Rafiki is Swahili for “friend” and also the moniker of the blue-bummed mandrill in the Lion King Disney film.
Rafiki’s is also a newish coffee shop and takeaway next to (and owned by) the Colcom Shop, in Coventry Road, Workington.
It is a pleasing five-minute drive from my office: if the robots on Rotten Row work (at all) and preferably operate smoothly (a very big if!) I’m sure the traffic lights dotted around the capital are synchronised against the motorist! Imagine how much fuel and US dollars could be saved if they worked in our favour!
I recall when you could engage top gear at Coro Park and not drop below third all the way to Lake Chivero; not delayed at one robot, if you drove properly. Now, whether you have a Ferrari and drive a la Jenson Button or an elderly, eructating, Morris 1000 motoring like an anal-retentive, half-blind, octogenarian non-conformist minister, you’ll not get through two successive sets of lights without braking (and fuming!)
But, as usual, I digress! Rafiki’s has a fairly predictable no fuss, no frill, value for money menu. It will never be a destination restaurant… and doesn’t want to be. There are no surprises, but then I don’t really want surprising at lunch: I want food!
The menu’s not as strong in pork products as I would have anticipated. If I owned Colcom and a restaurant abutting it, it would pay homage to dead pigdom!
Pork roast and apple sauce would be a daily special, pork chops, cutlets and steaks, piggy-strong mixed grills, “pig on toast” (deconstructed pig’s trotter on crouton), crispy pig’s ear, braised pig’s cheek, brawn salads, black pudding, pork scratchings, pork dripping on hot toast with sea salt, “proper” pork pies, like the “Country” brand Colcom used to make. Whatever happened to grilled gammon steak, with the obligatory warm juicy pineapple?
But you can’t go wrong with breakfast all day. Rafiki’s version: three bacon rashers, three chipolata (pork) sausages or a beef link, baked beans, grilled tomato, two well cooked eggs, two slices of thick toast and tea or coffee at US$6 Monday-to-Friday and a giveaway US$5 on Saturday really does the business.
There are five full Monty, heart-stopping, artery-clogging greasefests listed, plus a health breakfast and cheese-and-bacon croissants.
An attractive fry-up was cooked in exemplary style. I briefly mulled ordering a side of chips (US$1 small, US$1, 50 regular, US$2 large) to bulk it out further, but there was sufficient. And enough is as good as a feast, as my gran used to say.
I had a pleasant chilled apple juice with lunch/brunch and a flavoursome steaming hot cappuccino afterwards.
Effervescent Elena Gonye, an elegant Russian Colcom marketing lady with the poise, grace, looks (and height) of a Bolshoi ballerina, had shown me round the Colcom shop, which was pumping, tills glowing as cash teemed in.
The previous time I was there was at the height of hyperinflation and shortages, when punters almost came to blows over the last pound of polony left. Now it’s wall-to-wall protein, plus fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy produce, etc.
There were a good many bargain specials offered, making a periodical trip to Workington worthwhile for the family shopper, a must for hotelier or restaurateur. Hypochondriac friends tell me the pharmacy there has everything they feel they need, at competitive prices, while other portly pals, having pigged out perilously on porcine protein, puff and pant it off at the gym upstairs
It looks a battle to park, but I found a safe spot quickly as shoppers soon move on: even having lunched, brunched, sipped coffee or just filled their car boots with comestibles.
Attractive manageress Elaine Pearce joined me at an indoor table while crowds thronged a selection area, ordering takeaway meals, sandwiches, toasties, subs, burgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks.
She had a toastie: cheese, bacon and tomato, while we discussed the relative merits of notoriously unreliable catering trade suppliers. She said the folk flogging fresh veg and salad ingredients were very inconsistent. I had heard that before!
Rafiki’s offer Greek, chicken, tuna or crispy bacon salad “mains” at US$4; green salad as an option to chips.
But back to Homer Simpson/Desperate Dan-type graze: pie and gravy of the day is US$2, with chips US$3; burger or cheeseburger US$5, cheese-and-bacon burger US$6, each a dollar more with chips.
Elaine is a Matabeleland lass, from Nyamandhlovu. She first worked in catering and hospitality in safari lodges there, but took herself off to Scotland, earned a diploma in her chosen field and worked 10 demanding years in rural hotels in some of the prettiest parts of that rugged landscape.
She said Rafiki’s trademark dishes were the quarter chicken and chips or salad with a drink at US$5 or regular pork ribs and chips at US$8, large US$10. There’s a blackboard special daily each day at US$5, including a drink.
On Thursday it was chicken curry and rice, which looked and smelled good and clearly sold extremely well, to inside and outdoor diners and takeaway clients.
They had done a major outside catering job the night before. Restaurant hours are Monday 10.30am-4pm; Tuesday-Friday 9am-4pm; Saturday 8.30am-1pm.
Rafiki’s 1-3, Coventry Rd, Workington, Harare. Tel 751051-to-9. Mobile 0913 363 960.