I forget –– if I ever knew –– the name of the Greek immediate past owner. We met over delightfully chilled articles of a moderately intoxicating nature in the blue@2 private wine bar in Aberdeen Road; he asked my advice on re-branding and marketing this once hugely popular outlet in Nelson Mandela Avenue.
Clearly he didn’t accept it, as selling wasn’t on my suggested options.
But sell he obviously did, because on Monday I met the new owner who, with a name like Tania Efstathopoulos, is clearly also Greek. She told me she’d been in charge about a month, but previously worked at the restaurant around a decade ago.
Mokador was a favorite outlet of mine — and most of the international Press corps—during the war. It was run by fine folk who’d fled immediate post-Independence turmoil and bloodshed in the Belgian Congo (now DRC, formerly Zaire.)
You could find newspaper, TV and radio hacks enjoying blurry late suppers there most nights; return for a heroic fry-up breakfast next day and many of the same guys and gals would be attacking omelettes or bacon and eggs washed down with proper percolated coffee. An added bonus would be an eye-opening glass of fiery rot-gut home-distilled grappa. Later coffee, croissants and continental cake to die for were served in a build up to wine-washed lunches.
Whether always great music played on a state-of-the art sound system was a plus or minus depended on the severity of hangovers expensively acquired in the Quill Club; the Long Bars at Meikles or the Ambassador; the Branch Office or its predecessor, the Blue Room at the Windsor Hotel; “La Bomb”; the Coq d’Or; Le Matelote; Al’s Place (The Night Owl) or scores of other pubs, clubs, bars, night clubs, licensed restaurants, messes and –– let’s face it — middle class shebeens which thrived here.
Mokador will, sadly, never be the same. Famous faces from “the telly” will probably not be stuffed there again; story lines established and agreed, quotes shared, contacts traded and expenses padded in what (to me) was a humour-filled version of “Scoop” the classic Evelyn Waugh comic novel about an African war.
From the 1970s until recently Mokador had hardly changed (except for clientele and prices). It was the same furniture, identical, worryingly cracked, marble stairs or an equally creaky, squeaky vintage lift; unchanging “Rat Pack”-era tunes played as one scanned a dependably stolid, solid, uninspiring and uninspired menu, offering middle of the road favourites.
The menu still hasn’t changed –– much. It’s a little tighter on choice, but dollarisation has seen it growing more affordable to many.
Having said that, there weren’t many punters of any description in the first floor eatery, overlooking an increasingly depressing-looking pot-holed road, which used to be arguably Harare’s major shopping street.
Main view is of the long obsolete, now apparently empty, Baker Avenue Police Station visibly crumbling. Once jolly Rastafarian hues of Zimbabwe’s national flag have turned an almost universal monochrome muddy-grey, dyed by monotonous endless days of traffic fumes and dirty drizzle. Old Shell House, almost next door might just be –– very marginally— slightly less slum-like.
The road below teems with menacing looking street adults “helpfully” finding parking space for hundreds of speeding motorists, most of who aren’t interested in the present shabby, lack-lustre delights of downtown Harare.
As usual, I digress. Mokador has been gutted and is now much airier and lighter. I admit being unsure whether these décor changes are improvements!
I’m conservative, with a small “c” and the former lay-out was like an old, reliable friend.
The cracked-tiled staircase has metamorphosed into a softwood timber structure but the lift still belongs in the World Elevator Museum: Mr Otis’ Hall of Fame!
New theme colours are matte black and bright, vibrant orange: on logos table linen, signage and staff uniforms. It was so effective I couldn’t recognise my waiter in jet trousers and day-glo shirt even after he’d served three courses, two beers and coffee. Hope I tipped the right guy!
Home-made cream of mushroom soup was stupendously good. Full of flavour and piping hot, it came decorated with toasted croutons, accompanied by a bap-sized hot, crispy roll and excellent butter. It cost $3: same as chicken pancake starter or a buck less than chicken livers.
As the menu differentiates T-bone steak ($7) from porterhouse at $6, I assume you can rely on the nyama of choice being served. Pepper fillet is $9, fillet with mustard sauce $8 or mushroom sauce $9; plain fillet is $7 a Desperate Dan-sized looking mixed grill $8, quarter chicken $5, all with chips or rice or sadza and vegetables.
From the so-called “light meals” section I had an almost faultless spaghetti Bolognaise of grand al dente pasta, lean, fat- and gristle-free mince-and-tomato ragu, topped with plenty of Parmesan cheese at $5.
Being a Greek restaurant, next time I visit I must try the moussaka and salads, also $5.
“Fried fish” (of unidentified provenance), hake or calamari were $7 and prawns $12.
Musing over the delicious cakes of yesteryear, I guiltily ordered a rich, creamy slice of chocolate cake AND vanilla ice-cream: $2 separately, $3 as a combo.
Two beautifully chilled local Pilsener lagers were $1 each in sparkling clean glasses, (worth pointing out these days); a pot of instant doesn’t seem to have been charged for.
Bottom line: soup, pasta, pudding, two drinks $13.
Mokador is on the first floor of Michael House at 62, Nelson Mandela Avenue. They open from 9am with a sound breakfast menu to “9 or 10 at night” Monday to Saturday.