AS exclusively forecast in this column about a month ago, Arnaldo’s the well-known Graniteside piri-piri chicken restaurant has now opened a second Harare branch.
Report by Dusty Miller
And that’s at Kensington Shopping Centre where Taverna Athena used to operate before the iconic Greek restaurant unfortunately went into liquidation a couple of months ago.
The Arnaldo’s franchise is run by the Taylor family of dispossessed Mutepatepa tobacco farmers. After the lunatic land invasions, they downsized into poultry production at Harare South, operating FatSon (that’s father and son!) Chickens.
Running the restaurant side of the company is daughter/sister Keitha Taylor. She was flustered and red-faced when I arrived at the new outlet on Monday, protesting “I’m not ready for you, yet!”
Well, I countered, if you’re ready for the public, you must be ready for me…because that’s all I am, a member of the great Zimbabwean republic public!
Actually I’d heard they’d opened the previous Saturday…but word of mouth had it wrong. They opened the shutters just 45 minutes before I happened to walk in!
“Bridget” (no one seems to know her surname) who crafted the very remarkable colourful outdoor murals at Graniteside has been busy at Kensington, beautifully capturing the light and shade of the Mozambique coast and its many islands in several painting indoors and out. And the décor is somehow reminiscent of the best and most elegant of the former far-flung Portuguese empire: all graceful curves painted in matte aquamarine blues and whites.
A raised deck indoors dining area has been simply sanded down to bare wood: it reminded me for all the world of one of the beach restaurants at the fabulous Indigo Bay Resort on Bazaruto Island, off Vilankulos.
I couldn’t sit outdoors, because the exterior furnishings hadn’t yet been delivered and couldn’t, initially, have an alcoholic drink with lunch as the owners (like many other restaurateurs and wannabe hospitality practitioners) are locked in apparently endless bureaucratic battles with the ever more procrastinating and prevaricating licensing authorities.
That came to an end when a pal at a nearby table sent out to the nearby Spar for a couple of bottles of wine and added a brace of Pilseners. For the foreseeable future, take your own grog. There’s no corkage.
I really fancied the sound of prawn soup cooked with onions and carrots at US$6, but that was “off” due to the work-in-progress state of the place. At a dollar more, the prawn cocktail was a worthwhile retro circa-1963 dining experience.
They actually use prawns: plump, pink large queens or small kings, I’d say, whereas most of the opposition tends to serve tiny shrimps. I can’t recall whether there were four or five crustaceans in the bowl, but they were totally delicious, atop the usual bed of shredded iceberg lettuce, the whole lot slathered in a piquant, moreish marie-rose (1 000 Islands) sauce.
I suppose the very best of FatSon’s poultry is sent to their restaurants and the half a piri-piri chicken I ate was certainly exemplary: soft, white, tender, plump, juicy, flesh nicely marinaded to“medium” piri-piri heat strength. Skin was crisped professionally.
Fighting a losing battle with the deep-fat fryer, I really wanted the huku served with Portuguese-style whole boiled potatoes; but the ubiquitous chips, or savoury rice, were the only starch available.
Candidly the chips were a little bit greasy for my particular palate, but having just spent a week in a Kariba fishing chalet with nine nutty tiger fishermen (and a girl!) it became obvious that some people prefer their French-fries fried that way. (No accounting for taste…there’s nowt as queer as folk!)
Whatever… they were proper hand-cut chips, tasting of real spuds and not those willowy, insipid, tasteless even, mass-produced machine-sliced jobbies which the British Press recently claimed could cause cancer! A wisp of salad brightened up the plate and—with lemon chunks —helped cut the richness of a meal which cost US$11.
Arnaldo’s offer a full range of poultry products, but also a wide choice of grilled well-hung steaks, chops and ribs for guys who graze and a few salads for the lovely ladies who lunch lightly and languidly.
A basket of still warm Continental-style soft-crumbed bread and butter came with starters and mains. I find it hard to resist good bread and butter which, to the horror of my daughter, I often sprinkle with sea-salt!
No doubt because this was day one, service one, customer 15 or perhaps 20, choice of puddings was temporarily restricted to ice-cream and chocolate sauce, ice-cream without chocolate sauce! or chocolate mousse. Keitha assured me the range would soon be extended, with trademark Portuguese crème caramels being immediately added. (I had the three-scoop vanilla ice-cream and choc sauce; it was excellent at US$3,50.)
At Graniteside — where industry is sadly only a shadow of its former self — their outlet only opens weekday lunchtimes, whereas the new operation will trade 8am-9:30pm Monday to Saturday, specialising in coffee and cake outside conventional meal-times.
They are mulling opening for Sunday lunch after a brief settling in period.
Parking can be a problem at Kensington (where nobody ever seems to leave after finding a spot!) but I hear an improvement can possibly be expected. The existing enormous car-park is professionally guarded, however.
Arnaldo’s, Kensington SC. Family restaurant, sensibly priced. Child and handicapped friendly. Smoking/no smoking tables. Currently unlicensed; BYOB, no corkage. Eating in an airy indoors restaurant with overhead fans or outdoors by the time you read this. Telephone 0772 238 306/ 0772 729 306.
Opens Monday-to-Saturday 8am-9:30pm.