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Cresta Jameson Column

Tiffany’s re-opens at Cresta Jameson

By Dusty Miller

ANOTHER good restaurant sprang on the Harare scene with Tiffany’s re-opening.

Helvetica, sans-serif”>Can’t get a definitive answer when the luxurious Jameson Hotel outlet closed; recall only once reviewing it in our sister paper the Standard in seven-plus years.

Fairly upmarket, unsure of category. “De-luxe” based on ambience, food, service and prices fairly reasonable. In dim-and-distant past it was definitely a family outlet. The Clan Miller used it extensively when we’d something to celebrate; went at least twice to each ethnic week begun (I think) by Gordon Addams: both en famille and with Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society. Those were the days – dining and wining was then quite affordable.

Cresta marketing manager Tapuwa Nduku – who speaks like her name’s Tracey Nichols! – invited us to the re-opening on a bitter Thursday.

Wind buffeted as fellow restaurant of the year judge, elegant blonde property dealer Turia McOran-Campbell, and I strode from the guarded car park at the hotel.

Fond memories kindled by pleasant greetings and welcoming tawny port (no sherry, now – lack of grapes, due to shortage of grape growers, due to “liberated” wine farms.)

Unusual to start with the equivalent of noble Portuguese tipple, but warming and innovative. Many smiling old faces from Tiffany’s previous existence. Brand new crimson/white linen; fresh from the box gleaming cutlery and crystal met us.

Turia, a member of the prestigious International Wine & Food Society, asked whether smoking was allowed, having spent a break in Kaapstad, where someone who daily puffs three or four cigarettes is treated like an HIV-positive leper with a penchant for mass-murder. Ashtray produced with a smile.

From special one sheet scroll-like menu wrapped in satin ribbon, Turia had large tender “button” mushrooms, stuffed with ham, cottage cheese, lemon butter; deep-fried, crumbed; tartar sauce: wholly acceptable; good value for money, $30 000 a la carte. Candidly can’t say it about minestrone.

All correct ingredients and flavour but slightly too thin. Coincidentally I’d had homemade (a la Villa Miller) minestrone at lunch, with lots of Parmesan, crusty bread and farm butter.

On main menu New Zealand “mussel” (singular but sure there’ll be, say, six in creamy garlic and white wine sauce with whole-wheat bread $40 000 (also prawn and mango salad.) Mushroom velvet soup/beef consomme both $30 000.

We had local: Private Cellar Cordon Rouge after learning the restaurant’s last four bottles (opening night?) PC Cabernet-Merlot ordered by next table. They also had Mukuyu Cab-Sauv or Pinotage for $40 000; but, sadly, I find Cairns lines lack consistency recently. Local whites also – oddly – 40K.

Imported whites $130 000, RSA reds $140 000, sparkling $120 000. Wine list needs checking. JC le Roux same price as Mukuyu Sante. Mukuyu Colombard (we read) is characterised by whiffs of Colombard in drinking bouquet (?) leaving a “livery”, fruity palate. (Siss!) A corrector of printers’ proofs for four decades, it took little time to figure they meant “lively”. Meadows Colombard, on the other hand, has a refreshing, attractive “noise” (nose.)

Background music pleasant modern/new wave jazz combo with talented female vocalist. Called The Other Four – there were six of them! Don’t I recall dancing in “old” Tiffany’s? No dance floor now.

Turia chose Britain’s most popular dish. Chicken tikka marsala ($80 000) overtook fish and chips, bangers and mash, roast beef and Yorkshire pud as Pommie No 1 platter. (Also more Patels than Smiths in London phone book.) All food served satisfactorily physically hot: this dish had lots of delicate flavour – of coriander and tumeric, served on fluffy Basmati rice.

Handsome-sized rump pepper steak flambed theatrically; beautifully tender medium-rare, with well-cooked chips, scrunchie spring veg ($85 000.)

Option: butterfish; tried it elsewhere once…tasted like lard! All fish dishes $95 000, which is odd. Kariba bream, Nyanga trout clearly shouldn’t be in same price league as tiger or queen prawns, sole Colbert, Canadian salmon, and Mozambique garoupa or grilled, thermidore or Newburg Cape lobster.

Torn between lovely sounding golden steamed pudding with butterscotch sauce and the crepes Suzette ordered. Two of the best: again dramatically flamed, served sizzling in bubbling Cointreau-orange liqueur. Ended with good filter coffee.

Room pleasantly warm: discreet, heating system efficient. Chef Agrippa (looking sleek, like a cook should) visited all tables, as did most Cresta head honchos. Service good, after initial hesitations Turia put down to our “intimidating” presence (moi?)

Everyone on opening night guests (some “no shows”…damned fools). Had we paid, soup and excellent starter, two grand main courses, two wonderful desserts, coffee, bon-bons and a rather good local red would have been around $335 000 with live entertainment and a single red rose for each lady. (Delivered to Turia next day, left in my car after ABFs elsewhere until midnight!)

Any restaurant re-opening is welcome.

We felt they’d probably do better at lunch than supper…especially in these last few weeks of winter. Good luck, anyway.

Three-and-a-half stars mid-July 2004. (Plumping for de-luxe category, but it’s close and a standard table d’hôte menu would probably swing it into the family group.)

*Tiffany’s, Cresta Jameson Hotel, Samora Machel Avenue, CBD. Tel

774106. Open Tuesday-Saturday 7pm-midnight.

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