PRIOR to taking my brunch order at Haddow House Coffee Shop, the last time I saw talented local artist Ann Guild was on what was left of the family farm, Ch
inyamanda, Burma Valley, after Cyclone Eline struck 2000.
Husband Lindsay Guild had a dream of a property, growing tobacco, coffee, macadamias and avos, bananas and citrus among other crops and boasted the longest litchi-picking season in the country, growing them in terraces up the mountain. Chinyamanda had cattle and sheep, game, fish-filled dams and a perpetually swollen river meandering into Mozambique.
Eline flattened barns, ripped out pump houses, damaged the homestead, smashed workers’ homes, diverted the river, took out bridges and uprooted — among scores of others — a massive tree dendrolologists said was more than 1 000 years old, washing it two kilometres downstream. Weather experts said that clearly meant nothing as destructive as Eline had hit humid, tropical Burma Valley for at least 10 centuries.
That merciless stonking by Mother Nature was — of course — child’s play compared with what happened when the ruling party lost the referendum soon after and “Cyclone Bob” almost totally obliterated agriculture from Chiredzi to Chirundu, Beitbridge to Bindura, Plumtree to Pote Valley, Pandamatenga to Nyamapanda!
Lindsay’s sister, Heather, (they grew up on a Mutoko tobacco farm) still has a plot, which her brother runs, mainly growing vegetables, sold at her supermarket: Valley Fresh, Strathaven. She also has a fresh fruit and vegetable stall at Haddow House, the coffee shop she has operated about a year, getting by with a little help from friends, relatives and pleasant staff.
Built in 1905, it is one of the oldest surviving homes in the capital, with original bucket PK in back garden. (For curiosity value, it also has modern plumbing!) In the 1920s, it was one of the finest formal gardens in the then Salisbury, notwithstanding the eponymous Miss Haddow having 80 cats, no doubt making gardeners’ lives miserable!
Colourful, butterfly-filled fragrant gardens are still delightful, shaded by unusual combinations of indigenous and exotic trees and wonderful palms. The water feature: as shown on sepia-toned Edwardian snaps, is alive with duck and other wildfowl. As I devoured a traditional fry-up (no water or electricity, so my first meal in 22 hours) a groundscraper thrush hopped around tables in the dappled-shaded verdant garden, African paradise flycatchers hovered about shrubberies and glossy starlings strutted their stuff, glossily.
There’s an antique shop, art gallery, beautician/hairdresser, gift, art and craft shop, saddlery and other horsy “tack” traders. I could spend hours there; children love a petting zoo with rabbits and guinea pigs etc, which they are allowed to handle…gently. A wee bit of history in a little bit of lush countryside, five minutes from the CBD!
Oh…then there’s the food!
Two eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, sauté potatoes, grilled tomato toast and marmalade were wolfed. I was ravenous. This was the full breakfast, costing $6 700; other variations start at $2 900. I enjoyed the first hot drink for ages: a $700 filter coffee from the Burma Valley/Lower Vumba, but later felt my thirst was such that only a good-sized tea pot would successfully quench it ($750.)
After finishing toast and marmalade, Heather’s mum rocked up. While editing the now defunct Tobacco News and Zimbabwe Farmer, I last saw her on a smallholding she and her late husband ran behind Jamaica Inn. They grew vegetables for Heather’s shop and bred sheep.
The generosity of the mostly now displaced and dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers was legendary. Despite our protests and refusals, my photographer and I left with lamb chops, greens for Africa, of sheepskin slippers apiece and jars of jam, pickles and preserves.
Scots-born, like her late husband, Mrs Guild (senior) had been jam-making and baking again. There was more buttered toast and a scrumptious Cape gooseberry jam to try. She beamed when I judged it totally grand.
Haddow House specialises in breakfast, brunch and light and not-so-light lunches.
Sandwiches, plain or toasted are $3 900; paté and toast $1 900; BLT $4 200; open bruschetta $5 200 and pie, potatoe wedges and salads $5 400.
Steak rolls and chips are $6 700; quiche $5 200; beefburger and chips $6 500; fettuccine $5 300. Mixed salads with chicken or feta are $4 500, fish and chips $7 000 and lasagna $6 200.
Beef or chicken fajitas are listed. I haven’t the space to argue the second item is a misnomer. “Fajita” (pronounced fa-kh-eeeeta) means “belt” in Spanish and only, accurately, describes a hot Tex-Mex dish made from marinated beef skirt. I’m being pedantic: prawn fajitas appear on some menus! Whatever, they’re $5 200 a plate. There is a non-patronising children’s menu (if you can drag kids away from cuddly bunnies, which are on sale, by the way); puddings are $1 000-$1 500; cakes, scones and muffins — some home-baked by “Ouma” Guild-$1 500.
Haddow House is unlicensed but has a wide range of coffee and tea; fruit juices are $1 500, home-made lemonade, $500 and milk shakes, $1 400. Customers can take their own wine (no corkage), especially on Sunday lunch, in a thatched gazebo. Limited to 20 couvertes, advance booking is needed for a traditional roast repast.
* Haddow House Coffee Shop, junction East Rd/Lanark Rd, Belgravia. Tel 733405. Highly recommended. Sunday lunch booking vital. Closed Mondays.