I RETURNED, last Saturday evening, from a sweltering, sizzling, searing South Australia to find Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital), grim, grey, chilly and almost constantly, miserably, damp.
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
It must have rained cats, dogs and pangolins while I was away because Central Africa from Malawi, across Zambia and onwards to here is the sort of lovely, rich, green you normally see flying over Ireland or Scotland.
Pity there’s not much in the way of crops in the ground!
The power went off at the so-called international airport, but—thankfully—after I’d recovered my two pieces of luggage at the suddenly frozen-in-time carousel.
There’d been a snafu at the office and I shivered in the sort of light safari clothes I’d worn in Adelaide (where the temperature on January 4 was the hottest —46,1C — recorded since January 12, 1938! and passing through almost always hot Dubai) waiting for a driver.
Southern Australia crackled with life- and property-threatening bush fires many caused by a new phenomenon to me: dry lightning strikes.
More than 100 homes on the island state of Tasmania were totally destroyed because one property owner tried to burn-out a tree stump and its roots slowly carried fire underground to distant patches of arid, dry-leaf and fallen tree bark-covered ground, which suddenly burst into instant simultaneous flame.
Travelling around the greater Adelaide conurbation we’d been denied entry to two national parks almost overlapping the sprawling city’s perimeter limits as there was a “catastrophe alert” in effect: a single spark could cause a conflagration from hell.
I hadn’t then fired up a Dubai-acquired smart phone which gives you the local temperature and other useful weather information, but it was damned cold, waiting on the wind-blown steps at the airport trying to keep dry. Then the airport road was flooded in many parts. No traffic lights worked, but fools drove as if they were in the Dakar Rally. My lights at home had been out since 1pm: we’d had a cut every day except one during my three-and-a-half weeks away, I learned.
Zesa came on at 8:15pm and disappeared again at 7:45am. How can we live like this? At the office on Sunday there was no water (and hardly any on Monday or Tuesday!)
On Monday night, not yet fully recovered from jet-lag, I heard (inaccurately it later transpired) that our suburb was again in pitch darkness, so diverted to Newlands for supper; meaning to again try the much changed L’O de Vie (formerly Bejazzled, previously Blue Bamboo and Baobab Grill, nee Mozzarella’s). But the now French-Belgian themed eatery was in the dark.
Did they now shut Mondays? Had they not yet re-opened from a Christmas and New Year break?
Butler’s on the corner (ex-Trax and News Café) was open and brightly lit but there wasn’t a sign of a customer (there rarely is at nights) and I wasn’t dressed for the rather larney new operation The Lounge, which is above Butler’s, and seemed equally un-patronised.
AppleGees is where Papa’s and Mama Mia’s restaurants used to be, but it’s now more of a friendly local boozer where they cook simple plain food for, apparently, a limited amount of hungry punters. It seems to be a localised version of an American chain franchise AppleBees. I’ve seen them: in Florida, Australia and the Gulf, but haven’t sampled their fare.
I was hungry, cold-ish and tired, but there was a welcoming buzz around the place. The bar was packed with an amiable multi-ethnic crowd half watching soccer: Egypt v Ivory Coast (yawn-yawn!) with those boring TV pundits, thankfully muted, apparently discussing an English Premier League game which must have been played earlier.
I was greeted by several customers I’d known for years and delighted to find the same staff that worked for the Kalamatas family (Fat Mama’s. Mama Mia’s, Papa’s and—very briefly—AppleGees) still in place, working for the new owners.
First disappointment: no Golden Pilsener Lager in stock. I quite like Castle Lite, but it’s imported and classed as a premium beer. I don’t like paying US$3 for a dop, even though I’d have been delighted to shell out twice that at any pub in Australia, where prices are horrifying; (If you don’t work in mining and clear A$120 000 —about US$125 000 — a year by the age of 22!)
Second let down: I ordered “something” with chips (fish, chicken, chops…don’t remember now) but fries were “off”. Why? I demanded. Well, apparently much of the local crop is total rubbish and won’t cook into chips properly and “they” have banned the importation of pre-cooked frozen chips.
But when I asked for spaghetti Alfredo and learned that was impossible, also, as the restaurant had no mushrooms in stock, I began to smell a rat!
After a rather good Greek salad replete with lovely unctuous purple olives and lots of salty feta cheese and finally settling for a spaghetti Bolognaise, which was acceptable: if nothing to rave about, one of the new owners Sharon Jere, who is of Malawian stock, joined me and explained the place was closing the following day (Tuesday, January 15) until — hopefully — February 13 (in time for the St Valentine celebrations.) They are refurbishing, which presumably means they’ve done reasonably well since taking over last May.
Sharon’s business partner is her cousin, Loveness Kambondoma, who’d just come in on the bus from Victoria Falls, and had taken the night off to recover!
There were no puddings listed on a simple printed A4 menu but they managed to make a very nice…yes you’ve guessed it….ice-cream and chocolate served in a sundae dish.
I rather enjoyed a fuss-free 90 minutes or so in pleasant company with solid (not stolid) food and a couple of drinks. Salad, pasta, pudding, two “premium” lagers: US$25.
AppleGees, Newlands Shopping Centre. Fully licensed pub/bar/eatery. Reasonably child and handicapped friendly. Smoking, no smoking. TV sports. Eating indoors or out. Secure parking. Closed until February 13 (or…?)