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Yes! We have no Saturday buffet lunch

Dusty Miller

I SUPPOSE I had a right to be cross…but wasn’t for long.

Having phoned Meikles Hotel to confirm they served their signature mouthwatering buffet lunch in The Pavilion on

Saturday — and having been assured they did — an hour later I was offered an a la carte menu and told: “No we don’t do buffets over the weekends…we don’t get the numbers to justify them.”

Hmmm, this could be a classic Catch 22 situation. If they did offer the indoor/outdoor buffet on sunny weekends when people have time to relax and enjoy the food, maybe they would get the numbers needed to warrant the operation?

Whatever, I had a pleasant “pitch” on the sunny verandah, with a huge array of birdlife: especially sunbirds and finches besporting themselves among the lush dripping plants of the hotel’s roof garden, in and out of irrigation sprays, and feasting on mixed seed provided on various bird tables.

If you want to know why the Africa Union never meets in Harare it’s because many of the delegates would be put up at Meikles, opposite Africa Unity Square, alive with pigeons and doves. I hear these paragons of African democracy would object most strongly to be awakened by the sun breaking over the squares and a dawn chorus of “Coup! Coup! Coup!” (Sorry….coo! coo! coo!)

Beyond the delightful living avian picture, a wedding took place among the plants. A padre tub-thumped in English, a contralto interpreted at Gatling-gun speed into Shona, an Irish aid worker (I hear) is marrying a local girl. His few pink-cheeked perspiring “supporters”, grossly over-dressed for alfresco nuptials on a day with the thermometer nudging 40C in a breathless, heat-shimmering CBD, looked alarmed when large pastel-coloured silk and satin-clad ladies in 1940-ish wide-brimmed hats, broke into spontaneous ululation.

Maybe Meikles should lay on a wedding every day? They were tourist attractions in Tunisia. Travellers were bussed out to a lush oasis, redolent with the heavy fragrance of jasmine, on the fringes of the Sahara each night to witness a “tribal” wedding and join in a greasy “feast” of undercooked, fatty, goat, couscous and syrupy sweet wine. Few complained when they realised the same non-blushing, candidly raddled, bride, delivered to the service on the same flea-bitten camel, married the same spaced out “bridegroom” five nights a week and twice on weekends.

Pleasant pastas

The Pavilion’s buffet is now $8 500. I’d fancied “pigging out” (if that’s the correct term) on lovely crisp, crunchy, fresh salads, cold meats, crusty bread and fruit and whatever else appealed. I usually enjoy their curry; pasta dishes are pleasant and I do justice to the roast of the day, unless it’s beef, chete.

It was, perhaps, too hot for soup, but a home-made cream of mushroom, dense with tasty fungi, complimented by a little freshly ground black pepper, a still warm, hotel-baked whole-wheat roll and great butter at $1 560 proved superb. My daughter, now a very young mother, herself, in Oxford, is a great soup-and-salad fan and prepared, pre-plated salads (as opposed to the help-yourself buffet variety) were $1 950 to $3 650.

You don’t really need to be reminded you are in a Five Star hotel and one of the world’s best at that, in terms of surroundings, service and presentation of dishes and there is positively no doubt when you see SOME prices.

Curried lamb

An American at the next table ordered (but couldn’t finish) Margherita pizza at $4 750. Home made pies (chicken and mushroom, pepper steak or lightly curried lamb) are $4 950. Good, I’m sure, but sounding disproportionately dear, when fillet steak with pepper or mushroom sauce, “wedges” and grilled vegetables or a side salad is $5 750.

I chose grilled medallions of pork fillet (three) with a savoury onion and gherkin sauce, “rustic potato wedges” (chips with the skin left on!) and grilled vegetables. It was tasty, beautifully presented and just the right quantity for lunch at $5 500.

The current almost obligatory “vertical” presentation worked. It doesn’t always. At Caribbea Bay, Kariba, recently, several of us fell around laughing when the kitchen tried (unsuccessfully) to serve starters of herbed sautéed mushroom in a conical stack. It looked (and was) a total sticky mess!

Baguettes and bagels with a choice of fillings are $5 650; sandwiches and rolls from $2 050 to $6 350 for, what sounded a Desperate Dan-sized triple-decker. Meikles burger of 100% pure ground meat, topped with cheese, bacon or egg (or plain!) with chips and salad was $5 000.

Puddings are $750-$1 400, the latter the price of a highly commendable fresh fruit salad and strawberry ice-cream. Green and red apples, strawberries, water-melon and naatjie featured in the salad, just the tip of the currently available fruit iceberg.

Local cheese board (included in fixed price buffet) is $2 100. Tea or coffee are also “thrown in” the buffet package ($500-$845 a la carte.)

A “little bird” (not one of the weavers, whydahs, widows, widowfinches or waxbills enthralling me less than two metres away) whispered in my ear that Meikles are “considering” reintroducing Sunday lunch buffet. I hope the rumour is true.

* Pavilion Restaurant, Meikles Hotel, CBD. Residential, open for lunch daily. Tel 795655. booking advised. Smoking and non-smoking areas. Wheelchair friendly. Indoor or al fresco dining.

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