I admit to be not exactly potty about running buffets (other than at breakfast) in this country.
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
That’s mainly because many of my fellow Zimbabweans can make total warthogs of themselves, piling disparate food on disparate food….even (and I’ve seen it score of times) sometimes messily plonking pudding and custard atop a heaped pyramid of savouries on which they couldn’t safely balance an extra pea!
What vexes me even more is when much of the gargantuan pile of scoff is left congealing on the plate to go in the pig-swill, when hundreds of thousands go hungry daily.
I’m pleased to report I saw no such gastronomic excesses at the launch of the new Saturday lunch time four-nation cuisine at Da Eros Trattoria in East Road, Avondale the weekend before last.
I’d verbally accepted an invitation to try the new buffet, but battled unsuccessfully to find car-parking space within the restaurant’s spacious grounds.
I managed to squeeze the office clunker into a narrow gap outside Belgravia Sports Club opposite, where apparently an enormous wedding was taking place. Sod’s law, as I entered Da Eros on foot, two cars pulled out!
It was a lovely sunny, warm day. We’ve had a fairly mild “winter” in Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun capital) and it will soon be only a memory.
Almost everyone ate outdoors in shirt-sleeves; the atmosphere was basically pleasantly, happily, continental, although African-ised by fragrant aromas from a picturesque Ethiopian/Eritrean coffee ceremony; there were also mouthwatering wafts and draughts from spicy Horn of Africa dishes and Indian curries.
Scents and flavours were indeed intense. On offer were Italian dishes (Italy colonised Ethiopia in the 1930s and 40s) and the lasagna al forno (baked pasta in a rich meat and tomato sauce) and penne with broccoli and cream both proved popular.
The second national cuisine was, of course, Ethiopian. Da Eros’ owners are of mixed Italian-Ethiopian descent, although the glamorous Nassy Prendini (wife of chef-patron Nevio) explained to me she was actually Eritrean.
Eritrea, occupied by Rome in 1890, was at one stage part of Ethiopia and is now independent. Eritrea, Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland became, politically, Italian East Africa until the British expelled the Italians (who sided with Nazi Germany) after winning the Battle of Keren in 1941.
Grub from the Horn of Africa included dora wet (pieces of chicken breast and whole hard-boiled eggs in spicy gravy served with injera bread).
A uniquely flavoured sourdough flatbread with a lovely spongy texture, this is believed by Ethiopians to have been the Biblical “manna from heaven” of Moses’ time.
Then there was siga alicha (spellings courtesy of Nevio Prendini. Google asks do I mean sigma chi?): sliced meats in a home-made curry sauce with potatoes, carrots and jalapeno peppers and misir alicha which is lentils and chickpeas cooked with garlic, ginger and other spices. Gomen was a vegetarian dish of kale cooked with spices; ajib (home-made ricotta with herbs) and mixed vegetables, strong in beetroot.
There were many Greek merchants in Ethiopia and the Horn over the centuries and that is presumably why splendid moussaka was available for help-yourself service, plus Greek salad, Hellenic-style roast potatoes and lamb ribs and chicken spit-roast over a very hot braai.
Similarly, Indian traders and sailors called at ports in the region and Da Eros laid on a rather pleasant, medium-hot lamb curry, chicken tikka, vegetarian curry and basmati rice with roti breads.
The Ethiopian coffee ceremony went on apace, with a pretty young gal in traditional garb roasting green beans on charcoal and wafting the aromatic smoke across diners’ tables.
I thought I also detected the scent of cinnamon and there was some incense-like fragrance.
The ceremony involves brewing the coffee three times, offering three cups per person and drinking three cups.
Coffee (or the art of making it) was of course discovered in Ethiopia.
The four-nation buffet is only available at Da Eros on Saturday lunchtimes at US$17 per adult, US$9, children under 15 and free to the under-5s. The restaurant’s usual a la carte menu is also available.
Da Eros Trattoria, East Road, Avondale, Harare. Opens lunch and supper Tuesday-to-Sunday. Booking is often vital to avoid disappointment. Telephone 0775221211.
As Da Eros extends operations, it is sad to note the closure of two Harare restaurants of which I was quite fond. Arnaldo’s, at Kensington (not the one in Graniteside) shut recently. It operated for about four years and was formerly Taverna Athena and before that Mateo’s.
Also no longer trading is the Carriage Halt on King George Road, Avondale. In business for just over a year, Jaipur previously (very briefly) was open on the same site.
The Bavarian (at 3rd Street and Baines Avenue) closed a couple of months ago after being in business just over a year. The premises were empty for perhaps a decade after the Italian Fat Mama’s (later Mama Mia’s) moved to Newlands (it’s now AppleGees.) The original eatery on that site (part of the Russell Hotel) was Spago’s, also Italian.