HARARE has a brand new wining and dining concept, following the launch last Thursday of Symphony, a restaurant, cocktail and music bar in Samora Machel Avenue, diagonally opposite Holiday Inn, where the Greek bist
ro Fournos was.
Although the outside still looks disturbingly like an unfinished building or demolition site, the interior is warm, pleasing with a huge classical bar almost designed for humour and hi-jinks and comfortable chairs and tables, sensibly separated one from the other, for serious business talk.
The operation is run by Broadhaven Holdings. They also own, or used to before it was burnt to the ground, Kerrygan’s, Honeydew Farm, Greendale and briefly ran Kerrygan’s II on the Arcturus Road.
More than 250 guests “looked in” at one time or another at the strictly by invitation launch, which ran from 5:30 pm until “after midnight”.
Broadhaven’s general manager, Sifiso Hlazo, invited me. I managed to find a car park just outside the front door: which might not always be as easy, walked up a thick red carpet, to be welcomed by manager Kelly Alison, in stunning cocktail frock, who was greeting, meeting and seating.
Broadhaven head-hunted Kelly from the Blue Banana/Baobab Grill twin-restaurant complex, owned by Heath Stewart and his wife, at Newlands. The vivacious brunette trained and qualified in the hospitality industry at Bournemouth University and gained invaluable empirical hands-on experience at some of the world’s leading outlets, including London’s famous Savoy Hotel.
Kelly put together a formidable team, headed by executive chef Elisha Mapoko, recruited from exclusive lodge Imba Matombo, Glen Lorne. Aarti Patel, a graduate of the American Culinary Institute will head a team of pastry cooks.
The restaurant opened to the public next day. They plan to specialise in breakfasts, coffee and cakes, executive lunches aimed at the busy entrepreneur and cocktails and canapés in the evening.
Good, agreeable music, played at a sensible decibel level will play a prominent role in the new endeavour. At the launch, Tony Vaz and his haunting saxophone (offering numbers from Brubeck to Bilk to the Beatles) entertained, followed by Colour Blu, an indigenous -girl group singing a wide range of music, but mainly standards of the 60s and 70s.
Hlazo has created what he calls the 43-minute lunch, allowing businessmen 17 minutes to get to and from their offices. I assumed the unpriced postcard-sized menu reflected the fact that with the hyper-inflation crippling the country, prices can’t be held longer than it takes the ink to dry! That may well be the case, but as there are umpteen spelling errors on the one-price menu it could be just a snafu. Stressing the musical thrust, a “Count Basie” is a tower (what else?) of tender beef fillet medallions, alternately layered with black pepper, chunky mushrooms and garlic, with fluffy potato cakes.
“The Duke” (Ellington if you’re under 50) is char-grilled sirloin adorned with red pepper marmalade, served with a full bodied red-wine sauce and served with thick game chips (isn’t that a contradiction?)
“Django” (Reinhardt: a Belgian gypsy jazz guitarist cult figure who often played with violinist Steffan Grappelli) comprises boneless chicken thighs, oven roasted golden brown, lavishly covered in a rich barbecue sauce and complemented by a bed of “crushed” (eh?) potatoes.
“Kenton” trout (presumably named after Stan the Man, of that ilk) is the whole Nyanga fish baked in foil, stuffed with thyme and parsley and served with “gratinated” potatoes.
Pork “Satchmo” (Satchel Mouth: Louis Armstrong: jazz trumpeter and “singer” he’d a voice like an annoyed bullfrog!) is pan-fried pork fillet in tantalising exotic, sweet and sour sauce on a bed of savoury rice.
Some of the more cloying menu descriptions were binned before taking a five minute break while sampling treated natural water, pumped from the heavily contaminated Lake Chivero, via outdated, rusty pumps at Morton Jaffray waterworks, pressurised and pumped through leaking Edwardian underground mains and boiled to steaming, bubbling perfection in a stainless steel Monarch, samovar-like urn, poured on to a tiny bagful of Tanganda leaf, picked before dawn as the sun peeked down on the rising mist of the Honde Valley, infused for three minutes exactly, then stirred and the bag hygienically disposed of, complemented by the merest hint of full cream milk from a contented Jersey herd, grazing happily on a lush Norton field and served in a rather chipped beaker (tea); accompanied by a wafer-thin golden baked disc of slightly sweetened pastry (digestive biscuit!)
I sat at a mixed table of cynical foodies, sampling Broadhaven’s generous supplies of liquor and tasty, if tiny, snacks. To a man and woman we all thought: this is either going to be either a great success or a dear disaster. There will be no grey area in between.
Harare definitely cries out for such a venue, BUT it is on the periphery of a very sleazy area and Hararians are still apparently reluctant to venture to town at night and weekends especially given the cost and scarcity of fuel. Those are the minus points.
Plus: it is on the main route through town from Bulawayo and the south and west, to Mutare and the east and north. There is adequate parking close by and parking assistants seem to know what they are doing. It is opposite Cascais Restaurant, which still gets quite a healthy slice of after working hours business. It’s only a couple of minutes from Enterprise Road, say five minutes from Newlands, which still thrives against all economic odds.
Open Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays except the first and last Sunday of the month, when a mega brunch is the order of the day.
* Reservations and queries: 091 291 695. Broadhaven head office 851736/8. firstname.lastname@example.org