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Food and Travel: Vanilla Moon: worth searching for!

I HAD heard exclusively good things about yet another relative newcomer to the Harare eating out scene:  Vanilla Moon, but there was no sign of it where I was told it was!

Several “deep throats” from my formidable militia of contacts said it was in the street first left off Upper East Road, which is Leman. From their description I put it in The Green House, which I knew as formerly being “home” to a PR outfit we haven’t heard from for some time.

Initial reconnaissance found no restaurant, tea/coffee shop or bar in Leman. I could have cast for spoor, trying increasing circles until finding the place, but it was a Friday; with a full afternoon diary; I was hungry; the conventional lunch hour ticked on.

Taking the wrong turning for Mojo’s, a new Brazilian steakhouse in East Road itself (reviewed in the Standard), I parked at Gaby’s, Mazowe Street Travel Plaza, written about, here, two weeks ago.
Back to the area roughly where Alexandra (Queen-Consort of Edward VII) Park abuts Mount Pleasant and Belgravia (is this Africa?) and one road up. A more reliable snout had identified the correct location as Seagrave Road.

No word about Vanilla Moon or eateries on non-existent signage, but about a thousand squillion dollars’ worth of pearl-hued 4WDs — many with Corps Diplomatique plates — were parked higgledy-piggledy outside the tall walls of a suburban former Colonial-style rambling detached home. Few of these off-road vehicles will ever negotiate a flooded donga or a patch of treacherous quicksand, but they are now de-rigueur with mainly Borrowdale-based ladies who lunch languidly.

Confusingly, a huge poster on the wall advertises a Festival of Life with Dr Joyce Meyer and a reportedly Australian gospel warbler with a name almost as unpronounceable as the Icelandic volcano. Obviously Darlene Zschech’s great-great grandparents didn’t go “Down Under” as guests of His or Her Majesty for nicking a stale loaf!
I enter warily. It is quite possible the sundry owners of the all-terrain wheels are all involved with Mesdames Meyer and Zschech who offer three days to change my life. I must live, laugh and learn, they say.
I do that most days, anyway, without the help of Meyer, a formidable, strident, tele-evangelist, who had me reaching instantly for the “off” button in the days when I had a telly!
Between two (presumably separate) burglars, Zesa power surges and the mother of my children, I have “lost” five TVs in as many years and have little intention of buying a sixth to watch DStv repeats or, even worse, Dead Bee Cee. (Zesa-permitting!)

Garden restaurant tables are packed, as is a shaded verandah and the indoor dining area. Clearly the proprietors are pressing right buttons. It is warm enough for shirt sleeves outdoors in full sun, light jersey weather on the stoep, but thick fleeces indoors.

Waiting for a table, I mooch around. There’s a beauty parlour, masseuse and hairdressing salon working in tandem with a restaurant which, at first sight, offers mainly “girly” items like main course salads, paninis, croissants, wraps, smoothies, fruit dishes and decadent looking cream and chocolate cakes.

Clearly child-friendly, there’s a small library of Bible literature aimed at toddlers to teens. It reminds me for all the world of the Sunday school at my daughter’s local parish church: All Saints, Faringdon, in rural Oxfordshire. In the picturesque Vale of the White Horse –– which is in the foothills of the spectacular Cotswolds — there is rarely a spare seat or pew at family worship.

I spot two items aimed at guys who graze: beef burgers, which are never high on my personal list of “must tries” and steak-and-mushroom pie (on the blackboard).  On a menu, it’s revised to “open fillet steak and mushroom pie”.  To me, “open” and “pie” sound oxymoronic. A pie, by its very definition, is surely sealed?

I forgive them any contentious menu descriptions.  Nyama was melt-in-the-mouth export quality grass-fed fillet, well hung and cooked exactly as ordered (medium-rare). It was smothered in a rich, creamy mushroom-filled sauce and served on what (I suppose) was a plain pizza dough base. With piquant tomato salsa and salad garnish, at $9, it was worth every cent.

There is a wide range of coffee and tea ($1-$3), but I went for a creamy hot chocolate, sweet enough without extra sugar at $2. Actually I had two! One with a granule or two of sugar, the second without, accompanying a generous slice of delicious warm apple crumble, jam-packed with the eponymous fruit, cloves and currants, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. I think it was $3. Checking the bill as I write, five days later, it is only for “pie” and two drinks: $13.

I waited five days, as I was trying to get time to return. Camera memory ended after three or four frames and I should remedy a lack of images.

Opened in August by sisters Kim Greenwood (ex-one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious eateries) and Sue Austen, they trade Monday to Saturday from 7.45am until 5.30 or 6pm, depending on how late punters stay. There is a concert on the lawns on the last Sunday of each month.
Unlicensed to sell grog, it is BYOB, with no corkage.

Vanilla Moon, 8, Seagrave Road, Mount Pleasant. Tel 333394/0912 754172


Dusty Miller


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