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Blissful Urban Bliss in an oasis of plenty

Dusty Miller

DESPITE the plummeting buying power of the Zimbabwe dollar and a general shortage of discretionary income and against all sane economic patterns, coffee and

tea shops seem to be springing up all over Harare…most of them doing extremely well, attracting large numbers of well-heeled ladies who lunch and often gregarious groups of guys who graze with gusto.

It was nine months since my last (and first!) visit to Urban Bliss in the Golden Stairs Nursery complex, because prior to last October I’d never even heard of the place.

First impressions count and I was extremely taken with the attractive, al fresco operation, nestling in a sylvan hollow, by a relaxing, well-stocked goldfish pond, aerated by a quietly burbling fountain, surrounded by venerable indigenous trees, alive with twittering birdsong and impressive palms, looking for all the world like frozen fireworks.

Tracy Bucknell and her husband used to farm at Selous in the good-old/bad old days, but got out of agriculture early, before the chaos, bloodshed and mayhem of the land reform “programme”. I am a great admirer of farmers’ wives and former farmers’ wives: there is almost nothing they can’t turn their hands to successfully. And Tracy has made a wonderful success of Urban Bliss.

The complex is extremely attractive: delightful specialist shops sell antiques and contemporary furniture, fresh vegetables and fruit, garden statuary, magnificent roses and all other seeds, seedlings, composts, manures, tools, hardware you’d expect in the laid back sedate, almost silent, shady/sun-kissed, surroundings of this suburban garden centre. There’s an aquarium supply specialist, aviary and unisex hairdressers in this green oasis of plenty; a tots’ playground, swimming pool and then (in my opinion) the piece de resistance…Urban Bliss Coffee Shop.

Tracy meets, greets and seats, whilst also professionally overseeing a busy kitchen, putting final artistic touches on one dish or another.

They don’t serve routine Zimbo cholesterol-soaked, artery-clogging (but, candidly, delicious!) grease-fest bacon and eggs etc, but a fluffy, golden-brown, light as a feather, two-egg omelette stuffed to bursting with bacon and mushrooms and surrounded by a substantial salad, plus toast, butter and terrifically tart marmalade, which makes an agreeably “different” brunch.

The omelette now costs $750 000 with twin fillings; for $160 000 extra you can add tomato or cheese or onion; ham is optional, instead of bacon. A sensibly-sized and aesthetically pleasing tea pot, with extra hot water is $100 000; I squeezed five or six cups from it.

However, on this occasion and nearer lunch than brunch, I went for one of the daily specials: a homemade individual chicken and mushroom pie, with wonderful filling and as light as a crust pastry. It came with a good, crisp, well-balanced and constructed side salad at $900 000.

Quiche and salad (and it’s certainly untrue that real men don’t eat quiche: aka bacon-and-egg pie!) was $750 000, beef lasagna and a definite man-sized peri-peri chicken being polished off by Tracy’s husband, Gary, when I arrived, $1 050 000.

Other specials: toasted croissants with ham and mozzarella: $750 000 (or $300 0000 without the fillings), anchovy toast $300 000; toast and marmalade (some of the very nicest around) $250 000.

I finished a memorably good meal with a delightfully rich generous slice of home-baked chocolate cake with light whipped cream, at $300 000. Sadly all these prices have sky-rocketed since my visit nine months ago, but what on earth hasn’t in Zimbabwe? Except real earnings!

For the usually chic and elegant, figure-conscious ladies who lunch, having arrived in Pajeros and Prados, the main course chef’s salad is $650 000, tuna salad $900 000 and peachy chicken salad $800 000.

Teas, coffees and hot chocolate drinks are from $100 000 to $450 000 (really excellent frothy cappuccino: $140 000), muffins $200 000, cakes and scones $300 000.

Lovely people, magical surroundings, heavenly food, excellent service, reasonable prices, secure parking, what more could you want?

Highly recommended, at early June 2006.

* Urban Bliss Coffee Shop, Golden Stairs Nursery, 2nd Street Extension, Ashbrittle (Tel 011 212 457) Open Monday-Saturday 8am-4:30pm.


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