AUTHOR James Hilton described the fictional Shangri-La in his 1933 novel (turned film) Lost Horizon as a utopian Himalayan valley, bathed in permanent happiness. Hmmm!
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
The Enterprise Road restaurant of the same name is an attractive place in an architecturally exotic, rather naff, way with — I thought — very suspect Mickey Mouse extensions to what had once been a classically elegant double-storey gentleman’s residence (to quote estate agents).
I know it was classically elegant, because my pal Ivor Davies who, despite having a quintessentially Welsh name, was a leading lay member of the Jewish community in Nairobi and Harare (when we had a few more Talmudic-types around) once owned the place and I’d dined — non-Kosher, I seem to recall — at his home, en famille, several times.
He’s now a leading lay member of the Hebrew community in Jo’burg, although many of his flock seem to be busy fleeing Africa…allegedly clutching pathetic little bundles of Krugerrands, quicker than you can say Black Empowerment!
Nationalisation! Perth! or Bondi Beach!
Water features, rather like a scaled down copy of the neighbouring Amanzi, appeal immensely in the attractive Oriental gardens.
I’m never sure what happens in these Chinese restaurants springing up all over the shop, but inscrutable Oriental gentlemen wheeling expensive luggage kept arriving on a previous visit. (Is it residential?) And part of Ivor’s former manicured English-style garden is now a shop which, tautologically, sells “drapes and curtains”.
They’ve also bought the property next door (there must be hoboes of profit on rice and noodles! And massive alterations are taking place.)
Rain threatened, but it was muggy and I was disappointed no verandah table was free when I arrived at – admittedly—well after 1:30pm. I had to eat indoors, for the first time there.
Various private rooms where (I suppose) ministers and other so-called members of the great and the good do deals, outside the gaze of we mere hoi-polloi without letting the electorate see what they get up (or down!) to were on this visit unoccupied.
The main indoor eating area lacks warmth, atmosphere or ambience, but is all gleaming tiles with sensibly-sized tables sensibly spaced to help avoid eavesdropping. Chairs are comfortable “riempie” style hardwood jobs, rather unexpected in a Chinese establishment.
An excellent deep, steaming heart-shaped white ceramic gold-rimmed bowl of chicken and sweetcorn soup would have easily fed two or even three; grand value at just US$3.
I’m working on a comparison chart of the relative merits of prawn curries available in restaurants in Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital). Shangri-La’s was described as green curry prawns with coconut milk.
At other venues, prawn curries have up to now cost between US$14 and US$24, so this dish at US$15 sounded quite reasonable, although rice would be an extra charge.
With an enormous helping of fluffy egg fried rice (the dish is often called foo-yong) the total was US$18, an attractive price for a stunning dish. Sure the restaurant used those small, but very tasty, “SS” prawns: the sort of crustaceans which would probably be sold as “shrimps” overseas—well at least in the UK. In the USA “shrimp” (note, always in the singular) can be as big as lobster!
But I gave up counting at 20 plus of the precisely cooked, plump, pink, prawns which came in a piquant curry sauce just as ordered (mild-to-medium) so as not to mask the delicate flavour of the seafood.
The curry sauce was rich, with depth and — pleasingly — also contained lots of vegetables: broccoli, onion, carrot (rather ugly lumps of it), tomato and red pepper spring to mind.
The dish had a subtle but distinctively pleasant slight lingering after-burn, no doubt diluted by the coconut milk.
The only minus element was that the big brown bowl in which the shellfish curry arrived was, unforgivably, very badly chipped.
When restaurant manager Connolly Kaundi (ex-the very forgettable Silver Spur and Panarotti’s franchises.
But he won his spurs with Chinese food at the now sadly closed Dong Fang at Chisipite) asked if everything was OK, I pointed out the disgraceful piece of potentially health-threatening crockery and said: “Well that’s definitely not OK at all; it needs smashing within the hour!”
I hadn’t eaten the Chinese pudding “bow-ties” since the Little Swallow flourished at a Mutare then called Umtali; initially near the Forbes Border Post and then at Brown’s Hotel. Run by an ex-BSAP bobby and his Chinese wife, it was arguably the second best Cantonese restaurant in the country, after Peking in Bulawayo.
I seem to recall our children didn’t go a bundle on bow-ties, which are deep-dried egg roll wrappers dipped in boiling syrup and served with cream or ice-cream…so they hadn’t been ordered for maybe three decades.
Having tried them again, at Shangri-La (US$3….”authentic” Chinese puddings are US$6 but will serve four), it will probably be another 30 years before I re-order them! (But vanilla ice-cream was great.)
Bottom line: Soup, prawn curry and rice, sweet: US$25; two lagers US$4.
Shangri-La, 155, Enterprise Rd, Lewisam. Tel 443263/4. Eating indoors or out (if you’re early!); smoking/no smoking areas. Private rooms. Westernised, also lavishly illustrated authentic Cantonese, menus. Japanese sushi menu also served.
Child/handicapped friendly. Safe parking but often a long way from the restaurant as I found when a torrential rainstorm lashed the property at exactly 3pm last Thursday!
Fully licensed, attractive bar. Substantial imported wine list (whites US$15; reds US$18).