A LOCAL restaurant reviewer’s life, currently, is one of feast or famine with few gray areas.
After overseas leave, rep
lete — from the Prodigal Father treatment — fatted calf, lamb, turkey, pig, fish and shellfish being slaughtered prodigiously on family altars to celebrate my second visit in seven months (the first since 1984!) at the twin greedfests of Christmas and New Year, I had a (nearly) empty social diary.
There was an invitation to turn tartan and toast the immortal memory of Robert Burns at the Caledonian Society’s Harare Club Burns Supper, but I balked at the ticket fee. Twenty-five million bucks was a substantial splodge of loot when I left, but a month later won’t buy three litres of fuel, or six packs of cigarettes if I smoked, or nine copies of the Herald, if I bought it. Which I don’t, since they dropped the slightly challenging twin-crossword, replacing it with an infantile local version.
At the time of writing, haven’t yet decided on haggis stabbing, but, having just spent a week in bleak, but Bonny, Scotland, it’s tempting.
First lunch out was Adrienne’s, Belgravia, reportedly without Zesa for 33 consecutive days, when I was out of town and country. As at most places, they no longer have priced menus, but offer what’s available, with a reasonable mark-up. Partners are usually infectiously optimistic that things will “come right” here (been hearing that since the early 70s!) but were gloomy, before fleeing after a tip-off about available fuel.
Their equivalent of a half piri-piri chicken and chips was $35 million, a figure widely quoted by pals for similar dishes, at most Portuguese restaurants.
That made the Burns do reasonable and a tasty hamburger, eaten purely as “blotting paper” at City Bowling Club, before a quiz at Borrowdale Country Club at $5 million bargain-basement, especially, as at BCC, a “steak roll” (“mistake roll”, more like!), with bite-sized bit of tough, chewy topside in small soup bun was $10 million. (To be fair everyone liked accompanying sauces.) Reps burgers, at a Claire Duxbury afternoon disco the next day, at $10 million were sheer rip-offs.
Comparisons are allegedly odious, but I’ll compare odiously, in naming the steal of the week was at the incomparable, La Fontaine, Meikles Hotel.
After a Grapeskins Club Big 5 Wines tasting there, then a sneak preview recital by lovelies Cristina Granero on flute, from Spain and Yuki Matsushoma (piano), both just 28 and bursting with looks, talent and personality, I accepted an impromptu invitation to eat at the hotel.
Starters all tempted. I had Thai fish cakes with sweet chili sauce, after mulling a list of 14, including seafood bisque; terrine of chicken with salad and citrus-infused extra virgin olive oil dressing; Caesar salad with anchovies; smoked chicken salad with pineapple, olives and caramelised pecan nuts and chicken livers sautéed in bacon and
mustard sauce. These were all $7 million.
I was with Big 5 partners Malcolm Birch, who’s also in stockfeed, his brother-in-law Greg McDonald, in tobacco, with Greg’s wife, Sally-Anne (neé Birch) who represented Zimbabwe at Barcelona’s Olympics and is Malcolm’s sister. I loved their Bon Courage “Blush” Vin Doux NV a happy sparkling rosé wine, blending pinot-noir and muscadel, from Robertson which opened the tasting. Then we enjoyed Slanghoek Chardonnay 2007, from Worcester with its pronounced creamy finish; Du Toitskloof Merlot 2006 from Rawsonville, with chocolate box nose and soft juiciness and, also from Robertson, 2005 Rooiberg Reserve Pinotage with a sweetly expressive fruit and velvet finish.
Despite that — and eating with the bosses — Pilsener washed down rump steak with creamed pepper sauce, chips and seasonal vegetables, my main course, at $23 400 000: same as all entrees. Red meat is a rare treat for me these days, this, however, was slightly rarer than I prefer.
The partners went for plump pork chops, presumably the chef’s special; Sally-Anne had a splendid lamb curry. There’s also pork schnitzel on sauerkraut, topped with mixed fruit and raisin compote; mixed grill; crepes stuffed with sea fish and white sauce; pan-fried or grilled tilapia fillets, or whole, trout with lemon butter. I highly recommend Chef Chris Gonzo’s beef stroganov, among nine described dishes, plus a daily special and two vegetarian platters.
Pudding, from the wonderful trundling old-fashioned dessert trolley, is $6 million. (I had fresh-fruit salad and dinky citrus mousse.) Sally-Anne had tea. That — or coffee, with petite-fours — is $1,1 million.
Famine turns feast! As I write this, a week before publication, will soon be leaving (I hope) for Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society’s monthly beano at Flat Dog, Msasa and had a call confirming that, Monday, we’ll sample Meikles St Valentine’s day special menu which, I’ll cover in Sunday’s Standard.