
For starters, I had an excellent plate of snails, with superb fresh bread, while my guest had crumbled mozzarella, which she thoroughly enjoyed. For mains I had a very large and very pleasing bowl of tagliatelle carbonara, which was exactly as promised and expected: creamy and flavoursome. My guest went for prawns with salad and chips, a plate of tasty and plentiful content, she said.
We also managed dessert: a Belgian waffle with cream for my guest and a bee sting for me; this was a delightful ice cream with accompaniments that brought back many childhood memories or a place in Bulawayo called Janet’s Milk Bar (it used to be in Bradfield shopping centre and was run by the wife of one-time mayor, Bill Kinleyside). The meal was excellent and I thought it was accompanied by good service and a pleasing presentation.
The menu is extensive, with starter section ($6 to $7,50); salads ($9,50 to $11,50); pizza pies, served with chips and salads ($9 to $12); pizzas served medium and large and in a long list of types under section headings like regular, gourmet and limited edition ($7,50 to $22); grills and chicken including burgers ($11 to $23); seafood and combos of various other content, such as surf ‘n’ turf and prawns and ribs ($10 to $21). Pastas offered are penne, tagliatelle and spaghetti-based and have a selection of styles ($11 to $15). Desserts are also many and varied and run from $4,50 to $7.
There are specials, too, and children can eat for free on certain days. So, while the focus is on pizza and pasta, there’s quite a bit else on offer, too. I thought it a well-constructed and pleasant menu.
Children’s parties are welcomed, with a maximum of 25 participants; these can be mornings between 10.30am and 12:30pm, afternoons between 2:30pm and 5pm. The venue is free for this and parents can bring their own cake. Children are $5 each, although the first five are free. The restaurant also does takeaways and handles its own deliveries. Local deliveries are free but further afield charges range from $2 to $6. St Elmo’s Belgravia is open from 11am to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, from 11am to 9pm on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and is closed on Tuesdays. I understand the Borrowdale outlet is open all week, with more or less the same hours.
A splendid family restaurant with a well-earned reputation for doing what the customers want, and with flair and style. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the ambience of the place. Staff were especially noteworthy for their welcome and attentiveness.
Call (04) 334980-1 for takeways, or (04) 334982 for the restaurant (bookings at weekends more or less essential, I should think). The Borrowdale takeaways can be ordered on (04) 886957-8 while the restaurant there is reached on (04) 886959. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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