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Food and Travel: A very ‘Green’ Bean!

A WELCOME newcomer on the local dining out scene is The Green Bean Coffee House at Richard Rennie Art Gallery and Picture Framing Centre at 7 Downie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare.

Well, it says Alex Park on the menu. Personally I would have thought it in Belgravia, just off what used to be Second Street Extension, now officially Sam Nujoma Avenue.

I have been trying to get there for breakfast, brunch, lunch or just a cup of coffee or smoothie, since they opened three weeks ago, but either I’ve been far too busy or the weather has not been the most inviting for what is essentially an al fresco dining experienced.
This used to be the Café Ilala, which was an exclusively outdoor eating operation, run by Gilles and Karen Perrot, ex-Le Tam-Tam and Rukova Riviera at Borrowdale Brooke; they still have the Mlibizi Hotel at the western end of Lake Kariba.
The Green Bean is now run by the always charmingly attentive Lauren Pyle and there are a few indoor tables in the picture gallery area.
I sat outside on the first sunny weekday lunchtime for weeks, on an unusual day when the heavens didn’t threaten to open as the midday meal was enjoyed.
I am not sure the sun outshone Lauren’s smile or the beam on the faces of satisfied clients who oohed and ahhed with satisfaction as chosen dishes were swiftly delivered by friendly efficient waiters and laptops were set aside for the duration.
Staff seemed happy, contented and proud of their work. Lauren was lucky enough to recruit the extremely competent chef Godfrey Mutawu from the much lamented Urban Bliss eatery, at Golden Stairs Nursery, which unfortunately closed about the time The Green Bean opened.
Lauren and Godfrey say they are serving healthy, locally-sourced often organically produced food which is “Simple but very tasty and as fresh as possible.“
Great “chunky chopped” salads accompany most main courses. There’s a wide variety of strictly vegetarian dishes aimed at weight-conscious ladies who lunch and very popular with members of the diplomatic corps. For guys who graze, some choices are surprisingly substantial.
I had a delightful baguette, which I suspect had been basted with a little garlic and olive oil before being baked to a splendid crispness, then smothered in magnificently tender strips of export quality sirloin steak cooked in a rich, spicy secret basting sauce on a bed of fresh lettuce and tomato. Accompanying this dish was a fine garden salad served in crispy wonton pastry, shaped like a bowl.
The dish was $7 and I struggled to finish it. Other baguettes included the classical favourite BLT at $5, chicken and mayo ($6) and what is apparently the best selling presentation, “Caprice” featuring layers of basil, tomatoes, haloumi and avocado pear at $4.
Breakfasts are priced from $4 to $6 with a full English breakfast or eggs Benedict: poached eggs on crispy hash browns topped with a creamy roast tomato Hollandaise sauce at the top end of the scale, Spanish omelette is $5 and banana pancakes drizzled with syrup and served with crispy bacon $4.
“There’s no deep frying here; chips aren’t served; cream is used sparingly,” says Lauren. A fresh fruit salad is $4 and Greek yoghourt with crushed nuts and garden picked strawberries $3: same price as smoothie of the day.
The Green Bean is one of those new outlets where you regret you can’t sample almost everything on first investigation.
Home-made fish cakes, using Kariba bream and garlic mayonnaise served with a side salad in a wonton bowl was $7 as was a real trencherman’s portion of beef stroganoff with rice and fresh vegetables or Thai beef salad. Other salads were from $4.
Filled baked potatoes, served with a chunky chopped side salad, included chicken tikka, chili con carne and cream cheese and chives at $3-$5.
I finished with a freshly in-house baked apple and cinnamon muffin and butter, decorated with slices of crisp green apple from a Nyanga orchard ($2) and one of the nicest cappuccinos available in Harare at the moment at just $1.
Lauren is in personal charge of the coffee machine. She also offers flat white, long black, espresso, double espresso, macchiato and affogato coffees and teas priced between $1 and $3, with iced coffee at $4. Fresh fruit juices, including naartjie and apple-and-carrot are $3 to $4; milkshakes $3.
The restaurant, set in a verdant, clipped garden, has a strong Wi-Fi signal, popular with lap-toppers. First half hour per visit is free of charge.
Children’s food portions are available: roughly half an adult helping at about 50% of the price. They also offer a takeaway service and handle outside catering.
The Green Bean, 7, Downie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare. Tel 0912336223 E-mail lauren@zol.co.zw. Open 8am-3pm Monday to Saturday for breakfast, brunch, lunch; 3pm-5pm for coffee and cake.


Dusty Miller

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