I said I would make every effort to attend a re-branding cocktail party for a new menu at The Bistro eatery at the Bridge Spar, Groombridge last Wednesday week, but my best effort wasn’t good enough, as you can’t be in two places simultaneously!
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
So last Saturday I thought I’d check it out, aiming for a late, light mid-afternoon lunch.
Candidly I wasn’t surprised when the soup-of-the-day (US$4) container was empty at a wee bit after 2pm as a lot of Zimbo caterers believe the old adage that soup doesn’t sell in summer.
Shrugging off the disappointment I ordered crumbed chicken burger with French fries and onion rings at US$8, which sounded good value as a similar item, but served with a rasher of smoky bacon, at the new Mugg & Bean at Borrowdale cost me an eye-watering US$15 (service was tardy and to add insult to injury they initially forgot the onion rings!)
But my waiter said soup-of-the-day (mushroom, he revealed) would be ready in 10 or 15 minutes if I wished to wait. As time (for once) wasn’t important I ordered it — half expecting something really disappointing out of a can or packet — sipped a first pot of tea and returned to the detective thriller in the camera bag.
This soup was actually amazingly good: creamy in both colour and texture, cram-full of tasty forest-fresh fungi, which seemed slightly bulked out with onion and thin-ish slices of jacket potato? Full of rich, velvety flavours and hidden depth, it was piping hot and accompanied by a large plate of golden fried garlic croutons. Great value at US$4; (few soups in this country are worth more than US$5); well worth waiting for.
I assumed the burger order would have been automatically cancelled when I agreed to wait for soup…but it wasn’t!
And the dish delivered a few minutes later was a burger-and-a-half. The sort you get served in the Land of the Free; the type the Americans seem to live on. Chicken component was two tasty, tender, moist substantial slabs of breast, crumbed and deep-fried, sealing in the flavour.
There was a mountain of good, golden, chips crisp on the outside, floury within, and plenty of naturally sweet deep-fried onion rings.
Open up the bun (which was fresh, but hardly touched after the soup) and huku pieces lay atop a substantial salad of lettuce, tomato, raw onions and pickled gherkin.
The Homer Simpson-sized helping outfaced me and similarly stacked plated were being delivered across the eatery which is on a stoep at the side of the supermarket overlooking the car-park.
Other burgers are US$10 each; toasted sandwiches from US$4 (cheese and tomato) to US$6 for two cheeses, bacon and avocado. Non-toasted sandwiches range between US$5 (Greek salad pocket) to US$9 for a fillet steak Prego sub with the intriguing-sounding Yorkshire pudding and roast beef sandwich at US$8. As a bloke born and raised in British West Yorkshire I feel compelled to return and sample this unusual “delicacy” before long!
Main courses include quarter chicken and chips, plain or piri-piri at US$6, fish and chips (Kariba bream) or hake fillets tempura at US$10; pork spare ribs a la carte US$11 and a 250g beef fillet steak US$16. Plated salads (haloumi, beef or chicken) are US$6 and a help-yourself platter costs US$7; pizzas are US$7-US$11.
Unusually for a restaurant eatery in Zim, The Bistro at Groombridge Spar (not to be confused with an excellent restaurant of the same name on Borrowdale Road) is licensed to sell beers, wines, ciders, spirits and cocktail and sundowner sharing platters to go with these at US$8 each.
I ignored the “wine list” (can you believe it?) and during my visit had two medium-sized pots of Tanganda tea and a long-tall ice-cube-filled glass of Sprite.
Puddings are US$4 apiece and I chose strawberry churros: Mexican doughnuts (not doughnut shaped!) filled, decorated with fresh strawberries and a berry coulis and served with a side of hot chocolate sauce. My grand-kids would love it!
Service was slick, professional and polite: soup and croutons, chicken burger, pudding, two pots of tea and a canned cool drink came to US$20.
I sat on the stoep and ate, drank, people-watched and read for perhaps 75 minutes during which I only once reeled back from exhaust fumes from an elderly back-firing Japanese banger. But I was frequently bothered by plagues of flies (there’s a vlei just beyond Old Georgians club-house opposite.)
The friendly manageress said they’d tried everything to get rid of the pests but without success. I told her the mother of my children used to put pots of mint (preferably still alive) on outdoor tables and these — with a few fly-traps in nearby trees — seemed to really help.
The Bistro, Groombridge Spa: opens for breakfast, lunch, early supper, morning coffee, afternoon tea and sundowners daily. Eating outdoors; smoking, no smoking area. Fully licensed for alcohol. Child and handicapped friendly. (Take a fly-swat or a jar of mint!).