LIKE almost everyone else, I simply can’t keep up with the continually escalating prices of just about everything, but $1,5 million for a very bland, rather plastic-tasting, almost certainly microwaved tagliatelli carbonara (pasta, cream, bacon and mush
rooms) seems quite a little over the top.
Especially as this was the almost extortionate price demanded at Gaby’s in the Mazoe Street Travel Plaza a traditionally middle-class, middle-of-the-road venue which —until fairly recently — if not exactly cheap (where is?) was always fairly affordable.
And it was usually fairly busy.
Last Saturday I thought I was the only customer present, but finally spotted four suspicious looking characters eating in the darkest corner indoors, when the sun shone warmly on the balcony where I lunched bathed in a cacophony of music coming from three different places!
My fellow diners avoided eye contact, looked furtive and whispered to each other. Perhaps they were planning a heist?
And you’d really have to rob the very rich rather regularly to eat reasonably often at Gaby’s since it changed hands.
The daily special lunches (Monday to Friday) which a couple of years ago were around $35 000-$50 000 and very well supported are now $1,4 million to $2 million, which seems out of all proportion to our admittedly scandalous and crippling inflation rate.
From the a la carte menu, soup was a preposterous $980 000-$1 million.
To put that in perspective the whole three course Sunday carvery lunch: soup, roast lamb, pork, beef, chicken, stuffing, sauces, yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, rice, three or four vegetables and several puddings at The Feathers, Mabelreign has just gone up to $1 million.
I don’t deny anyone a fair profit but, honestly, you could make a bathful of good soup for a million dollars’ worth of ingredients!
Deep-fried mushrooms or Haloumi, once popular starters at Gaby’s are now $1 million.
Meat main courses range from $1,4 million (pork chop) to $1,6 million for fillet steak, which is not unreasonable if (and a big IF) the beef is good and it’s a decent portion.
Fish and chips (hake fillets) are an almost unbelievable $2 million, meaning the traditional Friday lunch is out for many of the scores of people who used to enjoy that dish at Gaby’s weekly.
Chicken dishes: whole baby, half tandoori, tikka or the gloriously misspelt chicken golden-blue (they mean cordon-bleu!) were $1,45 million to $1,6 million.
Pasta dishes definitely should not be in the same price league as fillet steak and half-chickens, but at Gaby’s they are.
The totally second rate carbonara I wolfed down because, thanks to Zesa (or lack thereof) and a busy morning schedule, I was starving, was insipid to almost the point of tastelessness; there was no Parmesan cheese to accompany it; nor freshly ground black pepper; no rolls, no butter.
A rather sullen monosyllabic waitress, annoyingly chewing gum and even more vexingly wearing thick Roy Orbison-style sunglasses indoors and out, said they did have rolls but they were stale.
Naturally they won’t be fresh if you don’t have any customers!
When I pointed out the proximity of the neighbouring supermarket (all of 20 meters away) and asked why she didn’t take a few dollars from the till and buy a few fresh items, she grunted something about management not approving.
I can’t imagine proper management approving of anything going on at Gaby’s these days.
I would really have enjoyed a salad with the pasta, but $950 000-$1 million for rabbit food really is ripping the proverbial ring out of it.
Neither did I have pudding: ice-cream $600 000, fruit salad $800 000 nor tea at $140 000 (I kid thee not!)
One poor-to-ordinary pasta carbonara $1,5 million, one Pilsener $140 000: bottom line $1 640 000.
I phoned Mama Mia’s at Newlands and Leonardo’s, Borrowdale to do a contemporaneous comparative costing. Proper fresh, home made pasta, cooked especially to order with as much Parmesan cheese, black pepper, olive oil, rolls and butter as you want were $980 000 and $1 million respectively.
I made a big mistake in asking for the key to the gents before leaving and nearly parted company with my ultra-expensive lunch.
The place was filthy, Harare’s phantom PK seat pilferer had been about his nefarious business; there was no paper, soap, towels or hot water.
If the Khazi gets in this state when under lock and key, goodness knows what condition it would be in if open to the general public.
Not that there were many members of the public milling around what should really be a very busy mall.
They don’t accept cheques and “Miss Stevie Wonder” was unsure which, if any, credit or debit cards they accepted. (Visa proved kosher.)
l Gaby’s, Travel Plaza, Mazoe Street. Tel. 700094. Open Monday to Saturday breakfast -5pm.