I HAD little time for a light mid-day snack on Tuesday, due to pressure of deadlines.
Rainbow Towers Hotel and Conference Centre is five minutes’ walk from the office and sometimes it’s much quicker to go there on foot.
But rain threatened, so I drove. It took four minutes!
I wasn’t (then) aware the hotel’s flagship grill room, Komba Hari, had re-opened.
It shut ostensibly for the “whole of February” for major refurbishment, but hadn’t re-opened at the end of March. Discreet enquiries proved it was back in business on April 7.
That was a “soft opening”. Presumably the opposite is a “hard opening”, to which local restaurant reviewers will be invited, but that’s some time off.
I had neither time, nor appetite, for the gastronomic assault course which is The Harvest Garden buffet: but it looked attractive.
I used to write a column called The View from the Gazebo –– lampooning local politics and politicians –– allegedly drafted in the then Sheraton Hotel’s cosmopolitan ground floor Gazebo Bar.
Oddly enough, I scarcely set foot in The Gazebo in those days; I don’t go there all that often now.
But when you’re in a rush, a prosaically-named toasted sandwich which, with chips and a substantial salad garnish is, realistically, a light meal, served swiftly and pleasantly is often just the ticket.
Checking my notes for my last visit –– a quick light supper six weeks ago –– I see: “One person chain smoking cheap, nasty cigarettes spoiled the atmosphere and experience”. There are ashtrays on all tables but no one smoked anything on Tuesday.
Smoking doesn’t usually worry me, having quit buying 60 a day when they suddenly soared here from $2,80 to $3,50 a packet of 20. When I’m in Britain, I’m very glad I stopped. Apart from costing up to seven pounds a packet (nearly US$11) smokers are treated as social outcasts.
It is still a cultural shock to return from the UK, US, RSA, KSA (got you there…Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!) or almost anywhere in the world and find our pubs, clubs and eateries wreathed in smoke as if it were 1966 and no one had heard of lung cancer!
The Gazebo itself, the attached cocktail bar and adjoining Patisserie were fairly quiet but the hotel pumped as scores, if not hundreds, of delegates battled to register for various talkfests.
So it took more than 10 minutes to be served with a toasted bacon and egg sandwich. My choice when –– at the same price ($7) –– a much nicer sounding smoked salmon and cheese toastie was “off”.
Other $7 sarnies are cheese and tomato, traditional chicken mayonnaise, club sandwiches and vegetarian sandwiches.
They are usually accompanied by conventional deep-fried chips (dryer baked chips, “game chips” or home-made potato crisps would be a happier choice) but on Tuesday the main attraction came with initially off-puttingly greasy sautéed potatoes. However, I was famished; hunger is absolutely the best sauce; they tasted fine!
Other light meals are green salad ($4) and char-grilled chicken salad or Mediterranean salad with tuna at an attractive $6. Burgers (beef, chicken or cheese) are $11; steak, or fish, of the day $16.
Breakfast all day is something always sensible to order in Britain or the former British Empire. At The Gazebo it’s priced at $14. I assume this is just the one-plate typical Pommie fry-up?
If so the Harvest Garden “full Monty” of fruit cereals, porridge, fruit juice, cold meats, cheeses, lashings of tea or coffee, toast, spreads –– in addition to the traditional fry-up ––is much better value, but stops at 10am.
The Patisserie –– over the years –– has been headed by some excellent professional pastry chefs brought in from Austria, Switzerland and Germany, where pastries and gooey cream cakes are (rightly) taken extremely seriously.
They offer a tower snack plate at $6, croissants, muffins and scones at $3. The trade-mark Bavarian Black forest gateaux is $4, the same price as cappuccino, café latte or hot chocolate.
These prices would be seriously high anywhere in the world –– with the possible exception of The Vumba –– where a coffee or tea at Toni’s (granted it’s “bottomless”) and a slice of world-class cream or chocolate cake will set you back –– wait for it –– a stratospheric US$15.
Other than delightfully chilled Pilsener lagers, tea is my favourite tipple and I grow very vexed when I see what people charge for “the cup that cheers, but doth not inebriate” worldwide.
At The Gazebo, it’s $2. Dreadful British high street coffee shops such as Starbucks, Coffee Costa and Coffee Republic hit you almost two pounds (for a mug, not a pot).
Dearest component of an infusion of tea is usually the tea bag, which costs around US5c/5 UK new pence in the next door supermarket!
People on the move at Rainbow Towers include new food and beverage manager Nomsa Dzambo, whom I last met at Rainbow Victoria Falls. (Her predecessor, Hugh, is extending his training in the UK.) Also ex RVF (via Cresta Hotels) is her under-strapper, Audrey Moyo. Nyasha (he’s a guy!) Muza is the always helpful (always present!) deputy general manager (rooms).