Eating out with Dusty Miller:Splendid La Serenata

As a result of that write-up, a keen reader took a lunch party for the outlet’s highly esteemed Sunday roast carvery-buffet and came back to me bubbling with enthusiasm over the culinary experience enjoyed.

The reportedly very popular routine Sunday roast comprises two courses: served starter and help-yourself/eat-as-much-as-you-can mains in a US$20 package and I approached the owner, vivacious Lauren Pyle, to see if they’d mind expanding that to a three-course deal, served on a Friday for the Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society.

“No problem”, was the swift reply from Lauren, who readers may recall from her days running La Serenata’s predecessor, Season’s. After that she owned Green Bean Coffee Shop at the former Richard Rennie Art Gallery at Belgravia (now a bank). I think I first met her at Mahobohobo, Umwinsidale, (where, coincidentally, she’s doing the catering tomorrow for Zambian-based pilot Kendal Ballantyne’s wedding).

At one stage she was a partner in the former St Zita’s at Borrowdale Village and I also recall her working enthusiastically for gotovictoriafalls.com.

I got to La Serenata earlier than I would normally for lunch as I wanted to check out the stunning Wechi Art Gallery and framing centre above the opulently appointed eatery and check on the progress of the lush sculptured landscaped gardens which have bloomed on what was a building/demolition site a few months ago.

After the grand tour I was first at a plush bar to sample a chilled article of a moderately intoxicating nature, before “the boys” began arriving in dribs and drabs. As it was Friday the 13th, I’d planned for us to begin the meal at precisely 13:13, but we were carried away in the boozer with matters of state! It was 13:30 before I noticed the time.

Lauren wanted to serve us in the magnificent garden by a tinkling waterfall feeding an attractive ornamental fish and lily pond, but the late summer weather was treacherous and our table had been switched to an indoor one:  thick linen table cloths, heavy imported cutlery, sparkling crockery and cutlery.

First course was an impressive herb-rich, home-made, dense, velvety cream of cauliflower soup with smoked-salmon on crouton floating in the centre. With still-warm dinky home-baked bread rolls and slightly salted butter, the various flavours came together in a celebration of good taste!

I’m a self-confessed soupaholic, some of our members less so, but all oohed and aahed about this concoction, which was a credit to executive chef Shane Ellis (locally-born, ex-Miller’s Café and Meikles La Fontaine.) It was only when Shane popped up behind the bar for a second that three of us instantly noticed how much he resembles (physically: not the fruity barrack room language) a young Gordon Ramsay.

A la carte starters include gypsy spits (bacon wrapped around button mushrooms or spice lamb kofta (meat balls) with minted Greek yoghurt, both at US$9; queen prawns stuffed with duxelle mushrooms at US$10; pepper-crusted beef carpaccio served with horseradish and caper cream, parmesan and rocket at US$8; grape, feta and pecan nuts salad, US$7, and vegetarian lasagna with ricotta cheese and herbed cherry tomatoes (US$8).

On a Sunday two joints of meat (perm any pair from beef, pork, lamb, chicken) are available sliced to your taste, but I’d asked the restaurant to concentrate on my favourite: lamb for our specially organised function.

And, by golly, did they spoil us? I saw three biggish (for lamb) roast legs spitting in their own delicious fat in roasting tins under heaters at the carvery table and Shane and his helpers carved slices as requested: thick, medium or thin, from rather well done to pink and rare; totally lean or with a grand ruff of crisp, crunchy fat.

There was a nice Greek-style salad available before or with the hot food, which came with a more-ishly pungent dressing.

Lamb was accompanied by excellent crisp-on-the-outside-fluffy-floury-within roast spuds, basmati rice into which vegetables were folded, separate roasted veg (and the almost inevitable pumpkin!) grand, meaty, gravy and a hot mint sauce with which I filled my individual tartlet-sized light-as-air Yorkshire puddings.

(Forget about having Yorkshire puds only with roast beef. I’m originally from Yorkshire; we have them with almost anything!)

Sweets aren’t served with the US$20 Sunday special, but our US$25 deal included an individual apple crumble with butterscotch cream tartlet alongside a splendidly rich, moist slice of chocolate truffle cake on a plate prettified with a smear of raspberry coulis.

On my previous visit I thoroughly enjoyed cheese platter comprising Gorgonzola, Brie, Camembert and local hard cheeses, wafers, grapes, and fig-confit at US$9.

The restaurant opens daily at 7:30am for breakfast, and then serves through lunch and supper until last orders at 9:30pm. In addition to the a la carte lunch and supper menu there’s a pub lunch and light meals menu served in one of the two well-stocked bars or the garden.

Eating is indoors or out (no smoking in indoor dining rooms, but it’s permitted at the bar); child/handicapped friendly. Safe guarded parking on-site and off Enterprise Road at busy times.

Fully licensed; corkage US$3. Private function rooms and space for garden weddings, etc. They also do outside catering.
Dusty Miller rating (after consulting fellow members GGF&WAS): five stars at April 2012.
 La Serenata, 147, Enterprise Rd, Highlands, Harare. Tel 497874/0772 336 223

dustym@zimind.co.zw

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