IF I were a woman and at least 25 years younger I‘d start to worry as, for the past month or so, I’ve had an insatiable and frequent urge to eat
Not violent vindaloos favoured globally — post heavy drinking sessions — by lumbering lager louts, but the sort of mild-to-medium fruity, flavoursome, intensely complex dishes my late mother, and the mother of my children created occasionally; the type you sometime find in Zimbabwean restaurants. Like those I cook myself, when I have time, ingredients, Zesa and appreciative guests.
The problem lies with a new neighbour: a white lady born and raised in the Raj, who pounds roasted, ground and powdered curry leaf, coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, red and black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, garlic and goodness knows what else, from dawn on Sundays, to flavour the sort of mid-day tiffin which won the British an empire.
I can still smell and vicariously taste her heavenly, mouthwatering mixture when sitting at my own comparatively bland roast beef (ha-ha-ha), chicken, lamb or pork, hours later.
Didn’t have time for a long lunch, as deadlines threatened, but was almost faint with hunger on a breakfast-less (numerous circumstances) day. I could still mentally taste my neighbour’s Anglo-Indian midday meal bubbling and squeaking three days earlier. The aroma was arresting; I was relentlessly drawn to Jaipur, at Sunrise Sports Club.
It’s five minutes’ drive from the office. Correction, it’s five minutes back to work, but as I always get lost going there, driving through streets of multi-storey, sprawling Bollywood-style mansions, built for two or three generations of extended families in Harare’s original Asian quarter, it usually takes seven or eight minutes to arrive.
Until recently a lengthy, comprehensive, menu took long to study, but due to shortages, it now comprises only 24 items: starters, mains and puddings, photo-copied on two sides of folded A4. Being a Hindu operation, run by urbane Vasant Nayee, there are obviously no sacred cow beef dishes. Unsure if Muslims or Jews eat there, but there’s no dead pig of any type, either.
There are three veggie starters at $200K (big vegetarians are Hindus — how come they play such great cricket? — if things go on the parlous way they are, we may all soon join them!). Also two vegetarian mains: masala dhosa (really enjoyed by an amiable Lancashire couple at the next table: $500 000) and thali, $600 000.
At Jaipur, the usual phrase “curry…and rice”, doesn’t automatically apply. Rice is $200 000 extra. Thus a delightful lamb curry, with lots of lean tender meat is $1,2 million; plus India’s staple starch $200 000 = $1,4 million But lamb biryani, in which meat and sauce is folded into fragrant fluffy long grained saffron rice (or the other way?) is $1,3 million.
Vasant says he is seeking additional premises closer to the CBD. I hope he finds them, because, other than The Meridien at Quality International, no-one in town is now specialising in curry, indeed not since much-loved Mayur, Harare Street, a rather erratic Bombay Duck in Central Avenue and Himalaya, in Chinhoyi Street — a grotty dump serving stunningly, searingly hot, superb food — shut several years ago.
Friends of mine, dispossessed Chipinge tobacco and coffee growers, who happened to be there, oohed and aahed over fish curry. This can be spectacularly good if overbearing sauce doesn’t totally swamp the delicate flavour of the fish. In cadet reporter days I almost lived on fish or boiled-egg curry, costing almost zip. (Starter, main course/rice, sambals, pickles, chutney and chapatti, sickly sweet pudding and green tea was 3s 9d; I got a daily 3s 6d lunch voucher as a well-earned “perk”; so lunch cost me thruppence!)
Sadly that’s now not the case. There were no grilled or curried prawns ($1,4 million) “on” but grilled or curried fish (tilapia) was $1,1 million.
Naan is included with curries ($50 000 extra on other dishes), also sambals of onion, pepper, tomato and carrot. Two “depth charges” of varying degrees of incandescent heat were provided.
With two bitterly cold Castle lagers ($100 000 each) and the ubiquitous Zimbo ice-cream and chocolate sauce ($250 000), the meal came to $1 850 000 which, candidly, I can’t afford each day. (Don’t know why not: that’s now about £2,50!
Vasant insisted I try gulab jamboo with the ice (normally $200 000). It proved a very sweet dish of powdered milk, mixed into balls, deep-fried, drizzled with sugar syrup. Must be popular with dentists!
Jaipur is in Hurstview Rd, Ridgeview. Ensure you’re at the right club. We once risked having a fatwah put on the Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society by stern, heavily bearded clerics in white smocks, when about 30 hearty, boozy members pulled mistakenly in convoy into the nearby Universals (Muslim) Club and began unloading cases of hooch to wash down “Ruby Murrays.”
Jaipur Tel 740919/740714/ 0912260300. Closed Sunday supper; all day Monday.
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