THE Living Room, a new coffee shop/restaurant/bar at Helensvale has an awful lot going for it, but faces a few challenges.
One is the venue.
Helensvale is popularly known as Hellandgone, lying as it does well beyond Borrowdale, en route to even more distant suburbs, such as Borrowdale Brooke, Quinnington, Philadelphia, the rolling 10-acre plots of horsy Hogerty Hill-billies and 15 acre smallholdings of frequently loony arty-crafty Luna luminaries.
Pals of mine who â€” separately â€” manfully tried to run restaurants at Borrowdale Brooke both said locals, in clipped, manicured lawned mansions, were “all fur coats and no knickers”: a colourful expression, meaning once the gardener, irrigation bill, new lawnmower blades, fertiliser and Zesa, powering said blades, were paid for, there was little discretionary income for lunch or even an odd drink at the local cafÃ©.
Their comments were based on the scene several years ago. Given now that we can draw only $100 billion daily from banks (in a week when four hamburger rolls cost $150 billion, a coke $500 billion, lager quart in a club up to $1,5 trillion!) and pantie-less Pajero and Prado punters have even less reason to rush to The Living Room, kids in tow, for trillion dollar salads ($1,8 trillion if smoked salmonâ€™s your bag), $420 billion chicken-and-mushroom pies; $900 billion roast beef bagels.)
Having reviewed restaurants big and small, good and bad, triumphant and tragic, starred for greater things or already with the kiss of commercial death firmly planted on brows at Day One, for nearly four decades on four continents, I cannot say Iâ€™m mad about the outletâ€™s name or logo: an old fashioned sofa.
It looks and sounds too much like a furniture shop. Management, in the efficient form of Meikles-trained giggly Charlene Magwaro, says it was carefully chosen to “make people feel at home”. Weâ€™ll see!
Thatâ€™s the minuses cleared.
On the plus side, the menuâ€™s positively mouthwatering and some talented artistic photography of dishes would turn the most willowy aesthete into a drooling glutton in seconds flat.
Almost everything was available: a big tick in these days of terrible shortages in a Zimbabwe, once the granary of Africa.
Ingredients are mainly locally sourced, served at their freshest, most attractive.
Head chef, Gift Kanyonga is also Meikles trained under Austrian master pastrycooksâ€¦and it shows. All breads, rolls, bagels, pies, pastries, cakes and biscotti are baked in-house by him. Apart from being served in the pavement indoor-outdoor restaurant, they are sold as takeaways: in much demand since Zesa outages (or outrages) grew even less predictable and of longer duration; they also do outside catering.
Without reservation, waitress Primrose Shoriwa suggested a Philly cheese-steak sandwich, topped with plenty of sun-dried tomato, Mozzarella cheese and mustard and mango pickle. The “sarny” was “open” and of the American (full meal) variety
rather than a traditional Pommie “Spam/ham or jam in steamed white bread” type, coming with a fresh colourful salad and crisps on a delightfully fresh Gift-baked baguette.
Having not eaten “properly”(other than cocktail party things on sticks!) for days, thanks to food and cash shortages and Zesa, I erred by having a side-order of grand, square-cut large golden chips to accompany the $770 billion “sambo” and couldnâ€™t quite finish two heaped plates.
The steak was spicily marinated export quality, in tender bite-sized chunks of fillet, smothered in flavour: overall effect a symphony of terrific tastes and textures.
They had Castle Lager; it was no train smash to hear pints werenâ€™t properly cold, I must have a quart!
Eating in almost solitary splendour in shirt sleeves on sun-dappled verandah, I watched the northern suburbs go round and shapely denim clad blinged-up bimbettes in Beemers and Benzes return plates on which theyâ€™d collected $500 billon “Full Monty” English breakfasts.
A young lady eagerly booted up a laptop, possibly having read in last weekâ€™s ZimInd a Saatchi & Saatchi ad, saying the Living Room has hot spot wi-fi. It has, but it wasnâ€™t due to be switched on until the next day!
Incidentally, in Botswana recently I saw cafÃ©s charge for wi-fi. How they police it beats me. In the UK, without wi-fi, you have no yuppie punters who keep coffee shops going and may as well call in the bailiffs NOW!
Despite feeling bloated, Charlene insisted I try a “slice” (slab more like) of Giftâ€™s decadently delectable home-made light-as-air creamy dark chocolate cake with glacÃ© cherry rampant and a lovely cappuccino.
When my driver showed, 10 minutes late, he got the lionâ€™s share of the gateaux instead of a roasting.
Having opened in May, thereâ€™s currently an introductory eat-as-much-as-you-like/can Sunday buffet at $500 billion. Closed on Mondays, they usually shut at 10pm, but donâ€™t chase off folk having fun: thereâ€™s a late licence for revellers. Swipe card machines work (or worked!) and they take cheques (at a premium) from clients who havenâ€™t too obviously recently been released from maximum security cells under a very ill-advised presidential amnesty!
A sophisticated sound system played middle of the road standards of the 60s-80s and, in 90 minutes there, I didnâ€™t hear one track I didnâ€™t enjoy: especially numbers from David Gatesâ€™ 1970s soft rock CD The Best of Bread, munching possibly the best of Borrowdale breads!