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Food and Travel: Borrowdale (and the Brooke) Banter!

THE leafy northern Harare suburb of Borrowdale called twice last week.

On Friday, the monthly get-together of the Greendale Good Food and Wine Appreciation Society was at award-winning Leonardo’s Mediterranean Restaurant, Borrowdale Village.
A big attraction was the restaurant’s set price two course lunch at just US$10.
To the best of my knowledge, Leonardo’s proprietor, the amiable Danny Marini,  (reigning Zimbabwe  Hospitality Industry Personality of the Year) founded the local credit crunch lunch and his place has been packed ever since.
A popular combination was spicy, beefy, Greek meat balls, then half a big, plump, moist, tender piri-piri chicken with a good portion of well cooked chips and seasonal vegetables.
Other permutations included piri-piri chicken livers and two good-sized lean grilled pork chops and soup, or great salads with pizza, or pasta.
Danny put a private room at our disposal, strategically placing our monthly stag-only function (at which the language and humour can grow robust) as far apart as possible from two bibulous hen parties/wedding showers.
Knowing a few participants at both of these leisurely ladies-who-lunch functions, I suspect their language and humour may have grown fairly ribald by the time they reached crème brulées and tiramisus!
Our members’ whines were minor; certainly not un-over-come-able!
The private room grew terribly hot and humid as the afternoon sun became stronger and stronger; a drape we hoped might create shade proved merely decorative.
Fortunately a few members left relatively early and folks being broiled by solar rays from a cloudless cornflower blue sky were able to move to seats in a less exposed part of the room.
Colonel John McGlinchey gave praise indeed, describing Leonardo’s piri-piri chicken as the finest, flavour and texture-wise he’d eaten since his days as a regular at the Royal Hotel, Durban, but then reduced points as the plates were cold.
Tssk, tssk! One of my bugbears, eating out in Zimbabwe: a sad lack of consistency…and cold plates (but I hadn’t even noticed mine wasn’t professionally hot!)
The barman said many times that all lagers and ciders were $2 and we collected that amount from participants, but then it turned out all were $2 except Heineken, at $3. Sod’s law, the only two Heineken drinkers had left when it was time for “the reckoning”.
The cash they’d left for tips went towards the bar short-fall!
Otherwise, as always, a splendid venue for lunch or dinner; for one or 61 covers.
Leonardo’s Suite CC (Above Fereday’s Safaris), Borrowdale Village. Tel 883158/850681. 0912 247 990. Shut Sundays.

O’HAGAN’s sneaked into town and opened, apparently remarkably successfully at Borrowdale Brooke, without spending a cent advertising.
I usually avoid these “fake Oirish”, and indeed most other, chain restaurants like the plague.
But, I’m a little more sanguine these days having been introduced to O’Hagan’s in Francistown, Botswana by that great character, Francis McGovern, who owns possibly our finest steakhouse, Cattleman, in Bulawayo.
With a name like that, of course, Francis is a kosher, pukkah Irishman of Note; if O’Hagan’s is good enough for him, it will do for me.
We ate sea fish (hake) and chips in landlocked, beef-rich Botswana, on the timber deck of the pub/grill off the main drag. It was P38, which was then about R42 or US $4,20.
I checked my photo-archive and can clearly see P38 bought one fillet of beer-battered melt-in-the mouth hake.
Maybe they should reduce the portion and price here, because at the Brooke, fish (hake) and chips was US$9, but included two big fillets, probably too much for one at lunch?
Sod’s law, one of those pieces of fish was to die for: firm, white, flaky flesh, cooked to perfection: encased in crispy, golden beer batter, full of the taste of the sea. Whereas, the second was very “iffy”. Fish,  in parts, mushy and an off-putting pale purple-grey hue, batter soggy. Chips were sound, a fringe of salad garnish hardly worth the name.
Until the novelty wears off, it’s almost impossible to be served food or drink at O’Hagan’s at night, which vexes some of my pals: seriously dedicated drinkers.
Lunch took 20 minutes to arrive: far too long, seeing as many people will have spent ages driving to the venue. (It was the superb East of Greenwich, run by Sean and Inge Griffiths a few years back.)
I am not Irish (but worked in Ireland) and candidly the Mickey-Mouse mock Irish description of dishes irked. You might get away with it with one or two vaguely Irish recipes, such as bangers and mash. (Bass brewery’s O’Neill’s chain of, also phony, Irish boozers in the UK at least serve bangers and colcannon.)
But to give Hibernian labels and claim Emerald Isle provenance for such patently non-Irish favourites as haloumi cheese, calamari, chicken schnitzel and shephard’s (sic) pie is a little wearing.
To me, the more licensed premises, bars and restaurants around the better.
Far too many have become churches in the last few years. I’m unlikely to be a regular at Borrowdale Brooke as it is just too far and that road is far too dangerous, especially at night with youngsters who’ve over-indulged in liquor and drive mummy’s 4WD. A very lethal combination: youth, booze, speed and Zimbo-“maintained” roads.
Indoors, the Brooke pub (at lunchtime) was far too dim and dreary. They had no local beer, draught ale or Irish beer/stout/cider/perry. The gents’ loo was in need of major attention.
On the plus side, it was pleasant sitting on the outside deck overlooking squillion dollar homes, enjoying sunshine. That was until five foul-mouthed, chain-smoking yobbo teens arrived for basket meals.
Windhoek lager was $1,50 a can: fish, chips, pudding, two beers $15.
I hear O’Hagan’s are also moving into Chisipite and Newlands. I can’t see three identical outlets flourishing in our wee city, but they presumably know their business.
(Incidentally I liked O’Neill’s in Aberdeen (9-10, Back Wynd: lovely address, it sounds like an Auld Wives’ complaint!) where I ate Irish beef steak, mushroom and Guinness pie with colcannon and mushy peas but walked out of the Oxford branch, near the bus station, service appalling, music too loud to think.)
Coincidentally, Ian McGlinchey (son of the Donegal Colonel, living in Borrowdale, mentioned above) runs a very successful chain of authentic Irish pub/restaurants in Scandinavia called The Dubliner. Stocks of foodstuffs and drink are flown in from Eire at least thrice weekly.
O’Hagan’s Pub & Grill, Borrowdale Brooke Tel 8602349.Opens lunch and supper daily.

dustym@zimind.co.zw

 

Dusty Miller

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