Dusty Miller: Not Quite Weeping At Willowmead Prices

NO ONE can say living in the world’s highest ever hyper-inflationary environment isn’t extremely interesting…and challenging!

Last week, I mused whether $350 million for wonderful steak, chips and salad might not be over-dear at a Braeside club when, a couple of days earlier, a similar dish, in the grillroom of a five star hotel, was $280 million.

Haven’t checked, since, on how much Komba Hari’s meal might be now, as government admits 1 650% inflation and it’s clearly much higher, but the Moth Club’s grand signature dish —I was advised by several of my formidable militia of contacts and spies — had reached $560 million, before the crit appeared!

Sorry for that, but both figures seem almost bargain basement compared to the  pleasant Willowmead Junction Coffee Shop, Rolf Valley (near St John’s College), where a fillet steak, mid-last week, was $900 million.

Sure, it included mushrooms, ultra-expensive in today’s Zimbabwean agricultural desert, but “starch” was extra.

And “starch” when I visited was potato wedges — usually chips with the skins intact, but these were baked, then roast…or was it roast and baked? Whatever, they were quite delicious, pale lemony-yellow flesh, texture fine, floury and full of flavour: a heady combination of herbs and rich nuttiness.

They also, gratifyingly, retained cooked heat for long, as I took photographs, answered urgent cellphone calls, read SMSs and noted salient points for this article Young chefette, Nikki Rollett, who trained at Meikles and with Mike Farrell’s locally-based American Hotel School, had to admit she’d no idea what sort of spud I salivated and smacked lips over:  just from a pocket bought at Willowmead’s adjoining well-stocked fruit and veg market.

Although, she said all produce there was  freshly picked and sourced as locally as possible, from sound, reliable growers eschewing child labour, it was pure pot-luck these potatoes were so memorably good.

Mind you, so they should be at $150 million a throw! Mine didn’t accompany fillet and fungi which, if they had, would have been my very first meal costing a billion bucks plus! but bulked out very acceptable chicken pie and great salad.

Overseas, spuds are labelled by variety, breeder, soil conditions, sometimes rainfall, and area in which they were grown are identified; they are colour-coded as to what dishes they’re best for.

One might be splendid for baking or roasting, good for chips, fine for croquettes, but not so great for mash, for instance.

Tubers next door or above it in mind-boggling displays of colourful choice found even in village shops, may be the world’s absolute finest for mashing, but a poor chipper.

Here we buy potatoes, chete, if we can find and afford them!

Nikki’s puff pastry was as light as a firefinch’s feather.

A golden, piping hot Cornish pasty-type crescent shaped case enclosed much fragrantly steaming huku when I sliced it open, but…or should I say BUT? that (or beef pie) with salad was $450 million.

Add spuds and a $45 million pot of Tanganda tea and it’s a cool $645 million for light lunch, before a tip. Ouch!

By comparison, a steak pie from Vali’s Bakery, Kensington next day (20 minutes before it was cool enough to eat!) cost $100 million.

But — they say — comparisons are odious and, at Willowmead, I sat in a pleasant airy gazebo, had faultless service, some neighbouring attractive solid wrought iron and mosaic tile-topped tables were filled with fragrant, cool, leggy, blondes, Pajeros and Prados parked outside.

Salad accompanying pie and wedges was a masterpiece of colour and texture, dressing a divine home-made basil and olive oil concoction, there was searing home-made chili sauce and good tomato sauce in a wee twee bowl, rather than hideous plastic squeegee bottles many places now provide.

I had tried to make Willowmead since April 1, hoping to be at the coffee-and-cake launch of an art exhibition by the lovely Soo Piercy and Vanessa Goodson.

Candidly it wasn’t the most impressive collection of daubs in town, but I quite liked some Indian Ocean scenes. From May 2, eccentric pop musician Fraser Mackay takes over.

His wildlife work often sells like hotcakes at boozy charity auctions during such events as Tiger Tournament.

It will be interesting to see his painting through totally sober eyes at the unlicensed cafe!

Further price guide to Willowmead (April 23): spinach and feta crepe or sundried tomato and caramelised onion tart $380 million, quiche $450 million, bacon and avo salad, $500 million, toasted sandwiches $550 million; burger or pork chops $600 million, spicy lamb wrap $700 million; cappuccino $65 million, filter coffee $50 million, iced

coffee or large milk shake $200 million.

A friendly receptionist, the wife of a dispossessed Goromonzi farmer, said they’d been very quiet for a few weeks.

Can’t say I’m surprised at these prices! She was sure things would soon get back to normal when St John’s re-opens.

Doubt it! Have you seen the new school fees?

dusytym@zimind.co.zw

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