I RE-VISITED the “other” Park View recently.
New owners of the former prize-winning Sherrol’s in the Park, in Harare Ga
rdens, re-named it Park View Restaurant, but not 300 metres away is the Park View Brasserie, the Monomotapa’s buffet. Different!
The problem with buffets is you are never sure whether 30 or 300 customers will turn up and, to cater for either eventuality, there is need for lateral thinking and split second decision-making.
The Monomatapa version was in need of that when I went on an incredibly busy Monday lunch.
Hungry attendees from two large conferences, plus (can you believe it?) overseas tour operators and more than a few “walk-in” clients queued impatiently for lunch.
Now, if I were designing a buffet, soup and starters would be nearest the entry door, then salads, then main course/carvery, then pudding and cheese. That is logical and common sense, but, candidly, common sense ain’t so common in this part of the world!
Soup is at the furthest point of the buffet. Both looked good, but I prefer minestrone to mushroom. It was tasty; chock full of vegetables in bigger chunks than usual with croutons, Parmesan, rolls (but margarine, not butter.)
Mono’s assistant food and beverage manager Alvin Mlambo joined me for the $5 000 lunch. A youthful 26, he trained at Bulawayo’s Hotel School and impressed me with sincere passion for the hospitality industry.
But even a middle-ranking staff member can’t throw his weight around and “push in” to a queue of folk anxious to eat and get back to talkfests.
I hate queuing and didn’t want to do it twice, so salads: smoked chicken, pickled fish, ham, coleslaw, grated carrots, apple and potato, rice, pickles, chutneys etc were in my left hand while I chose main course with my right.
It looked and smelt nice; fish kebabs, chunky chicken, more rice, spaghetti in a rich tomato sauce, sautéed potatoes, lots of different vegetables and the piece de resistance, a handsome beef joint expertly sliced. This was served as ordered: gorchaed, well done, medium, rare, bloodily rare…or “Just wipe its bum and cut me a chunk, china.”
I had Pilsener, Alviñ a Tsanga Special: a non-alcoholic cocktail created in-hotel and looking too good to drink, combining ginger beer, cream soda and Mazoe orange slices of green and red apple, orange, lime and lemon, artistically arranged around the rim, filled with crushed ice and topped with a lime green parasol. It could be excellent with a jigger or two of gin!
I chose fresh fruit salad, crème caramel and ice-cream; too replete to try cheese and neither room nor time for coffee.
Some rattiness among diners at length of the queue, but it kept moving. I’m sure the buffet could be re-arranged to speed things up and why my no-smoking table was at a higher level than the smoking, apparently expecting Zimbabwean fuggy fag fumes to defy the laws of physics, defeats me.
* Park View Brasserie, Monomatapa Hotel.
Next night I was at Seasons in Chisipite with Barbara the bubbly blonde barber exhausted after a long stint coiffeuring at least four Elvises and sundry other members of the cast of the eponymous Reps show and a mutual friend, Ivy Rees, back pro-tem from RSA.
Former Midlands entrepreneur Swiss-German born Urs Ettlin and his wife, Heidi, invited us to the palatial indoor/outdoor restaurant he built for his son, Gabriel, to run with partner, Ashleigh. From conceptualisation to opening took vast six months of thorough Teutonic planning.
The girls had scrumptious crumbed mushrooms, fried and served with tartar sauce, a dish easy to become nastily greasy, these were spot on at $2 050. My carpaccio of almost translucently thin sliced fillet with mozzarella and mustard mayonnaise, balsamic and olive oil was fabulous, at $2 450. Heidi had the $1 700 soup of the day, unusually, cream of lettuce. I found it intriguingly likeable; starters peak at $3 750 for prawn dishes, or mussel chowder.
This blue chip de luxe restaurant was totally packed on a Tuesday (traditionally a quiet night in Harare). There were well-heeled captains of industry, lots of bankers and a hen party of delightfully giggling girls: one due to marry a Zimbabwean cricketer. We were outdoors, but under a roof and close to a roaring log fire.
Main courses run from $4 200 to $8 000 for a mouthwatering presentation of whole sole in sauce Mornay, topped with cheese and mushrooms then grilled. Barbara and I had it and Ivy grilled prawns, $8 100. Main courses come with chips, rice or baked potatoes and superb fresh vegetables. We also shared a great Roquefort salad, $2 550.
In the past I have had the finest T-bones of my life at Seasons and a youngster at the next table attacked a rack of sweet and sour spare ribs which would have tasked Fred Flintstone’s appetite, both dishes were $5 650.
A really smooth Simonsig Pinotage (from Urs’ private cellar, but the Arniston Bay is $ 7 500 a bottle) shouldn’t really have gone with fish and shellfish, but did…and supremely well at that.
Puddings are $1 250 to $1 750. I had fresh fruit salad and a suggestion of lemon meringue cheesecake.
The restaurant’s competitors go in for a set dinner, now around $15 000. You could easily spend that at Seasons (and more) but you could also have a memorably good a la carte meal and change out of $10 000.
* Seasons, 146 Enterprise Road, Highlands/Chisipite. Tel 443468/9.