“Meatballs and pasta” leapt out of the pages of a nicely designed and printed, untacky, presumably germ-free, laminated menu and –a little late for “brunch”; a bit early for conventional lunch I ordered it
Things were looking up since my last visit. The waitresses still dress as if they work in a filling station, but mine had clearly polished her people skills. The menu came fairly promptly, with a winning smile, but none of that:”Hi My name is ….(whatever)…I’m your waitress/waitron/server and today I can thoroughly recommend….”
She didn’t recommend anything. I can only blame myself for salivating at the thought of PROPER meat balls on a bed of (unspecified) al dente pasta, served perhaps with a crust or two of crispy home-baked bread, perhaps a palate cleansing side-salad, drizzled with olive-oil and balsamic vinegar and a generous helping of Parmesan cheese. (That’s what I would have got had I been ordering the dish at (say) Leonardo’s at Borrowdale)
The order was taken in record time (for IB…or “fly bee” as it’s often called, due to the number of pesky bugs usually flitting about the place.)
And the dish was served, also fairly swiftly, but that’s where disappointments began to click in.
The spaghetti was well past the “al dente” (firm to the teeth) stage; candidly a bit on the slurpy, gloopy, starchy side.
It took me three days to recall what the “flavour” (well lack of it) and texture of the meat balls reminded me of. I finally got it, one of the less successful items in “Rat packs” during the good-old/bad-old days.
None of the “goodies” therein were exactly of global gourmet standard, but tinned meatballs and canned sausages were disgusting in the extreme.
IB’s were greasy, loosely packed minced meat which had no discernable flavour.
Instead of the anticipated Parmesan cheese, the dish came with a chopped chili presentation, so startlingly hot it warranted a government health warning!
A knife and fork accompanied the pasta. When I asked for a spoon, after an inordinate length of time, I was given the sort of long, thin almost hooked job, which normally comes with knickerbocker glories or ice-cream sundaes.
That in itself was odd, because the Italian Bakery (run by Ethiopian-Italians) apparently no longer even sells ice-cream. They had no pudding, per se, at all.
I ordered a chocolate éclair: merely a thin scrape of almost tasteless chocolate on top of rather dry pastry, with an infinitesimal amount of cream inside.
The service grew progressively slower and more lethargic. I had to virtually demand a bill and then stand at the till to pay it and get the change (from a waitress I’d not previously seen.)
Pasta was $6, “éclair” $2 and a decent cappuccino $1. With the main course –– and mainly due to overdoing the incandescent chilies –– I had two cans of Pilsener at $1,50 each: making a bottom line of $12.
Italian Bakery, Avondale Shopping Centre. Tel 339732. Licensed: opens breakfast to late. Shut Monday.
(Coincidentally we were served wonderful meat balls as one of the snacks after a wine-tasting besides Meikles Hotel’s 13th floor swimming pool three days later.)
IN stark contrast to IB, the next Saturday I went for conventional breakfast at “UB”: Urban Bliss, the coffee shop at Golden Stairs Nursery, Ashbrittle.
I’d seen owner Tracey Bucknell at the Restaurant of the Year shindig , and the ex-Selous farmer’s wife insisted it was time I re-visited her family-run establishment. It was well over-time. According to my non-exhaustive records, the last time I went was June 2006 and it took me from June 28, 2009 to September 19 to keep my word I would definitely call “soon”.
Tracey was on day off! The place was pumping and in good hands, however, I received a smiling first-name welcome from her locum and staff members. The drone of a generator close by told me UB was sans Zesa and “gennies”, sadly, can’t do everything.
I assumed UB’s generator was running the fridges, freezers, cold room, as the first rate one-plate breakfast: two eggs, lots of good bacon, a tasty plump sausage, and fried tomatoes was cooked on gas and I was served really splendid soft white crusty bread to mop up the greasefest, a la best British transport caff-style.
The bread was so nice I used four half slices without butter, dipping into golden yellow egg yolk, delicious bacon fat and the remaining pulp of tomatoes.
I asked for another slice (cheerfully and speedily served) on which to thickly smear one of the nicest, fruitiest marmalades I have tasted recently. Almost solid with shred, it was a mixed fruit concoction home-made and bottled by Tracey’s mum-in-law, Danusia, one of those thousands of displaced Polish women who were marched half way round the world, to arrive in this country and safety during World War II
You can buy various flavoured marmalade (the lime and the grapefruit looked especially good), jams, other preserves and pickles, which make grand little last minute gifts.
UB is an oasis of goodness in the sylvan setting of a busy garden centre. Specialist shops include antiques, a pet shop and aviary etc.
Seeing as the wonderful roses on show are, presumably, mulched with horse or kraal manure and fertilisers, pet foods and, indeed pets and birds, are on display and sale within a few metres, the UB coffee shop was remarkably free of the dreaded fly nuisance which made my meal a misery at IB. In fact, I recall noticing only one “Budiriro Budgie” in the hour and a bit I was there.
Urban Bliss opens Monday to Saturday 8am- 4:30 pm. It isn’t licensed (to sell alcohol.)
Full English-style one-plate breakfast, including extra bread and a world-beating marmalade and an almost “bottomless” pot of tea kept nice and hot in an arty-craft tea-cozy cost $7.
Tel (Tracey) 0912104211
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