DV8 returns: A blast from the past!

IT’S three-and-a-half years since DV8 closed at Groombridge!

Opinion by Dusty Miller

I was there for the last meal served on a chilly June day—a typical English-style Sunday roast mains after a choice of starters, with nursery-type puddings to finish.

The manageress said the place was being demolished, starting after coffee, to make way for Bridge Spar and they’d be re-opening by Christmas within the Spar complex.

I’m afraid I told her that if the new Spar (I’d seen the plans) were open by Christmas the following year I’d eat my baseball cap without salt and if she thought Spar would really accommodate Harare’s favourite steak house (“Steaks to Leave Home For”): come to think of it the capital’s ONLY steakhouse and all those other little shops in the complex, she needed to wake up smartly and smell the decaffeinated!

Sorry to say “I told you so”, but it was roughly 22 months and two car-parks later, before Spar opened to the public with an in-store managed eatery, The Bistro, which they seemed to actually believe would be a destination of choice for Ha-ha-ha-rare’s foodie cognoscenti (it isn’t!) with, of course, no space allocated for DV8, the antique shop, IT specialist and other useful little retail outlets.

DV8 (Groombridge was so far out you had to De-Vi-Ate {geddit?} to eat there!) owners gapped pro-tem to the UK to convert a family dwelling into two self-contained flats and staff were scattered to the far corners of Africa.

Now the same owners: James, Denise and daughter, Kyla, Davies are back and have clearly thrown a whole stack of loot at replicating a bigger, better DV8 under the new Pick ‘n’ Pay at Kamfinsa. (Even farther out…now you’ll have to start De-Vi-Ating much earlier, given the parlous state of Harare’s roads and the unbelievably increased volume of traffic!)
After a couple of false starts, it began trading on December 1 and I was there for supper on Day 1 having been the last customer to leave on Day Last at the previous operation.

I can’t say all went well: definite teething troubles and first night nerves were evident. Not all kitchen equipment could be described as “all systems go” despite megabucks spent on it. Head chef Claudius Mupawana—who held the same post at Groombridge —headhunted back from Hermanus, where he’s been cooking besides the seaside for 42 months — told me the extractor system was kaput in what should have been state of the art kitchens.

My friends, Buster and Caroline, who lost three beautifully productive farms in Manicaland in the lunatic land-snatches (presently, all three agricultural estates produce zilch and haven’t since “liberation”!) mischievously—and mendaciously — told my first waiter, “Ty”, who looked about 17 I ate trainee waiters between mains and pudding and spat them out with coffee. When they left for home, two blocks away, I moved to a table outside and Jordan (who looked 16) took over. Both were extremely polite, if rather nervous. I haven’t been called “Sir” so much for decades! But it would have helped if they’d written down orders!

They have a huge menu; it’s an enormous restaurant which will take 160 covers after a settling in period. They decided to soft launch with no more than 110 pax at any one time, which was sensible, but, sadly, they still couldn’t cope and most Zimbos have much less patience than me when it’s time to put on the nosebag! Translating body language and lip-reading snarled comments was a salutary experience for someone –like me — little used to swearing!

My scampi-prawn starter was another blast from the past. I must have eaten scores if not hundreds of scampi-and-chips in the basket when the dish hit UK night clubs in the 1960s and my duties meant I must go clubbing almost every night! These were big, soft, juicy crustaceans, very lightly crumbed and flash deep-fried, served on a small bed of savoury rice with a fringe of salad and piquant tartare sauce and would be a meal for many at US$8.

Other starters include chicken livers or devilled beef kidneys (US$5), baked potatoes “loaded” with cheese, bacon bits, butter and sour cream US$6 (but the spud-baking oven was “down”); calamari at US$8 and escargots, US$10.

The restaurant was work in progress, contractors being, reportedly, way behind schedule. It’s an odd combination of stark minimalism (bare concrete-screed floor and IBR roof sheets) with luxury touches like acres of etched glass and repro French Empire style chandeliers. (Half the bulbs popped in the one overhead during the course of a meal: a Zesa outrage?)

On Saturday night candles flickered in the bathrooms, even after a two minute power blackout had been restored (or negated by genset?); when I returned on Sunday morning to take outside shots and to sample Caturra (Brazilian) coffee I didn’t have time for at supper, you couldn’t get into the bogs for plasterers!

DV8 was always aimed, unashamedly, at convinced carnivores and nothing’s changed. Buster and Caroline raved about their fillet steaks and spare ribs, respectively, and the young girl next to me said her surf-and-turf (260g fillet, several big prawns, US$22) was the nicest thing she’d tasted.

Steaks are prime grass fed, export quality well-hung for tenderness, marinated for additional flavour, charcoal grilled, costing between US$16 and US$22 with chips or rice, baked spud (when the machine’s “up”) and a choice of five sauces.

Sadly, as much as I like beefsteak, it no longer likes me. I settled for a big, juicy, tender, chicken schnitzel with delightful mushroom sauce; acceptable (but not outstanding) home-cooked chips and veg on the raw-side of al dente at US$16.

Puddings are US$3 to US$7 and, from the top end, I enormously enjoyed an ebony and ivory: white and dark chocolate mousses layered under vanilla ice-cream topped by a plump strawberry.

I hope—and am sure—that by the time you read this, the team will have tweaked everything to perfection and many readers will, again be deviating to DV8. I certainly will, when I return from a sanity break in the Persian Gulf and South Australia, in mid-January.

DV8, George Square, Kamfinsa (underneath Pick‘n’Pay). Open for breakfast 8am to supper 11pm Monday-to-Saturday; Sunday 8am-4pm. Fully licensed, well stocked bar (diners only). Smoking on stoep, bar and lounge; no smoking main dining area; children’s play room; handicapped friendly. Tel +263 497 477; +263 497 773.

  • dustym@zimind.co.zw
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