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Leonardo’s: What a masterpiece!

MY one disappointment on re-visiting the great value-for-money Mediterranean-theme restaurant, Leonardo’s, at Borrowdale Village recently was that the lovely sea-fresh oysters they have flown in from Scotland twice a week had sold out within an hour of being delivered the night before!

Eating Out with Dusty Miller

If you snooze, you lose! But I couldn’t have made it to Borrowdale on Friday night, due to a previous engagement. While relatively few of Harare’s affordable middle-of-the-road restaurants open at Saturday lunch, presumably due to a perceived lack of demand, Leonardo’s has always done so, while closing on Sundays.

There was no lack of demand, either perceived or in reality, at Leonardo’s on Saturday, but when I arrived every table up to then was occupied by parties of lovely ladies who lunch lightly and languidly.

Only when I was half way through my meal did another guy who grazes gustily arrive (and then in the company of two women).

That may reflect the fact that very much hands-on proprietor Danny Marini is often described as one of this country’s most charming and professional restaurateurs. Another attraction possibly was that at one stage Danny said I was the only punter not ordering a very affordable two-course for US$10 offer.

This deal allows a choice between starters: rocket salad, piri-piri chicken livers, mixed samoosas (chicken, beef, vegetarian) or focaccina a la Greca and mains of crumbed hake and chips, pasta amatriciana, Leonardo’s pasta (vegetarian), chicken kebabs with a home-made tzatsiki sauce, half a piri-piri chicken and chips or pork chops tikka.

Soup-of-the-day is no longer listed on the menu, but is often available (minestrone, vegetable, mushroom or tomato) and can become one of the starters in the package.

Appetisers on the full menu include some old favourites: piri-piri chicken livers or fried Haloumi cheese with chili jam, both US$6; deep-fried mushrooms cost US$7; calamari and scampi combo, “shrimp” cocktail or escargots (snails) in a blue cheese sauce will set you back US$9 and thinly sliced raw beef carpaccio is US$10.

Salads tend to be of the “main course” type, lush, colourful and crisp, peaking at US$11 for a chicken and avocado job and US$15 for a salmon Caesar, Danny’s take on the classic Los Angeles creation.

I plumped for the very 1960-ish totally retro “shrimp” cocktail, which actually comprised five or six large plump queen prawns, with an un-pitted black olive and slices of lemon and tomato in an old-fashioned champagne-style wine glass bulked out by the usual shredded lettuce, the whole lot anointed with a tasty pink 1 000-Islands sauce which didn’t dominate the presentation.

On sitting down and perusing the menu a basket of still warm, freshly baked, focaccia bread was delivered with separate garlic and chili sauces for dipping and a couple of slices went down very well with the iconic seafood starter. I’ve eaten prawn cocktails on and off and around the globe for over half-a-century and Leonardo’s is a grand example of the dish.

Danny is locally born: half Italian, half German; his wife, Voula, also locally-born is of Greek descent. They serve mostly Mediterranean-style food, well cooked, nicely presented in generous portions and in pleasant surroundings in their first-floor family eatery at Borrowdale Village.

Colour scheme is mainly terracotta and burnt umber; there are quarry tiled floors and much Italianate statuary. A comfortable well-stocked bar is available for pre-and post-prandial refreshments and they carry a wide range of good quality cigars.

They have developed pizzas for the health conscious: “alla fresella”, with the crust in a large donut shaped circle at US$12/US$13 a pop; conventional pizzas are US$12 (Mediterranean) to US$14 for marina (seafood), with most toppings costing US$13.

Pastas are all US$15, except marinara (US$18) for ginormous trencherman-style helpings.

You can have pasta as spaghetti or penne imported from Italy or home-made fettuccini, which I went for (and struggled to finish!), with a creamy, more-ish blue-cheese and bacon sauce. I’m also fond of carbonara (bacon, ham and salami in the creamy sauce) and ravioli con carne e pollo (pasta parcels stuffed with minced beef and chicken.)

Poultry choices are half a piri-piri chicken (looks precisely the same as the one on the US$10 two course menu!) for US$13 and an ultra-rich chicken Kiev at US$19; fish listed is hake fillet (US$16), fish paella at US$21, grilled prawns cost US$25 and grilled salmon fillet with lemon butter sauce is US$29, but very good.

From the grill, hanging Greek kebabs, a 250g fillet or 300g sirloin steak cost US$19, plus three-bucks for a sauce and pork chops are US$16, all with chips, mashed potatoes, baked spuds or savoury rice.
Puddings are US$6 or US$7 apiece and at the higher price, I usually have the Amarula crème caramel created by Voula.

It blends Amarula liqueur, cream and…of course… caramel-ly goodness, encased in golden spun sugar and goes down wonderfully with a frothy cappuccino.

Leonardo’s don’t charge corkage (one bottle per couple). In stock are very acceptable imports from the Cape at US$12 to US$23 for whites; US$14 to US$28 for reds; US$18 for a single rosé or a choice of three sparkling wines.

Leonardo’s: Borrowdale Village. Opens lunch and supper Monday-to-Saturday. Fully licensed, but no corkage if you BYOB. Smoking/no smoking areas, cocktail bar. Child friendly. Steep flight of stairs. Background music, strong in Sinatra. Parking outside and close by.

Booking recommended. Telephone 883158. — dustym@zimind.co.zw

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