WHEN Rainbow Towers’ general manager David Church rang inviting me to play in a golf competition sponsored by the hotel (nee The Sheraton) representin
g Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard, neither day suggested was suitable, bearing in mind our deadlines.
Apart from having given up golf 30-odd years ago as regretfully as some people quit smoking or forego alcohol, if I took off a large slice of a Wednesday for 18-holes at Chapman or Thursday at Royal Harare our two newspapers’ production would be severely delayed.
Offering to send “a surrogate nephew” to play as a substitute for “Dusty Miller” in a field strong in hospitality industry personalities, I failed to reveal that my “ringer”, young Hansie Kok, was a graduate of the South African Golf Academy and plays at a handicap better than scratch!
Kok and Church partnered each other. While not winning the tourney, the likeable tousle-haired 20-year-old won prizes for the longest drive and nearest to the pin, among other claims to fame, being rewarded with a meal-for-four voucher at Rainbow Towers.
It was kind of Hansie to invite “Oom Dusty!” to join him and his folks, ex-Nyazura tobacco and beef farmers, Stan and Sandy Kok for supper at the hotel on Monday.
Did a quick “360” through the pleasantly full Harvest Garden (buffet and carvery) and Komba Hari (grill room), before Hansie settled on the latter. In the Komba Hari, main courses are griddled in front of diners with a running commentary from a knowledgeable waitress, adding final flourishes to the meal. It really is part of the theatre of eating out, perhaps more so if you choose an Asian Station, where certain dishes are periodically flambéed in a dramatic, sometimes almost heart-stopping, “whoosh” of flaming brandy by a waiter in Japanese martial arts kit.
We spurned Asian or Halaal cooking, settling on conventional Western-type food. Splendid salads were picked individually from a wide range attractively displayed in the buffet room. If you want serving, staff bring a small Waldorf, Caesar and Greek salad all on one plate to the high stools in the Komba Hari at $5 500.
We all tried excellent in-hotel baked crispy warm sesame rolls and butter and Stan enjoyed “seconds”, with a little cheese and chicken breast while awaiting main course.
The South African Open champ-to-be and his mom went for three very large king prawns ($16 000) a plate, with a selection of sauces: lemon and garlic butter and piri-piri. Sandra had rice, Hansie a medium-sized jacket-baked potato. Stan had a juicy, tender 300g rump steak and I had (four) meaty lamb chops with an appealingly different garlic-and-mint sauce. Stan had a mound of well-cooked golden slender game chips, I had a baked spud, a little cauliflower and some purposely left over starter salad. Other vegetables were creamy spinach, carrots and French beans. All grills, including T-bone steaks, 300g fillet or sirloin, ostrich medallions, lemon and herb marinated baby chicken and whole Nyanga trout, are $12 000. Fish fillet of the day is $12 500.
Stan told us, pedantically, the pink and reportedly delicious king prawns were definitely from the mouth of the Pungwe River in Mozambique, rather than the deeper ocean (he was once in the seafood game) and, as a man who raised several hundred head of prime beef cattle at any one time on the four farms he “lost” to land reform in Manicaland, declared his steak as good as you’d get anywhere on earth.
He confirmed in fluent Shona with waitress Birgitta that there was no vernacular word for prawns but, oddly, there is one for lobster.
Desserts served are $3 000 apiece: duo of chocolate mousse in a brandy snap basket; fruit cheesecake; chocolate box filled with yoghourt and “jewels” of fresh fruit; Rainbow ice-cream or seasonal fruit Pavlova. I assume it was the same price to sneak back into the Harvest Garden and attack a mouthwatering array of puddings: in my case principally a port-wine coloured jelly, fresh fruit salad and cream.
We all declined the cappuccino and possibly for the first time in living memory (or certainly since he left UBHS) Stan refused an ABF of a double vodka or brandy with “something:” (usually a Coke Lite) as we were all verging on the replete, after a memorable meal.
If Hansie’s golfing skills hadn’t provided the night’s meal ticket, four salads, two seafood dishes, a steak, lamb chops and three puddings (Sandy, who now manages Harare’s City Bowling Club, said “no”) would have set us back $81 500, plus drinks.
* Komba Hari Restaurant, Rainbow Towers Tel: 774648/774668.