Eating out with Dusty:Adrienne’s earns the asterisks!

Dusty Miller

I BEGAN marking, with asterisks, the various dishes at Adrienne’s Restaurant I’ve enjoyed over many years of eating there and can personally recommend — and there were far more items with little stars than without!I’m not sure why the dreaded inflation is again beginning to seriously bite and negatively affect the cost of dining and drinking out in Zimbabwe — more so Harare, but it definitely is.
Possibly because essentially the least that any item can increase in cost is 50c and more likely US$1, as we have no small change in retail outlets in the capital?
So it was good to see Adrienne’s (the “conservatory” or “greenhouse” restaurant at Belgravia), helping fight inflation with a set price US$13 three course lunch menu.
US$13 is about £8,50 and I doubt if I’ll be able to eat as well — other than perhaps in the wonderful Wetherspoon Pub chain — at that price when I’m in Britain in a few days time. (Especially as the Olympics will be on and everyone will be trying to ‘fill their boots’: opportunism personified, I don’t doubt!
I’d have preferred it if Adrienne’s soup-of-the-day in this attractively priced package, the other Wednesday lunch, had been their really exemplary minestrone, or a rich cream of mushroom, which isn’t too shabby either.
But there was nothing wrong with the potage du jour, which was a complex home-made cream of tomato, herb-rich, with a distinctive smack of basil, which came with crispy golden croutons and Melba toast (well,.. toast, anyway!) This starter alone is usually US$3 on the a la carte menu.
Other individually priced starters from my asterisked list include creamy chicken liver pancake, sautéed mushrooms with herbs, Calypso fish cakes and grilled haloumi cheese all at US$5; gypsy spits at US$7 and a superb Scotch smoked salmon presentation, which costs US$8.
Main course was splendidly fresh, moist fish goujons (grown-ups’ fish fingers!) in which the fish was pearlescent Kariba bream (tilapia) in a crisp, golden beer batter, served with a splendid sufficiency of very agreeable chips, some steamed seasonal vegetables and a side-dish of French salad. This wasn’t part of the prix-fixe deal, but, partner Nick Mandeya knows I like a side salad, so generously “threw it in”. Salads are from US$2-US$6 and are favourites with lovely ladies who lunch languidly.
Fish goujons on an “old” menu I photographed (about March, I think) were, alone US$12, so, as main attraction on a US$13 special three-course menu represent tremendous value.
Fish on a la carte includes grilled bream, deep-fried calamari* and London fish-and-chips* at US$15, Mozambique prawns* and fritto misto* (a fishy mixed grill) at US$18 and fillet of kingklip* at US$19.
My daughter, when in her teens and early 20s, visited Adrienne’s almost exclusively to order two starter dishes. I have a good pal who takes his teenage sons there especially to set them loose among the great beefsteak grills, as indeed I did with my boy!
A 500g gram super rump* or half-a-kilo of a proper T-bone* (not wussy porterhouse with the fillet bit missing!) will set you back US$18 and 350g of prime fillet* is a buck dearer. With the fillet (but not the other two cuts) I’d probably order one of the five lovely free sauces created to accompany nyama.
Other meaty mains include pork chops a la Portuguese* at US$15, glazed spare ribs* or rosemary lamb chops* at US$18, oxtail samanyika* (US$17) or the even nicer Nick’s ham shank* which, annoyingly is always marked “SQ” (subject to quotation) on the compact menu, but usually comes in at about the same price as oxtail.
For a locally-owned and run restaurant with Italian know-how in the background (that doyen of the Central Africa hospitality scene Atilio Vigoriti is a, now, fairly deep-sleeping partner), they make surprisingly good curries and rice with all the sambal-ly bits and pieces. Chicken* is US$14 and beef* US$16.
For the not-so-hungry, a big Idaho-style baked jacket potato or a pleasant pancake with Bolognaise, creamy chicken or ham and Parmesan filling costs US$8, as does penne with tuna and tomato sauce, cheese, tomato and onion omelette or spaghetti Bolognaise.
Puddings on the a la carte list are from US$3-US$4 a pop, but you can order whichever you like as part of the table d’hôte operation. My US$4 crème caramel was rich and syrupy and I love the individual apple tartlets with ice-cream.
Bottom line: soup and toast, fish main course, pudding and two lagers US$17.
Adrienne’s, Belgravia Shopping Centre, Harare. Tel 335602. Opens 10 am daily (for coffee, cakes, sandwiches etc, to 10pm: later if there’s a show at Reps).

Fully licensed, no corkage. Smoking/non-smoking. Bar; eating indoors or out, background music. Occasional karaoke nights, monthly quiz evenings on a Monday, when bottomless soup and bread costs US$5. Child and fairly handicapped friendly.  Guarded parking close by.
Dusty Miller rating 4-stars July 2012.
dustym@zimind.co.zw