IT was almost my birthday and driving up Enterprise Road at lunchtime, suddenly the thoughts of a gourmet lunch treat at absolutely amazing Amanzi Restaurant became too much to resist!
Eating out with Dusty Milller
Because June is one of the best times of the year to visit this exquisitely set eatery.
Yet another converted former colonial era family dwelling, Amanzi is positioned in the centre of a magnificent, lush, verdant garden.
Mature and majestic exotic and indigenous trees provided much needed shade as hot Highveld winter sun poured down at midday.
Amanzi means “water” in Ndebele and magnificent water features: miniature waterfalls, rock pools, lily ponds and koi pools create a Zen-peaceful ambience.
Sit on the broad stoep in dappled sunshine with a well-earned glass of something refreshingly chilled and of a moderately intoxicating nature and the patter of “rain” from half a dozen irrigation systems can be almost soporific.
You can eat indoors: surrounded by antique and collectable furniture, paintings and mirrors seated at and on venerable tables and chairs amid acres of starched white linen table cloths, burnished silverware, sparkling crystal and bone china, but I prefer the verandah with its lovely views.
A sophisticated sound system turned down just a little too far for my tastes played post-war (World War II that is!) jazz and standards. I heard a young Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn and Nat King Cole in the background while studying a menu making me wish I could eat there twice a day!
Ignoring a new tapas menu, for which I’ll return soon, sample and tell you all about, the a la carte tariff reflects fusion food without confusion: excitingly different dishes from across the globe, but I’d better come clean and say it’s a bit pricey, for Harare, for Zimbabwe, for Southern Africa.
It is of course amazingly cheap when compared with very ordinary joints in Australia and at anywhere half as good in Great Britain, you’d probably pay in pounds sterling what proprietor Andrew Mama charges in greenbacks. And you almost certainly wouldn’t enjoy Amanzi’s impeccable service.
Stunning starters included blackened (so presumably Cajun) smoked haddock on a green mango and avocado salsa at US$15, the same price as tiger prawns with a chili and garlic dip or Portuguese calamari tubes in garlic butter; traditional garlic snails, chicken liver paté with Grenadine caramelised onions or a mixed sushi platter with light soy, wasabi and ginger pickle were US$10.
A filo parcel of Camembert, with Parma ham and cranberries was US$12 and for US$13 I had a dream of an appetiser: four Scottish (no doubt hand-dived!) scallops seared and served with pancetta (Italian salt-cured bacon) on two delicious discrs of generously sliced luscious black pudding full of herbs and spices all on a puddle of vibrant emerald green pea purée.
When Andrew came to my table between courses I asked whether the black pudding was home-made (Colcom made a very agreeable version, but dropped the line — goodness knows why—many years ago.) He wasn’t sure if it came from Supreme Butchery, Chisipite or Butchers’ Kitchen, Borrowdale. I’ll be visiting both. I enjoy it cold in a nice sandwich with hot English mustard (or piccalilli) and a juicy freshly picked tomato.
Andrew played rugby for Nigeria, where he was born, and still loves sport. He was dashing off after a quick tapas lunch with daughter, Jasmine, so they could play tennis together.
Soups included chicken pepper soup: fiery from the bars of Lagos Island, chicken consommé, using an original French recipe (both US$8), roast butternut-and-carrot (US$7) and laksa Chang Mai soup at US$9. I paid A$22 for this Thai dish in Adelaide. Various gourmet full meal salads cost between US$10 and US$12.
If you thought the appetisers were from every corner of the globe, mains include lamb shish-kebab (from the Middle and Near East) with harissa (Tunisian chili sauce) for US$25 and griddled Scottish salmon with creamy saffron white wine sauce and mussels (US$30).
The Greek delicacy, slow-cooked lamb shank kleftiko (“stolen lamb”) is US$25. And that’s the same price as roasted quail stuffed with sage and pear; seared duck breast on baked spiced apple with carrot crisps and scallops-and-prawn brochettes (skewers) with oven-dried pineapple chunks and ginger dressing.
My main course was Australian yabbies (freshwater crayfish) but the ones that escaped into Zambia’s river system and are busy destroying the ecology of Lake Kariba! And truly delicious they were too, served in a mild Thai-style red curry with Basmati rice a moulded chapatti filled with “Durban salad”, piquant fruity chutney and a chili concoction I rather over did!
This dish also cost US$25 and I was torn between that and five-spice oxtail with garlic mashed potatoes and delicate hake with chorizo, oven-dried cherry tomatoes and black olives, both at US$20.
Amanzi serves very good wines by the glass so you can pair courses. All Cape labels, whites are US$3-US$10, rosé US$6, reds US$3-US$15 (Graham Beck Game Reserve Shiraz, 2010 at US$6 would have gone down very well with my curry, after I overdid the chili depth charge.) But, of course, I stuck to Golden Pilsener Lager at US$3 a can.
Puddings are rich and decadent. Chocolate velvets “hats”, honeycomb ice-cream and exotic fruit crème brulee are US$7 a pop; lemon meringue ice-cream and chocolate nut torte with vanilla ice-cream a tenner.
Which was the price of my hot bread-and-butter pudding made from Belgian croissants, filled with dried fruit and drizzled with molten white chocolate, which bore little resemblance to the comfort food stodge of the same name, slathered in hot custard, of fond memory, which we got at school!
Bottom line: seafood starter, crayfish curry, pudding, two local lagers hmmmm…US$54!
It will be tapas at US$6-US$10 a plate when I return!
Amanzi Restaurant, 158, Enterprise Road, Highlands. Tel 497768/48083/0772 336 224. Opens lunch and supper every day except Sunday. Live music from Evicted on Thursday night.