“ALWAYS check blackboard specials, when dining out,” is what I regularly advise readers…but often forget to do!
Opinion by Dusty Miller
(Especially if fairly familiar with the eatery’s menu and eagerly anticipating a favourite dish.)
A glance at the chalkboard on the shady stoep of Da Eros, on East Road, Avondale, showed the special was roast beef, served with roast potatoes and vegetables (no doubt prepared and presented Italian-style) plus pudding for US$15.
But roast red meat and I don’t get on well these days, so I forgot about specials until an A5 flyer on the red-gingham table cloth caught my eye.
“That’s better,” I thought: prawn tail starter was US$5, “telapia” (sic: they mean tilapia: Kariba bream) with tartar sauce, fresh veggies and starch of choice was US$12 as was a full baby chicken marinated for 24 hours, thoroughly char-grilled and basted with lemon and garlic, mild piri-piri or other sauce.
But it was the final “special” option that screamed loudly: “Eat Me!” Minced beef-filled ravioli (you may know them as tortellini) in blue-cheese sauce and ice-cream for a reasonable US$12.
And the Da Eros package of little free extras does make dining out there, with its realistic Mediterranean atmosphere, a rewarding reasonably priced experience.
I joined the table of an old friend and colleague, Jan Raath, Harare stringer for the London Times and known throughout the hack community as the Raath of God! He’d been stood-up by a European diplomat and finishing excellent beef lasagna alone, before dashing to catch a deadline.
We swopped gossip about fellow journalists’ perceived peccadilloes as I ordered the prawn starter: four plump, pink, queen prawns, deep fried so the whole crustacean is crunchily edible, served with an amazingly zingy, zesty chili dipping sauce: good value at a fiver.
Before that came, a basket of moreish artisanal breads and butter were delivered along with various sauces and dips including melanzane: piquant brinjal and tomato spread. Then came a free amuse bouche of crispy, crunchy-crumbed potato croquette balls with floury filling; then a small green salad on the house.
Antipasti (appetisers) on the uncomplicated menu are US$5-US$6 and large salads, to share or as a main course for the lovely lithe ladies who lunch languidly also cost the same.
Sadly there’s no soup on the carte at the moment. I hope this will be rectified by winter as Da Eros cooks produce excellent minestrone and a grand bean soup.
Chef-proprietor Nevio Prandini (the family’s Italian-Ethiopian and used to run Italian Bakery at Avondale: now the Iranian-owned Café Nush) complained a shipment of wine from the Cape was held up apparently endlessly at Beit Bridge (how unusual!); if it didn’t arrive soon, he’d have to make a plan.
I thirstily drank ice-cold canned Golden Pilseners at a relatively painless US$2, (US$4 for imported beers, which seemed a bit steep.)
When the richly sauced beef ravioli (no one in Europe’s eating anything like this these days, for fear it contains horsemeat!)
I attacked lustily until realising I’d eaten a quarter of the platter without photographing it! Pasta was al dente, filling meaty and well-seasoned, sauce dense, creamy and complex with hints of culinary herbs; a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese completed the picture.
With the main, the remnants of a side salad now liberally sprinkled with top quality extra virgin olive oil and authentic Italian balsamic vinegar into which the final hunk of bread was dipped was eaten. To my chagrin I couldn’t quite finish the dish, leaving three pasta parcels of goodness and a soupçon of sauce.
They had a choice of strawberry-flavoured or coffee ice-cream for the pudding included in the special package. My strawb job included a generous couple of pinkish scoops with slivers of fresh strawberries. (Would the coffee one have contained coffee beans?)
Amuse bouche, salad, breads, prawn starter, meat-filled pasta, pudding, a really lovely cappuccino and…err (it was very hot and sticky)…three lagers had a bottom line of US$25.
Da Eros, East Road, Avondale. Opens 10am (for coffee and cakes) until 10pm Tuesday-to-Sunday. Fully licensed. Corkage US$2 (if they remember!) Smoking, no smoking. Very child and reasonably handicapped friendly. Eating indoors (Italian opera on the sound system) or out. Live music in the garden Sunday lunch and afternoons. Takeaways. Tel 332044 or 0776 218 272.
The Automobile Association in Harare have confirmed that visitors to South Africa need to have an International Driving Licence (but I keep hearing rumours this is a money-making scam!) to drive on the roads there in their own vehicles or to hire a car.
To be on the safe side take your valid local licence, a driving licence sized photograph (and the bucks) to AA at Newlands. Two-day fast track licence US$50; routine three week service US$30. Valid five years, for anywhere in the world (except Zimbabwe.)
Mozambique no longer issues visas at its frontier posts. If resident in Zimbabwe you must get one from the Embassy in Harare. Holders of Sadcc countries’ passports do not need a visa to enter each other’s territories.
Zambia is on the World Health Organisation’s list of countries where yellow fever is prevalent and, having visited that country, you will need a Yellow Fever Certificate of vaccination to enter many countries. That certainly includes South Africa and Australia.
The jab is expensive (US$50 in Victoria Falls, US$80 in Lusaka, about R470 Down South) quite traumatic: especially for the more mature patient and takes 10 days to kick in.