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Clubbing around Zimbabwe

IT looks as though many, if not most, of Zimbabwe’s long established sports, social and gentlemen’s clubs are really struggling to attract suitable members against a background of massive recession and a telling lack of disposable income.

Eating Out with Dusty Miller

But the upside of that is many are going an extra mile to keep their often financially struggling members happy and perhaps lure in new ones.

It’s ages since I’ve seen the dining room so packed and looking as attractive as it did on Sunday at Harare’s Italian Club, Monavale.
I gather committee member and veteran chef/caterer, Sicilian-born Angelo Savo, is again in charge of the kitchens and massive improvements are immediately apparent.

I don’t think there was any individual dish on the tempting chalk-board menu priced above US$11 and, for US$13, I tucked into a very satisfactory dish of home-made tagliatteli: beautifully al dente with a rich, thick, herby Neapolitan-type tomato sauce, which was US$7; an enormous wooden bowl of a fairly underwhelming salad at US$3 (it would have fed three or four, but I’d rather pay more and have a smaller helping with a few olives and maybe cheese) and two nice cannoli.

These are Sicilian desserts from Palermo: rather similar to traditional British cream horns, which are cornet-shaped baked pastries filled—in my case on Sunday — with a custardy-type, but not over-sweet, confection, also US$3.

Friends shared a main course of fillet steak chasseur (with mushrooms and red wine sauce) and they reported it melt-in-the mouth tender. With the club’s lovely crispy bread rolls and butter and two beautifully chilled lagers, my bottom line was US$17. I wonder why they no longer serve the excellent coffee of yesteryear?

There’s  always something happening at Reps these days, certainly since publicist Stan Higgins became chairman, and after popular monthly Sunday morning quizzes, nearby Adrienne’s Restaurant usually  caters, laying on a substantial English-style roast lunch or something like a curry-and-rice for around US$5-US$7.

Reps also serve a fine traditional ploughman’s lunch in the bar on Friday lunchtimes for a fiver. When you consider the price of cheese in this country, that’s spectacular value, especially for trenchermen!

I had a wonderfully cooked tender, moist, meaty half piri-piri chicken and chips with a wisp of salad garnish and a brace of juicy lemon wedges at Harare Sports Club recently. This is the club’s trademark dish (apart from, possibly, very affordable all day breakfasts). Vintage member Llew Hughes taught the HSC kitchen staff how to make apparently faultless Portuguese style grub in the interregnum between his much lamented Café Med at Borrowdale metamorphosing into Café Miller (no relation!).

HSC’s piri-piri was perhaps considerably hotter than one might expect in a club and, as each dish is cooked to order, it often takes up to about 45 minutes to be served.

The annual report from Harare Club’s chairman, Austin Zvoma, who is also secretary of Parliament made grim reading, but the even more venerable Bulawayo Club seems to thrive after semi-privatisation and liberalisation of some rather Victorian rules.

You still, thankfully, must dress, behave and have the table manners of a human being, but the historic city centre club is open to non-members and I can recommend almost everything on a menu of mainly old favourites and well established comfort food.

I especially liked duos of soups, oxtail casseroles, fish dishes, sophisticated puddings. Mid-afternoon toasted sandwiches with grand filter coffee were also worthy of merit.

At Mutare Club, the dining room specialises in prawns, fish and other seafood from the Indian Ocean coast of neighbouring Mozambique, offering accommodation at a reasonable cost. The Legion Club in the City Centre is the place for all-time favourites such as bangers and mash, steak, egg and chips, fish and chips and meaty boerewors rolls.

Tandoor has recently reopened after a year end month’s closure at the mainly Hindu-membership Sunrise Sports Club, Belvedere South, Harare. My favourite dishes there are the mild to medium light, fruity prawn curries, butter chicken or lamb biriyani.

Start with vegetable-packed hot-and-sour soup and end with kulfi pudding.

When last staying at Bulawayo Club, I was one of a panel judging the annual potjie competition at Old Miltonians’ Club. Potjie entries were shared between members, visitors, spectators—and judges — and the atmosphere in the packed bar both after the Saturday afternoon event and the following Monday sundowners was wonderful.

Housesitting for friends in Milton Park, I wandered into Alexandra Sports Club one mid-week lunch and enjoyed rather good grilled pork chops and lekker chips, but the club was almost empty and it was a good job I knew two bar-propping members.

Borrowdale Sports Club’s Sunday roast is well supported by members and guests, but you must order a day or two in advance.

The food’s always predictably acceptable at City Bowling Club where, fairly recently, I’ve had a Sunday roast lamb dish with mint sauce and all the trimmings, lip-smackingly tasty hamburger and chips (and I’m not really a burger bloke),  toasted and plain sandwiches, possibly the best chicken schnitzel in town,  good fish and chips and grand liver-bacon-and-onions.

Elise Steenkamp at Mount Pleasant Club (it’s actually in Vainona) also does excellent traditional Sunday roasts and almost certainly the most consistently well-cooked calamari-and-chips in Zimbabwe. I didn’t taste better in Australia, where it’s served everywhere.

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