SUDDENLY everyoneâ€™s a foreign currency expert.
I mentioned in a club Iâ€™d had a very splendid â€“â€“ spiffing actually â€” wonderful home-cooked three-course lunch with half-a-bottle of imported wine for US$20 and there were gasps of â€œBut thatâ€™s R200: you can do much better than that in South Africa for two-hundred rand!â€
Hmmm, well it might have escaped their attention we were in Ha-ha-ha-are (Africaâ€™s fun capital) where just about everyone whoâ€™s anyoneâ€™s busy ripping off everyone else at the same ratio in hard currency as they were in Zimbucks and US$20, really isnâ€™t bad value for money: the cost of buffet breakfast or lunch at Meikles Pavilion (two days earlier), without a toothful of vinho!
I havenâ€™t visited the Land of the Free for ages but will do so in three weeks. It will be interesting to see what US$20 buys meal-wise there now.
One thing for sure, if my last trip was anything to go by, theyâ€™ll make up in quantity any deficiencies in quality! Huge eaters Yanksâ€¦and it shows! Obesity rules, ok?
My daughter warned me that in credit-crunched Disunited Kingdom, real value pub lunches which a year ago cost around Â£5,90 are up to (wait for it..) about Â£7,10. (Shock, horror, disbelief!)
She revealed this the day I returned from six nights out of Harare, four at Indigo Bay, Bazaruto Island, Mozambique. In under a week, EVERYTHING in the local had risen 375%-850%; a loafÂ which had been $7 900 when I left was $35 000. A month later, it cost $2-$2,5 million, yesterday $25 million.
Anyway, if eating out in Pommieland is up, almost everything else is down as retailers chase volume (something unheard of in Zimâ€¦trading your way out of trouble as opposed to doubling prices every two hours!) Also VAT was slashed to boost spending. (Now thereâ€™s an economic novelty!)
The US$20 lunch was at a new private membersâ€™ club blue@2, mentioned in this column last week: 2, Aberdeen Road, where Alexandra Park and Belgravia meet Avondale.
I ate with company director Fried Lutz, the germane German; wine shipper and corporate governance fan Mark Oxley and Nikki Lear, business consulting since quitting as M-Web chief operations officer to concentrate on raising the bonny wee baby boy, Conor, she and husband, IT guru Mike, were blessed with after years of trying.
Unlisted on the menu, each table had a large splendidly dressed Greek salad, studded with big, plump, purply olives for two covers.
A great advantage of sharing with Mark is he hardly touches veg, so I had the salad satisfactorily solo, relished with good crispy, crusty continental chingwa slathered in butter.
House wines were Keerweder Pentagram, a South African red, Quagga RosÃ©, also from south of the Limpopo and Daisy Darling, a rather irritatingly tweely named Cape Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc: crisp, dry and refreshingly light on a broiling day.
With hints of freshly mown grass, green peppers, and Granny Smith apples, we drained the two bottles in the package deal, buying a third at US$8.
Young, fresh-faced, ash-blonde ex-Doma tobacco farm girl Danielle Hartmann, a qualified (in Australia) photo-journalist, served us and another 18 pax food and drink, candidly struggling occasionally, but always with a winning smile. We didnâ€™t know then, but youthful mum, Daryl, was in the kitchen turning (rather than churning) out the scoff.
With such a tiny staff, the menu is clearly fairly limited. Three of us had a comfort food option of absolutely wonderfully cooked lean roast beef (from Tudely Butchery, Mount Pleasant) with a dinky Yorkshire pud, sliced potatoes I meant to ask Daryl to name: somewhere between roast and sautÃ©ed, pumpkin (which I DID eat), al dente young French beans and great meaty steaming gravy all on a professionally HOT plate (YIPPEEE!).
I said the only slight improvement would be a dollop of tart, piquant horseradish sauce, at which delightful Danielle looked crestfallen and said sheâ€™d toured every â€œdollar shopâ€ in town that morning, looking for a jar of the stuff. Tut, tut, lassie, youâ€™re on two acres there, grow it under a leaking tap!
Fried, on some cranky self-imposed diet which doesnâ€™t preclude numerous Peter Stuyvesant gaspers twixt courses!, plumped for vegetable lasagna: a generous helping he called first classâ€¦or vurst klaaas!
Puddings were more-ish. I had cherry ripple ice-cream with fresh-fruit sauce, Mark went for a decadently rich chocolate mousse, either whimsically spelt â€œmooseâ€ or someoneâ€™s better at cooking thanÂ English!, I didnâ€™t note Friedâ€™s choice. Nikki opted for granadilla cheesecake, wheedling a bonzer bonsela portion of ice-cream atop.
No sooner had I sighed that Iâ€™d really murder some cheese to go with the last of the wine, an elegant platter of three cheeses, including a superb softish blue item and chili-cheddar, wafers, fruit-and-nut compote, cashew nuts and figs-soused-in-liquor appeared.
They open Friday and Wednesday lunch; Friday going through the afternoon to an evening music (1950s-80s) gig during which hot or cold platters are served.
Contact Danielle on email@example.comÂ 0912308258; Daryl 0912251752.