I’ve often complained that the principal failing of Zimbabwean restaurants is the total lack of consistency displayed by many.
Opinion by Dusty Miller
You can have a wonderfully memorable lunch on Tuesday, but return for Thursday supper with a friend you want to impress and dinner’s dreadfully dire!
To sum up The Pointe (in the past…I’ve been banned from there several times for publishing this) the food was usually between quite good and excellent; prices were always attractive; service was frequently appalling and the place often in need of a thorough clean.
Risking being slung out or denied entry by the fiery Portuguese former actor Carlos Quintos, who owns the gaffe (and does a tolerably good impersonation of Frank Sinatra — Old Blue Eyes — at The Pointe’s karaoke nights) I was inveigled into re-visiting the place on Saturday.
My friend, Marie-France, did the inveigling. She’s half-French but has been doing a PhD in Scandinavia; Wilhelm, a pony-tailed Bavarian was with us; we lost a Zimbo chum, Des, somewhere between City Bowling Club in Harare Gardens and The Pointe, half-a-click away at 3rd and Baines.
Lots of cars outside, but the ground floor eatery was sparsely occupied; little noise came from the upstairs bar which attracts a crowd better described as picaresque, rather than picturesque!
I was impressed. Someone had obviously used a lot of TLC and elbow grease; the restaurant shone and sparkled. In a Letter to the Editor, some years ago, Senhor Quintos famously protested he was in the business of supplying good food…not clean tablecloths!… in responding to my critique. (My case rested there!)
We had a spotlessly clean table under a hard-working fan on a hot, muggy night, getting a little benefit from open windows. My eating companions visited the rest-rooms and reported them being of an acceptable standard of cleanliness.
Hungry, by now, I was relieved to hear Mine Host had gone home for the night, so Old Brown Eyes wouldn’t be chucking me out; but disappointed to learn the purported daily special for Saturday — perna de carneiro — roast leg of lamb Portuguese-style was “off”. Or, rather, it was never “on”!
Our friendly waiter David Mufushwa said there hadn’t been any lamb that day, which was a pity as it sounded good value at US$12.
Assuming a lack of daily specials isn’t a recurring shortcoming: Monday it’s chicken with pasta (US$10), Tuesday: oxtail at US$14, Wednesday mutton stew (nice bit of honesty there: mutton’s usually described as lamb around here!) at US$12, Thursday’s chicken curry costs US$10 and on Friday it’s the eponymous pork-and-beans at US$14.
I expected a karaoke to be taking place when we got there, but we were told that’s on the traditional Friday night and now also Sunday lunch and afternoon, when the special’s roast suckling pig at US$11.
Marie-France oohed and aahed over a starter of tender, luscious, rich, viscous, chicken livers which are US$4 (same as giblets).
The caldo-verde (Portuguese green soup) Wilhelm and I had was a vibrantly bright vivid green, but verged on the bland until we asked for a couple of slices of chorizo spicy sausage apiece to be delivered (it should have been simmered in the broth, but adding it later was perfectly acceptable), we also generously spooned in thick, pongy garlic sauce to give added oomph. With loads of good soft-crumbed, crusty Continental bread and butter these were US$3 each…and worth every cent.
Other soups are US$3 (bean or mushroom); spring rolls or samoosas also US$3; salads US$$3 and US$4; deep-fried mushrooms US$4; beef trinchados or chorizo US$5.
We blokes ordered curried prawns which were just splendid: lots of pink, plump crustaceans in a fruity, spicy sauce which didn’t mask the delicate flavour of the seafood, with well-cooked, fluffy, basmati rice and a few sambals (US$14 a big, piled plate.)
Marie-France also went for prawns: 10 or 12 she guessed grilled piri-piri with rice and chips at the same price. (The chips were so deliciously well-cooked we asked the waiter to pat the chef on the back for his efforts.)
As a result of that he came to join us and Hilton Gore, who previously cooked at Arundel Spa, had the most infectiously wide happy grin and an appealing passion for his calling.
Cooking was exemplary, service superb (albeit on a thinly patronised Saturday night, sitting down at 8pm or soon afterwards) and prices just magic for these (again) increasingly inflationary days.
(How the hell can we have inflation using someone else’s currency?)
A full bodied Kanu 2005 Shiraz from Stellenbosch was exactly the right house red wine to serve by the generous glass to go with spicy foods like piri-piri and curry and our bill for “a few glasses of plonk and some lagers” was US$13 which, when added to two soups, p-p huku livers, three splendid prawn main courses and a trio of the most wonderfully syrupy light-as-air crème caramels, totalling US$61, gave us a bottom line of US$74.
What we hadn’t seen before ordering were grand value set-price table d’hôtel menus. For US$15 you can have fried mushrooms, chicken giblets or livers as appetisers; half a charcoal-grilled chicken; hake or bream fillets; T-bone, point or Portuguese house steak; a range of puddings and free cool drink or a beer.
Go balmy, spend twenty-bucks and the menu offers prawn cocktail, mushrooms or giblets to start with; half a chicken or garoupa fish or a prawn-and-steak (surf-and-turf) combo; desserts and a glass of house wine, cool drink or pint of lager.
I almost returned for the Sunday lunch suckling pig and to hear Senhor Carlos’ rendition of Frankie boy’s “I Did It My Way” with probably a couple of old “Irons” trilling Abba’s “Dancing Queen”!