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Food and Travel: Wild About Wild Cherry

PARDON the cliché, but it is amazing how time flies…. especially when you have as much fun as we do in Ha-ha-ha-hare.

If you’d asked me how long Wild Cherry had operated I’d have said “Two or three years” and, as it happens, I’d have been right.
Don’t (implicitly) trust search engines. Googling something completely different, I spotted one of my reviews of Wild Cherry in the ZimInd, clearly dated Friday July 2, 2004, which says it had been trading “about six months”.
So Wild Cherry first blossomed nearly seven years ago, eh?
Impossible, especially as it opened to fill a gap left after the then management team’s highly revered Serendipity Restaurant at Emerald Hill shut.
This clearly wasn’t right. In 2004 I wasn’t reviewing for ZimInd, only its sister paper The Standard. On checking my records, the crit appeared September 14, 2007: thus the eatery sprang into life around April of that year. So I was right!
On Thursday I was in the mood for a substantial, but not gargantuan, lunch, which must be quick (it was deadline day) at an eatery near the office (same reason). As rain threatened menacingly (naturally: it was Bonfire Night!) the outlet shouldn’t be totally al fresco.
Other than being un-licensed (to serve alcohol) Wild Cherry fit the bill. It’s three minutes’ drive from work. Eating is indoors or out.
Rowland Square now has three restaurants, all in converted former colonial-style homes.
The last time I went to China Garden, it literally reeked of what two of us were convinced was putrefaction: a horrible throat-gripping, eye-watering miasma the owners tried to mask with blasts of cheap air-freshener and by burning joss-sticks and incense; measures which did not work.
The third outlet has opened recently. It seems to have no name: just a logo which defeats me, it could be a snail’s head? Planning to investigate it for a column I called at dusk one day; it sounded like a bear garden… or a beer garden.
Wild Cherry should maybe be called Tame Cherry or Domesticated Cherry? It’s very sedate; beloved by ladies who lunch and guys who graze.
Unspectacular, but solid, middle-of-the-road, sound value grub from a (sensibly) limited menu is served swiftly and smilingly, by professional waiters. 
The food will probably never win a Michelin star, but it won’t put you in hospital attached to a stomach pump. Regulars, including many diplomats, speak in polite hushed tones, they don’t scream.
From blackboard menu specials, I chose roast lamb, as opposed to the other option Bombay chicken curry (both US$8).
An honest meat-gravy-spuds-and-two-veg presentation, it wasn’t sensational, but exactly the sort of fare my mother, mother-in-law, grandmother or the mother-of-my-children would serve.
I’ve eaten countless meals like it in staff canteens and British pubs and transport cafes. Change the lamb to veal and it’s the sort of graze served in the original French lorry drivers’ wonderful Les Routieres bars, cafés and restaurants.
Mine was washed down with an iced coke: in France a carafe of drinkable local wine would have graced the gingham tablecloth.
It was a generous portion of a lamb, if not quite in the first bloom of wide-eyed gambolling youth, certainly not a muttony, toothless old Ouma, ready for pensioning off after a lifetime of annual shearing.
It came with a sizeable helping of very more-ish saffron-hued potato wedges and al dente julienne sticks of carrot and courgette, adding colour, taste and texture to a plate which was — most satisfactorily — delivered piping hot, helping to keep the food in a similar state.
Mint sauce could have profited from a bit more of that delightful aromatic herb in its makeup, or a tad less vinegar (or both), but at least it was available promptly.
Ignoring blackboard items, breakfast all day is served (omelettes $6, standard $6, full English $7 and “vegetarian”: two sweetcorn fritters, egg, avocado, tomatoes, onions, baked beans, fried banana, also $6.)
Toasted sandwiches had been recently reduced from $6 to $4, meaning either punters moaned, or management keep watch on the opposition. Either way I approve.
Salad or pasta of the day (the former looking elegantly superb) were $7, same price as chicken or steak rolls with wedges or chips, salads and mushroom or garlic sauce, also chicken nuggets or beef burger with chips/salad.
There didn’t seem to be the lovely warm atmosphere I once sensed at Wild Cherry, but it has changed hands several times. Other than the restaurant, there are several small firms housed in the duplex, including a hairdresser and masseur.
I enjoyed homemade individual apple tart, fruit-packed and again piping hot, steam rising from its slathered-in-cream crumbly crust.
A splendid (and large) cappuccino ended this pleasant meal. Roll and Irish butter, roast mains, pudding, cola and coffee cost $13; I was back at my desk 63 minutes after leaving.
Wild Cherry, 1, Rowland Square, Milton Park. Tel: 761038, 011600380. Open Mon-to-Fri 8am-4pm; Sat 8-noon.
Lamb, spit-roast and barbecued half lambs were also the piece-de-resistance at a colourful Algerian National Day reception at the Ambassador’s home in Avondale on Tuesday.
Sadly it was also a farewell thrash for His Excellency and lady consort, returning to Algiers after five years here. I look forward to meeting their successors.
As in most North African and Middle East states, cakes are a vital part of any repast and those displayed at the Algerians’ were as scrumptious as they were attractive.
When Iraq had an embassy here, their party was one to be much looked forward to each year: guys who really knew how to enjoy themselves.
Iranians serve Mazoe orange and dole out copies of the Thoughts of the Ayatollah at their rather dull, serious “knees-ups”!
Algerians, also Muslims but far less orthodox, served their own nation’s not-to-be-sneered at wine, Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey, Russian vodka, London gin, American bourbon, Spanish sherry, Swiss brandy, German schnapps and (lots of) local lager.



Dusty Miller

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