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Food and Travel: High in the Tree Tops!

FUNNY how things pan out…or sometimes don’t!

Friends set off to have breakfast or brunch at the splendid Theo’s House of Coffees, also known as The Stables and frequently as One67: a character-filled former farmhouse at 167 Enterprise Road, Lewisam, Harare, over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Unfortunately (for our hungry would be punters) it was shut!
I’m sure the Nel family, who run the restaurant/coffee shop, are –– like many others –– entitled to this traditional break but, sadly, when you choose the business of serving the public, it’s not always possible to take the same leave days as them.
When the Nels ran the once magnificent Hot Springs Resort, Chimanimani  –– before it was initially “liberated” very nastily by so-called war vets and subsequently commandeered as a command post for security forces involved (I use the word advisedly!) in the Chiadzwa diamond fields Greek drama, son, Theo and mom Lol, probably never had a Bank Holiday off together (if at all) for decades.
Sure, that’s what the hospitality (and newspaper) lark is all about: working when others have fun.
Someone in the party staring forlornly at Theo’s padlocked gates suddenly recalled good things about Tree Top Adventure Park and the little restaurant there, which has recently re-opened. (It used to be Glass House at Green Park.) So it was up the road a few more clicks to Rumbavu Park…and even more welcome, by then, tantalising, mouth-watering smell and sound of bacon and eggs frying!
They had a splendid time and I was invited to join some members of the group, having a repeat performance on the holiday Tuesday.
As the invite included collection-by-blonde from a very temporary “loc-stat” in Milton Park and chauffeur-driven lift to the wilds of Glen Lorne, I was enthusiastic. Our chief number cruncher here at ZimInd had urged me to try lunch there for weeks; I knew old-pal Alan McSween (ex-Nashua) was involved and there was a tie-up with Boleros Tapas Bar, Chisipite.
We drove past still shut Theo’s, across Harare Drive, heading towards Umwinsidale …or Mutoko…or Shamva…or Mozambique, Malawi or Tanzania come to that!
Tree Top is on Rumbavu Park, which is (or was) a well-known racehorse breeding stables, owned by Chris Peech.  I hear three other hospitality establishments in the area: Imba Matomba, Gecko Gardens (the original “Seasons”) and Highlands Park Hotel all sold for mega-millions to Chinese “investors” in the past few weeks. Who said: “Zimbabwe will never be a colony
Tree Top Restaurant –– appropriately –– is perched high on a well-treed granite gomo, overlooking Gletwyn Dam. A drawback about going off in a strange car is that my dinky, but extremely high-powered, binoculars obviously weren’t in the glove compartment. So a panoply of interesting looking wildfowl in, on, over and around this attractive man-made stretch of water, built in Pioneer days, largely went unidentified.
Other than Wankie and Victoria Falls Safari Lodges and Wild Geese Lodge, it’s been a long time since I ate at a restaurant where much Zimbabwean wildlife can be seen over your neighbour’s shoulder, while eating, drinking or talking.
There was one such place: a little-known outlet called Egas (Eastern Gateways Air Services) Restaurant in Rayden Road, Hogerty Hill some years ago. It later became Thai-Thai (now in Greendale). During its days of supplying Siamese food and exotic Oriental dance, courtesy of joint-owner Whan-Pen, the dam wall “popped” and most birdlife disappeared overnight.
I’m pretty sure Gletwyn Dam has been there since before the Mashona Uprising, (the 3 500 acre farm Glen Lorne, now housing so many of Harare’s most exclusive architect-designed homes, once changed hands for seven blankets and a shot-gun!) so its prolific birdlife should be a feature for many years.
Its obvious other attractions: boating and fishing may well soon be part of the adventure park’s operations. That’s ok, as long as noisy jet-skis aren’t allowed!
The car-park was filled with state-of-the-art pearl-coloured 4WDs and I knew several punters with “horsey” backgrounds. Service was surprisingly slick and smooth, as the place has a decidedly misleading laid-back ambience.
Within five or six minutes we had full traditional breakfasts of two eggs, good sausage, three generously cut first-class bacon rashers, tomatoes, chips, toast and marmalade at US$7 a pop and one “ladies or kids breakfast” which, at US$2 less, allows a choice: bacon or sausage, not both. Candidly this fry-up looked almost as full as the grown-ups’!
We all ordered traditional tea, in individual pots, serving almost three cups apiece with nice biscotti at US$1 each, although “the blonde” tried to change hers from tea to hot chocolate (US$2) only to hear the request was too late. Omelettes are US$6, plain or toasted sandwiches or steak prego rolls US$3.
The restaurant opens from 9am-to 9pm Tuesday to Sunday and a well-stocked and comfortable bar operates 11am to 10pm the same days. (Shut Mondays).
The menu –– like the adventure park itself — is work in progress, but among early stars which leapt from cyclostyled pages were calamari starters at US$4, calamari salad, US$5 and grand calamari steak so rarely found here at US$7. Pasta dishes and crepes were US$5-US$7; sirloin or fillet steak, grilled, with chips or baked and nice looking salad were US$9; beer-battered fish and chips US$8; burgers US$7.
There was a kids’ menu which didn’t sound over-patronising; puddings were US$3, Irish or Kahlua coffees or Dom Pedros US$4
Probably not a permanent feature, but a ZRP road-block 200 metres the city-side of the restaurant was manned by not the brightest specimens of that noble calling. It would be worth checking its status before accepting the infamous “ABF” in the cosy timber bar!
Telephone 0914 449 041; treetop@gmail.com



Dusty Miller

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