I WAS sitting in the lovely sun-blessed –– on a cloudless, steaming hot day –– pristine, verdant, gardens at the new, very swish Mojo’s Restaurant at East Road, almost mesmerised by the pleasant, soporific sound of a tinkling Victorian style fountain, when suddenly the water feature, gargled, burped, eructated and stopped.
Yet another Zesa power cut. Thank goodness God is still in charge of the weather and nature, I thought, as a purple crested lourie flew past. It was about the 20th different species of colourful birdlife I’d witnessed in as many minutes, along with several different types of butterfly.
Imagine if Zanu PF were in charge of the elements?
There would be no sunshine to enjoy as butterflies fluttered by or birds did their colourful courting. Probably the Weather minister would have stolen the sun…or we’d have to pay for it, at extortionate rates, by the second! The rains would fail. Green gardens would soon be brown. Rich soil would turn to barren sand! Thank you, God!
I was a Mojo’s twice in five days. Last Thursday was the “official” opening cocktail party for a new, permanent luxurious marquee, erected by Rooney’s in the splendid, manicured, sculptured gardens. I said “official” in quotes, as it was very laid-back unofficial: just 100 or so of the owners’ friends, foodie journalists, the diplomatic corps and other folks of the type who regularly hold receptions for 200-250, which the tent can accommodate.
There were no boring speeches, guests-of-honour, masters of ceremony, programmes or any other bull dust. Owners Julie Webb (ex-Imba Matomba, Gecko Gardens, Leopard Rock, etc: a Centenary tobacco farmer’s daughter) and Mohammed Samy, (last general manager of the Harare Sheraton and a veteran of that chain’s up-market hotels around the world), greeted each guest. Drink flowed like Harare mains water used to, before power cuts, snacks were world class and saxophonist Tony Vaz entertained for hours.
The party was so good that, feeling full of bonhomie, I diverted slightly en route home for an “ABF” nightcap in one of my clubs to find it locked and dark (for the previous hour!) Honestly. Zimbos have no stamina nowadays!
On Thursday, I learned that, after trading since late April, they’d just started opening for breakfast and light meals, in the rear garden, in addition to the enormous nyama-rich Brazilian-style barbecues served in the shady front garden, on the stoep and even –– I’m assured (I’ve never actually seen it) –– indoors!
Al fresco dining (where possible) –– is the in-scene in Harare on these breathless Suicide Month days, and Mojo’s has al fresco for Africa!
Due to the exigencies of the service, breakfast is difficult for me these days, but I rocked up for brunch at about 11:40 on Monday.
“Can I get you your usual, sir?” I was asked. Intrigued, I asked: “What’s my usual?”
“Why, a Pilsener of course!”
“Certainly not, old chap. It isn’t even noon. I haven’t eaten yet! Tea will be just fine.”
I had to identify my choice of chai (Tanganda): there are four different types, five coffees, seven fruit juices, five frappes and hot drinks, smoothies and goodness knows what else to drink.
Decision time! Did I have a light meal: like soup of the day with Brazilian cheese bread (US$5), char-grilled calamari with chili and mint at US$10 or a seafood crepe with whitefish and shrimp at the same price or savoury chicken with peppers in a cream sauce (US$8) for instance; or one of a wide range of healthy and tasty sounding salads at US$7. Or did I go for the breakfast menu?
You can’t beat breakfast anywhere in the former British Empire. The “Full Monty” fry-up of poached, fried or scrambled eggs with bacon, beef banger (I prefer pork), grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed chorizo, toast, butter and marmalade is US$10, but sounded a bit challenging in that heat.
After that I was spoiled for choice! Crispy potato and herb cakes with smoked salmon at US$7 was the next dish my eyes focused on.
Mohammed joined me, ordering mineral water. (He doesn’t take Islam too seriously and usually
has something fairly strong, brown and distilled in Scotland with his agua-minerale …or the odd Heineken.
“We’re trying to keep this simple, swift and affordable,” he said. And succeeding! Cherry granola French toast at US$7 should be good for roughage, as would be breakfast sundae of home-made crunchy muesli, Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit drizzled in honey at US$8.
I ordered Mojo’s take on eggs Benedict. The classical New York dish calls for ham or bacon on half a toasted, buttered English muffin with poached eggs on top, slathered in a Hollandaise sauce. Julie Webb’s uses potato rosti, from Mitteleuropa, instead of the Pommie muffin and bacon or smoked salmon under perfectly poached eggs.
I went for the smoked salmon option. Whole-wheat toast, Lurpak Danish butter and a fine, fruit strawberry jam ended a superb late morning meal in magnificent surroundings at US$7.
About to order a second pot of tea, the waiter asked “Are you sure you don’t want your usual, Mr Miller?”
“What…a Pilsener? Well, go on then…it is 12.12… and SOOOOO very hot! Why the hell not?”
Mojo’s, 12, East Road, Avondale. Open breakfast, light meals, Brazilian-style barbecued lunches and suppers Monday-to-Saturday. Tel 705993; 761639.