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Club meals no longer great value for money

Dusty Miller

EATING at Harare’s clubs used to offer about the best value for money around, but that seems to be fast disappearing.

ify>We booked lunch for “20 or so” members of Greendale Good Food and Wine Appreciation Society at Old Hararians Sports Club, Milton Park, last week. Two days before going there, the price for a two-course meal was $950 000. The reality, when we arrived, was that the function cost $1m apiece.

A $50 000 price hike (nearly three times the price of my home in 1980!) in 48 hours doesn’t sound a major train smash in hyperinflation-hit Harare but, considering an almost identical meal at the same venue last November was just $160 000, it graphically illustrates the rapidly rising costs of dining out. Either that, or how much the diner-out is being ripped off.

Personally I wouldn’t have minded so much paying a million a head if the caterer had gone out of his way to put final finishing touches to what was obviously some excellent work in the kitchen. He should develop some professionalism, PR skills and at least take a faltering step or two on that road to go the extra mile.

The fact that a meal booked to be served between 1:15pm and 1:30pm wasn’t ready until well after 2pm boosted the club’s bar takings, but meant at least two of our members had to return to work without eating. A Zesa cut proved conveniently easy to blame matters on, but the outage didn’t occur until seconds before the food was due to be served and, as I was assured the club had both a gas-cooker available and a generator on standby, I suspect mendaciously so.

Only one overworked cook carving two roasts: beef and pork — and not even starting that task until a fairly lengthy crocodile of hungry men had formed — didn’t help matters.

There was no Yorkshire pudding to accompany the beef, nor was there horseradish sauce (which, to be fair, isn’t seen in a lot of venues recently. Aaron King’s, at Borrowdale used to make a superb bottled brand, but it is not the world’s most challenging sauce to knock up.)

Lack of apple sauce (equally simple and quick to make) for the pork was almost unforgivable. The carver’s lame excuse that apples were too expensive, when under a kilo of Granny Smiths would have provided more than enough sauce for our party and another OH function, also of about 20 members, which combined with us, having the identical menu, was totally unacceptable.

The club took around $40 million on Friday lunchtime food; possibly 10 times normal turnover. A kg of local apples bought out of that sum would not have edged the caterer into bankruptcy. As the bar experienced a healthy spike in throughput and profit, this shortcoming is even less excusable.

There was a shortage of salt, pepper and mustard sets; almost no wine glasses and positively no ice-buckets were available. Dirty plates were still an eyesore on tables long after pudding: the ubiquitous ice-cream and — credit where it’s due — a choice chocolate sauce had been collected by diners.

To be fair, the meat was cooked to perfection, pork crackling being especially agreeable as were crisp roast potatoes and young vegetables in a white sauce. They stinted on neither quantity nor quality and everyone who wanted “seconds” got (except crackling!)

Old Hararians is open to non-members for meals daily.

* Meanwhile, we had an irate e-mail from Richard M of Belgravia complaining he had just paid $950 000 a tot for Grant’s whisky at Le Francais Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Monomotapa. After the lunch — at which he was entertaining overseas customers — he called at a Bon Marche branch, finding exactly the same product retailing at $2,65m a bottle. (There are almost 21 tots in a 750ml bottle.)


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