READERS with sound memories (that’s most of them!) may well be saying to themselves now: “The Pointe can’t be due for another review yet!”
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
And they’d be quite right. I was only there on Sunday due to two birthday celebrations being held there jointly, and because the organiser couldn’t get hold of Tinkabell’s at Ardbennie, which was our first choice, to make a reservation; and because it rained heavily and the 1952 vintage Bentley some of our guys were showing off at Pomona didn’t have very reliable windscreen wipers and also the musical quiz I was competing in at REPS ran late.
So we were at The Pointe, mob-handed for lunch, although I was the first to arrive and that was at 1:40pm!
The Pointe is a portmanteau word joining bits of Portuguese and interrnational cuisine; it’s a fairly long established popular blue-collar/no collar no nonsense eating establishment in that part of The Avenues in Harare which has sadly long seen better days.
When most of us were present except one of the birthday boys and his two guests (Bentley returned to Greendale, company car had a puncture!), head waiter, Moses, served a generous platter of free steamed Portuguese-style clams; we helped ourselves to three or four each with plenty of “juice” and lovely fresh Continental bread and butter, prepared with white wine, onions and loads of pongy garlic, a tasty seafood dish which usually costs US$3 a pop.
That meant none of us could manage conventional starter courses. I think that was my first visit to The Pointe (or its predecessor Vila Peri) in 20-odd years when I haven’t thoroughly relished appetisers of caldo verde (Portuguese green soup), that country’s traditional bean soup or a trio of grilled sardines presented with boiled potatoes and green peppers. All three dishes, which can be a meal on their own for many less hungry punters, cost US$3 apiece.
The Pointe had been shortlisted by our organiser because, like Tinkabell’s and da Eros, they combine live music with a reliable, tasty, economical Sunday lunch. Adam and Cheryl Snape (ACE!) were warbling away as the first few of us arrived. Later Adam, an accomplished guitarist who unfortunately sings Eagles songs in a wildly wrong key! also accompanied restaurateur Carlos Quintos, a former Portuguese TV, cinema and recording star, his assistant Tendai ( a lady who doubles as front of house manager) and Roy Freestone.
Carlos sang Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English standards and the multi-ethnic audience mainly loved it, joining in lustily when they knew the words.
Orders were taken for main courses and more bread, garlic sauce and a token individual green salad were served free of charge for nibbling.
There were 14 of us at our table; the vast majority ordered the eatery’s trademark dish of half a plump charcoal grilled chicken, mild, medium or hot piri-piri and one or two plain versions, with chips, boiled whole potatoes or rice and more salad at US$10. Thomas the German gnawed at a big platter of lamb chops served with mint (US$13); the girl on my right ordered a surf-and-turf combo of what looked excellent fillet steak and grilled prawns: a blackboard special at what I think cost US$15.
Only two ordered the Sunday special of what certainly sounded mouthwatering: roast suckling pig with roast potatoes AND savoury rice, seasonal vegetables and “delicious gravy”. One portion was polished off on the turn, but the second punter moaned that the cooked dead pig was all “fat and bones”.
Moses changed it, but the second helping met with little more enthusiasm than the initial portion.
This is possibly the subject of a letter to Dear Mary in The Spectator, who advises on touchy matters of etiquette. Maybe the complainer should have demanded a totally different replacement dish? Perhaps Moses should have offered one?
I know folk who rave about The Pointe’s suckling pig, but have to admit it didn’t look too appetising to me last weekend. The restaurant goes strongly on affordable daily specials. On a Tuesday it’s rabo de boi guizado (oxtail casserole with mash or rice at US$15; Monday chicken with pasta (US$10), Wednesday lamb stew with veg and rice at US$12; Thursday’s curried chicken cutlets cost US$10 and on Friday it’s the eponymous pork-and-beans at US$15; Saturday roast leg of lamb for US$13.
There’s an upstairs bar which, to be fair, often attracts a crowd which could be called picaresque, rather than picturesque. Downstairs there’s smoking and non-smoking eating areas in a fairly dark former colonial dwelling section proper (effectively air-conditioned). We sat in a roofed over semi-alfresco former courtyard under hardworking ceilings fan losing a valiant battle with the heat, despite the rain, listening and watching the “turns”.
On Fridays they have a rip-roaring karaoke night when Senhor Quintos may well give a passable impersonation of Old Blue Eyes (Frank Sinatra, but Old Brown Eyes in Carlos’ case!) singing “I Did It My Way!” and a couple of middle-aged guys who are probably very kind to their mothers trill Abba’s “Dancing Queen” as if it were written for them. (It may well have been!)
I finished with a wonderfully light-as-air syrupy crème caramel which came with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. All puddings are US$3, except plain ice-cream at US$2 and the flambéed at your table crepes Suzette which cost US$6. Split 14 ways, the bill worked out at US$25 a head, including tips.
Senhor Quintos sent over two bottles of JC le Roux sparkling wine from South Africa to help the birthday party along. Normally there’s also a post-prandial free slug or two of “firewater” (Arguadente Bagaceira: Portuguese brandy) just to settle the stomach! (But it blows your brains.)
The Pointe, 3rd Street and Baines Avenue. Opens daily for lunch and supper. Fully licensed. Guarded parking off-road. Sport (usually soccer) on TV in main dining area; karaoke at weekends. Tel 734240. firstname.lastname@example.org