It’s at Q4, Upton Road, Ardbennie, Harare, (off Simon Mazarodze.) Sorry, can’t give you locstat coordinates, as I don’t own a GPS; it’s near Cairns Foods, close to old Jaggers, abutting Fonzie’s Engineering.
The twee-sounding Portuguese-style restaurant is nothing to do with Tinker Bell, the hard-grafting pot-and-pan mending fairy in JM Barrie’s play and novel, Peter Pan, nor the lovable Walt Disney depiction of allegedly the same character in the 1953 cartoon.
“Tinka” was the nickname of the late grand-mother of Jasmine Fonseca, who owns and runs the restaurant along with husband Rui (who’s also boss at neighbouring Fonzie’s) and a talented team. Jasmine dedicated her sparkling two-year-old fully licensed eatery to the memory of Ouma Tinka Noyce.
Jasmine’s sister, Shereen Arab, says the girls learned to cook at their mother’s and grandmother’s knees and judging by my meal last Friday, they were taught well.
At the closing of much loved Spook House, Msasa (to make way for a truckers’ inn and takeaway) I was invited to try Tinkabell by Mike Dane, an accomplished artist and art teacher who heads Danes Design in Msasa.
He is also a leading light in zanily-named FoCInc (Festival of Cholesterol Incorporated), a men-only dining club which concentrates on sampling and scientifically evaluating Portuguese-style piri-piri chicken and chips! Chete!
They meet monthly. Club rules forbid them sampling starters, eating salad, veg or pudding. Score sheets relate to quality and quantity of the celebrated huku: flavour, moisture tenderness, juiciness, physical heat when served, crispness of skin, standard of cooking of chips and whether additional fries are available on request; range of condiments; accompanying bread: freshness, whether served with butter or marge… and coldness of the beer, coupled with availability of various brands!
I’m not a member, nor have I attended one of their gatherings — yet! Mike collected me at the office (10 minutes late, parking by commuter drivers in The Kopje is abysmal and anarchic) in a Land-Rover. Also aboard were his bubbly wife, Tina, and film producer-director (and another gifted artist) “Spud” Murphy.
The restaurant is an eye-opener. The sort of well planned, laid-out and built Colonial style bungalow you’d see in more pleasant leafy northern suburbs, surrounded by verdant garden.
There’s a tinkling fountain to aid the “oasis” scenario; a former family swimming pool is now a wildfowl area inhabited by ducks and geese. There’s a small group of conventional guinea-fowl quartering grassy areas for bugs and a lonely albino specimen. As we slurped post-prandial refreshments of a mildly intoxicating nature, a hamerkop appeared from nowhere, dive-bombing Stuka-like into the pool. And this is in a skanky industrial area?
There’s a children’s playground and they are hugely welcome, especially on Saturday, family day, with live entertainment.
Mike and Tina (no, not Ike and Tina Turner!) ordered Jazzy J Giblets I gather they’ve eaten many times (US$5) as a starter. I speared one; scrumptious: cooked precisely with a tantalising, spicy flavour. My starter was (sorry about fairy story names!) Peter Pan’s Delight: a delightfully, deliciously different take on often bog-standard crumbed mushrooms, done with strips of bacon at US$6. Ocean’s Heaven is a smoked salmon and shrimp cocktail at US$8.
At this stage, we were joined by Tony Smith, who turned out to be my relative by marriage. I hadn’t seen him for 30-odd years and in three decades, much of it spent in the UK, Iraq and other Middle Eastern hot spots he’d changed much!
He phoned ahead ordering, humorously, “half-a-case of chilled Castle Light!” and same main course as the Danes: Galinha and Sea (half a piri-piri chicken in combo with queen prawns, chips and salads at US$20. Huge, well cooked portions, Tina took home half of hers in a doggy bag. Straight p-p chicken and chips are US$11.
“Spud” chose grand Greek salad at US$8 and succulent chicken breast burger with crispy, golden chips at the same price. He cleared both platters; we all attacked great soft-crumbed crusty continental style bread and butter with gusto, Tina and I sprinkling ours with generous quantities of sea-salt: something to have PC neighbouring tables tut-tutting in a nanny state like Britain!
I was severely tempted by lovely slowly braised oxtail with rice at US$15 but asked for King’s Choice: grilled kingklip topped with shrimps, chips and salad (US$20.) Sadly this was “off”, but I was talked into Mermaid’s Lunch (rousing chorus of Yellow Submarine) at US$23: a large piece of wonderful, citrus-flavoured, grilled Norwegian salmon with quartered jacketed boiled potatoes, honey-mustard sauce and salad. I relished every morsel. Instead of being in Ardbennie, I could have been in a sound seafood joint in Aberdeen, Arbroath… or Abu Dhabi!
None of us fancied pudding (unusual for me)… all US$5 each, each looking like a still-life work of art: a shame to eat; a crime not to. It’s only now, scanning a copy of the carte, I noticed they do cheese board at US$7.
Had I seen that last Friday, I may well have suggested we share a platter, nibbling it with my Golden Pilsener, Tony’s Castle Light and the Danes’ Amstels… all professionally chilled and served in frosted glasses.
Winner of the inaugural FoCInc floating trophy for 2011 (a Nancy-ish looking, bra-wearing, jongwe, sculpted by Mike) for serving the absolute finest piri-piri huku in Harare (to be extended to the country for the 2012 judging season), Tinkabell opens for breakfast at 7am until 5pm weekdays; 9am-6pm Saturday.
Booking is usually vital. Phone 661697 or 664745. Cells 0774 532 184/ 0777 109 102.
By Dusty Miller