It must be a total coincidence that the creator of this wonderful buffet lunch, served in the cellars of African Distillers’ headquarters, Stapleford, Mount Hampden, was, later, herself on the podium, named Hospitality Personality of the Year for 2011 at this annual glittering function co-sponsored by our sister paper the Standard.
Blonde, super-confident, caterer, exec chef and events coordinator Amanda Wessels, boss of whimsically named Sophisti-catered, put final touches to the splendid four-course spread, then hopped blushing to the stage to receive her trophy to rapturous applause, from professional peers from across the country.
Then, they hadn’t seen or had a tantalising whiff of a memorable lunch in store. Cheers would have been more rapturous had participants known they could look forward to:
Sushi platters of assorted Californian and Maki rolls showcasing mozzarella and cream cheeses, prawn meat, crab sticks, and smoked salmon served with pickled ginger and wasabi-infused soya sauce. And dainty poached Claremont trout crêpes tied with chives, served with horseradish crème fraiche topping.
Other hors d’ouevres were platters of lemon-marinaded Lake Harvest bream carpaccio topped with olive oil and pink peppercorns, with fresh baguette; tempura-battered Mozambican prawns with sweet chili sauce and a sesame-soy dipping sauce and phylo and Feta parcels drizzled with honey and toasted sesame seeds.
Main course: Cape-Malay pickled hake with a nutty brown and basmati, Ma-Hat-Ma rice salad; Mediterranean huku salad with minted Kefalos yoghurt dressing; platters of sliced seared beef fillet with baby spuds and mustard cream sauce; tomato-and-goats’-cheese tart drizzled with pesto, topped with fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes; mixed garden and Greek salads with Kefalos Feta and olives; garlic bread made with Ladysmith butter.
Memorably good puddings included dainty Clavelshay chesecakes, Dom Pedros made with Cortina ice-cream and Three Ships whisky from Afdis; Blue Mountain mango-and-passion-fruit lollies (sorbets); chocolate and cinnamon puff pastry twists dusted with icing sugar.
Then a grand cheeseboard from major sponsor The Cheeseman, served with crackers and grapes and espresso Vumba coffee with chocolate truffles.
I’ve never seen the Afdis pub so full. It did major business from 11am and was still going strong serving free wines, spirits, beers and cooldrinks at just before 3pm when we left.
Zimbabwe on a Plate Restaurants of the Year Awards 2011
Coffee Shop of the Year: Cocoa Tree, Borrowdale Village.
Deluxe Coffee Shop: Willow Bean, Rolf Valley, Harare; Pub-Restaurant: O’Hagan’s, Borrowdale Village.
Family Restaurant: Leonardo’s, Borrowdale Village. They’ve collected a trophy each year since the competition was launched six years ago.
De-Luxe Family Restaurant of the Year: Jungle Junction, Victoria Falls Hotel.
Speciality Restaurant of the Year: finalists Dehli Palace (recently re-opened after death of chef-proprietor; Greystone Park, Harare); Eve’s Garden, Highlands and The Shop Café, Doon Estate, Msasa.
Winner: Eve’s Garden.
Deluxe Restaurant finalists: Amanzi, Chisipite; The Boma, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge; The Coach House, Nesbitt Castle, Bulawayo; Emmanuel’s (fine dining restaurant at The Bronte in Harare’s Avenues); Inn on Rupurara, Juliasdale; La Fontaine, Meikles Hotel, Harare; The Livingstone Room, Victoria Falls Hotel; Makuwa-Kuwa, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge; The Palm, Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls; Victoria 22, Newlands, Harare.
Winner: The Palm, Ilala Lodge (exec chef Camilla Howes)
Most Imaginative Dining Experience: The Boma, Vic Falls.
Coffee Shop winner: Indaba Book Café, Bulawayo.
Family Restaurant: Peppers (The Chase, Mt Pleasant/Groombridge), Gaby’s (The Avenues, Harare) winner: Peppers
Speciality Restaurant, finalists: The Sitar; Tandoor; The Shop Café; Shangri-La; Miller’s Grill; The Great Wall
Winner: The Shop Café (Doon Estate, Msasa)
Deluxe Family: winner: Millers Café
Most Imaginative Menu in Deluxe category, and overall winner Most Imaginative Menu Award 2011: The Livingstone Room, Victoria Falls Hotel.
Wine List of the Year finalists: Amanzi, Emmanuel’s, La Fontaine, The Livingstone Room, Makuwa-kuwa, Millers Café, Miller’s Grill, O’Hagans, Shangri-la, White Horse Inn.
Winner: La Fontaine, Meikles Hotel
Award of Excellence: Inn on Rupurara
Service Personality of the Year: Phillip James, maitre d’ hotel, Livingstone Room, Victoria Falls Hotel.
Personality of the Year 2011: Amanda Wessels, of Sophisti-catered.
In the pub, I “joked” (many a true word spoken in jest) there should be a category for Most Glamorous, Best Groomed, Chef of the Year.
In 2011, finalists would probably have been Amanda Wessels, (Sophisti-catered); Camilla Howes, The Palms, Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls and Michelle Small, the Shop Café, who totally disprove the theory that most cooks and chefs tend to resemble professional darts players!
Further details of these results will appear in Sunday’s Standard (where I review serial award-winners Leonardo’s); they will publish a lavishly illustrated souvenir supplement shortly.