Happy days at AppleGees

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A FAIRLY new eatery, AppleGees is where Papa’s and Mama Mia’s restaurants used to be at Newlands, but it’s now more of a friendly local boozer where they cook simple plain food for, apparently, a limited amount of hungry punters.

Eating Out with Dusty Miller

It seems to be a localised version of an American chain franchise AppleBees. I’ve seen them: in Florida, Australia and the Gulf, but haven’t sampled their fare.

I went there for lunch on a recent Tuesday having shopped at the nearby supermarket and bought presents for my grand-children in the bookshop across the road.

L’O’ de Vie, a very short-lived Belgian-French themed restaurant next door, where Blue Banana/Baobab Grill was following on the original Mozzarella’s, a South African chain of Italian-style restaurants, is still closed having not re-opened since going on their Christmas break on December 20.

I bumped into the property owner’s agent there a couple of months ago and he assured me it would be re-opening “soon”. Hmm!

Butler’s, on the corner where Trax and News Café used to operate seemed totally dead, with no patrons visible whatsoever, so I don’t suppose its larney big brother, The Lounge, upstairs was exactly heaving.

AppleGees was fairly busy, with hungry lunch parties coming and going over the hour or so I spent there.

The new owners, amiable cousins Loveness Kambondoma and Sharon Jere, who are of Malawian stock, were both on hand with a cheery greeting and pleasant farewell to punters. They’ve retained most of the staff from the days when the Kalamatas family was at the helm and many of the dishes are till cooked to the same recipes, many developed by the remarkably talented Italian chefette Tzitziana, several years ago. (In fact going back to the Kalamatas’s days at Fat Mama’s, where The Bavarian is now.)

Drinking chocolate

It was a bitterly cold day and my first order was for a steaming glass beaker of hot drinking chocolate to sip while perusing the simple menu. That was after learning the cappuccino machine was “down”. Are these items ever “up” in Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital)?

This was definitely soup weather and they do three: chicken and mushroom at US$4 and minestrone or butternut, a dollar cheaper. An hour later, the minestrone would probably have been absolutely wonderful, but when I ate it some of the larger chunks of carrot were not quite cooked through.

It came with toasted garlic croutons, but no roll or bread or toast and butter, which I suspect is false economy, if it leaves customers dissatisfied.

Other starters included potato wedges, deep-fried with a barbecue sauce at US$6, which is the same price as chicken livers in a piri-piri sauce. US$8 appetisers include carpaccio (thinly sliced, marinated –– raw—cured beef), flame-grilled Portuguese chorizo sausages and deep-fried haloumi cheese with sweet chili dipping sauce.

Salads are US$8 to US$10, and at the lower price, from previous visits, I can thoroughly recommend the Greek job, which comes replete with lovely unctuous purple olives and lots of salty feta cheese.

Light meals offered are chicken or beef strips at US$8, kebabs from beef or chicken at the same price, as is calamari. A quarter of a chicken will set you back US$6 and chicken wings in as spicy sauce a dollar more. I have previously found the calamari, either as a starter or main course, exemplary.

Four ‘growlers’

At one stage in this country sausage and mash starred two, plump pork, usually Colcom, sausages but in recent years this has often grown to a trio of banger. Well AppleGees serve four “growlers”, which I found a bit outfacing. They came with a generous helping of creamy mashed potatoes and well-cooked seasonal vegetables at US$10.

You could have stood the proverbial spoon up in the accompanying gravy, but it was so full of caramelised onions (something I thought I would never complain about) that it had taken on an unwanted sweetness. This sweetness could have been “cut” with a dollop or two of Colman’s Hot English Mustard, but they had no mustard available whatsoever.

When I pointed out that TM Supermarket was less than 100 metres away, and they would surely have shelves of the stuff, I received the eloquent Shona shrug from the headwaiter! Still, I didn’t leave much and it went down well with a Golden Pilsener Lager.

Other mains include liver and onions, half-a-chicken and chips, fish and chips or a club sandwich (layers of chicken, bacon and cheese) all at US$10. Marinated pork chop and chips or a 300g filet steak, egg and chips are US$12 and a double portion of fish (hake) and chips US$14.

There are five home-made pastas listed and from previous experience the lasagna, spagBol and Alfredo can be highly recommended. Fillet steak rolls and beef burgers are each US$8.

Five puddings are listed from US$3-US$5 and at the higher end I had a fresh fruit salad and vanilla ice-cream, which was perfectly fine, except it lacked any real colour: white ice-cream, white apple slices, pale yellow banana slices, and washed-out yellow orange segments.

Use red, instead of green apples and leave the skin on, slice up half a strawberry, use a couple of berries or possibly top it off with a glace cherry and you have colour, not a dish that looks dull (but tastes fine.)

AppleGees, Newlands Shopping Centre. Fully licensed pub/bar/eatery. Reasonably child and handicapped friendly. Smoking, no smoking. TV sports. Eating indoors or out. Secure parking. Closed Sundays Tel 252279/80.
dustym@zimind.co.zw

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