WHAT a pleasure to find a new treasure among Harare eateries.
Wild Cherry, has been operating about six months but in a
very low profile manner.
Checking it out last week, I was immediately struck by the friendly, warm ambience. Most customers appeared regulars and many were on first name terms with owner Janet Winsor and her hard-working staff.
Janet once ran the recently-closed Serendipity at Emerald Hill with brother, Grant Evans.
Signage is — to say the least — unpretentious: just an irregular shaped blackboard with the name of the coffee shop chalked artistically. The venue is yet another former colonial-style dwelling in a low density suburb: this one a nicely proportioned two-storey building, all discreet pastels, buffed parquet and gleaming quarry tiles; interesting memorabilia and Cape antiques.
It’s only about a 24-seater, indoors and out, and every chair was either taken or reserved when I arrived just before 1pm on Thursday. Hot-seating is evident and a space was soon found for me. I almost immediately admired Janet’s tenacity in starting a coffee shop in the teeth of the most challenging situation Zimbabwe has ever faced.
Of course, six months ago no one knew that in the former breadbasket of Africa, there would be almost no wheat or cereals, thus no flour, so no bread, rolls, cakes, biscuits or pies. But many suspected it, given the parlous state of former thriving agricultural ventures.
Shortages of meat, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy produce, cooking oil, margarines, sugar, fruit and vegetables, the staple mealie meal, cooldrinks, cordials, beer, spirits and even cigarettes and tobacco products in a country which used to produce them all in lucrative exportable quantities and still have lots left for the domestic market, was unforeseen except, possibly, by prescient hoarders and black marketeers.
The guarded off-street car parking area outside the Wild Cherry boasted an impressive number of brand new locally registered 4WDs and several diplomatic corps vehicles. A cosmopolitan bunch: ladies who lunch were in abundance early and guys who graze flocked in later.
Unusually, the menu boasted beef: 250g rump steak, with pepper or mushroom sauce, sautéed potatoes, vegetables and salads at $1,5 million. Although this was highly recommended and looked bloodily good, grilled, rare and red, with just a whisker of well-marbled crisp fat for full flavour, I settled for a delightfully tasty piping hot creamy beef lasagna ordered off the daily specials blackboard at $350 000; the vegetarian version was $270 000.
Grilled tilapia (bream) was also suggested by friends who had just finished fine fillets at $500 000. If I hadn’t been up to the back teeth with chicken that week, a generous portion of tandoori huku looked toothsomely tantalising at $550 000.
The café is not licensed (to serve alcohol) and is probably not the right sort of place for booze. I had the very last of the day’s batch of fresh fruit juice (home-made lemon) and, while sipping it, heard all the day’s cakes, tarts and pies were also just finished.
The maestro in the kitchen is Francis Handisenai. Originally from Murewa, he cooked at Tobacco Sales Floors for 29 years and their plain cooking was memorably good (but I always preferred breakfasts at Burley Marketing Zimbabwe). According to Janet, Francis’ home-baked scones ($100 000) are “rightly, world famous.” (Well, they will be when this article goes on the Web!)
That leads me to the café being newly “on Wi-Fi”. Not a clue what that means, but apparently its vital if you want lap-top lugging Yuppies and Buppies spending time — and loot — with you.
A fine sounding traditional English breakfast all day, including tea or coffee and toast and home-made marmalade is $380 000. Toasted bacon and egg sandwich $220 000; toasted sandwiches with two fillings $190 000. All dishes come with generous green salad and coleslaw garnish; salads as mains are $180-$200 000. Quiches are $200-$300 000; coffees $35 000-$100 000; teas $35-$45 000; fruit juice $90 000; milk shakes $105 000.
The complex offers the services of a hairdresser, beautician, masseuse and photographic studio. Seating in the garden is shaded. A security guard watches cars while flourishing a fearsome looking knobkerrie.
Smoking is allowed, but preferably outdoors.
Wild Cherry, 1, Rowland Square, Milton Park (turn left opposite Alex Club) Tel 727870. Open Tuesday-Friday 9am-4pm; Saturday 9-late lunch. Closed Sunday and Monday.
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