Â By Dusty Miller
A READER rang, saying he must take his wife for a meal, how much should he have to fork-out for what, he made it clear, was (in his case) the dubious pleasure of forking-in?
Wellâ€¦how long is a piece of string?
The most reasonably priced meal eaten out within a fortnight of his query cost $40 million, for Sunday lunch at Cranleigh Park Club, Prospect. Good value for money it was too, with a generous amount of lean roast pork, thinly sliced, good crisp, crunchy artery-choking crackling, piquant smooth apple sauce, rich gravy, roast potatoes, rice (for overseas readers, rice often accompanies spuds in southern Africa, an Afrikaner tradition), beans and butternut.
Bill for a trademark half piri-piri chicken and chips we had almost as an afterthought at Coimbra that same Easter weekend was $300 million apiece when divided by the 12 couverts who decided they were also hungry, when my good friend clothier Joe Lerman, (â€œthe Slow Germanâ€) announced he was famished.
He likes Coimbra, especially apparently limitless quantities of grand crusty bread, often still warm, served before, during and sometimes after savoury courses.
Many restaurateurs stopped serving bread, rolls or toast recently, whether due to chronic shortages of baked goods and/or essential ingredients, such as flour, or for reasons of economy, apropos clumsy price controls, I know not.
But I think such moves may well be the famous or infamous false economy? We ate at Yellow Doors, spending over $3 billion on an impromptu meal and drinks a) because Joe complained of belly-rumblings and loves bread; b) they were open on a holiday weekend when many competitors shut (an extraordinary commercial philosophy, peculiar to Zimbo restaurants: when punters are on leave and want to eat out: close!) and c) as one of our number knew owners would take her company cheque. Most of us were cash-less, or at best cash-strapped, due to a reluctance to ATM queue for hours to â€” if the loot doesnâ€™t run out and Zesa stays on â€” be grudgingly served $500 million, in no fewer than six time-consuming transactions (itâ€™s worth about US$10!) We gave her personal cheques, she paid for everyone.
Incidentally the food was, as always, good; service pathetically poor.
Coimbraâ€™s main course was $265 million, for huku, chips (and chingwa!), no veggies or salad, which made $232 million for a feta-and-olives-filled Greek salad (with toast); chicken Alexander (breasts wrapped in bacon rashers, grilled, served in a creamy orange sauce) with chips and two veg; ice-cream and three lagers excellent value for money at Alexanderâ€™s.
Coimbraâ€™s bill was ultra-reasonable when compared to Silver Spur, Holiday Inn on election night.
I misunderstood lovely Paola Conseicao on speaking to her on a matter affecting the Portuguese community on the phone at Cascais Restaurant. Felt sure she said they would open on polling day; they didnâ€™t.
Regular readers know Iâ€™m not the greatest fan of franchises, pet hates being McDonalds, overseas and Spurs. Well Zimbabwe Spurs anywayâ€¦. they are marginally better beyond the Sadza Curtain.
But Spurs was open, Cascais, next door wasnâ€™t, it had been a long polling day, I was hungry and thirsty.
Although the car-park was pom-pom full, many vehicles sporting election stickers, the restaurant was surprisingly under-patronised.
My waiter confirmed the Visa machine worked, huge â€œwelcomingâ€ posters announced sternly the establishment bans cheques.
The briskly efficient waiter continued by announcing baldly all burgers were â€œoffâ€ (why?); there was no fish. I didnâ€™t want either but Iâ€™m tickled by the fact that although anywhere in the world surf â€˜nâ€™ turf is fillet and prawns, in Zim Spurs, itâ€™s entrecote and squid!
They had no Pilsener; the only Castle â€œonâ€ was in big, ugly quart bottles at a big, ugly price of $140 million. (Breweries ran an ad in our paper stating, no one should pay more than $20 million for a pint of clear beer, nor above $8 million for a Cokeâ€¦Would they tell us where these vital lubricants can be sourced at such attractive prices?)
Anywhere else and Iâ€™d have had a salad to accompany another p-p chicken ($320 million with chips, chete) but there wasnâ€™t much choice at $140 million; rabbit-food bowls are tiny; and I still blame a previous Harare Spur salad for laying me low with a dose of Lobengulaâ€™s Revenge. (They threatened litigation over that comment.)
Candidly it wasnâ€™t a great version of the Portuguese colonial dish. The sauce was too sweet and greasy. I felt no urge to grab the bird by its meaty rear leg, gnawing it clean like a latter-day Henry VIII, as weâ€™d all done at Coimbra and I invariably do at Cascais or Arnaldoâ€™s, Graniteside.
Puddings were $60-$85 million, but they only had ice-cream, at the lower price.
Food service was fairly fast, but it took ages to get a bill, even longer to recover Visa card and receipt for $520 million.