I feel sure there was an element of subsidy of Monday's periodical lunch of the Restaurateurs' Association at La Fontaine Grillroom, Meikles Hotel.
Because for a mere US$20, this memorable meal was an absolute steal!
Rory Lumsden is one of Zimbabwe's most talented and creative young chefs and he possibly outshone all previous sterling efforts in creating a magnificent menu for his fellow peers, taking some well-earned quality time off from the busy hospitality sector.
Presumably because Colcom donated "the makings" (their wonderful new range of up-market, high-end, Namibian-cured charcuterie) a splendid amuse bouche (something to tickle the palate) consisted of game salami wonton and Black Forest ham crostini. It certainly amused my laughing tackle no end!
Then there were two starters and, as regular readers are aware, I'm, these days, perhaps much keener on tasty appetisers than mains or "finishers"!
First was one of Rory's unusual sounding, but perfectly blended, duos of smoked salmon paté served with de-constructed, then re-constructed, braised ox-cheek...a combination of apparently confusing, conflicting flavours and textures that had me wondering why it hasn't been done before?
Then a deep, richly satisfying chicken liver parfait, served in a demi-tasse coffee cup with toasted brioche. There was more parfait than could properly fit on the brioche, so I snaffled an untouched still warm in hotel-baked bread roll from my slim neighbour, Joyce, slathered it with butter and finished every intense morsel.
A master butcher at our table observed that, in his opinion, it isn't necessary to "age" beef fillet steak...and certainly not for 21-28 days as some Zimbabwe restaurants claim. His argument was that the cut is already super soft and hanging it over-long turns it to "butter". He agreed rump, sirloin, entrecote should be hung for up to a month.
Due to dietary constraints, sadly, I didn't get to try even a tooth-full of Rory's "aged" (number of days unquoted), fillet steak with spinach and oxtail ravioli, but it looked and smelled delicious.
As, indeed, did my pan-fried... (Ok...you're expecting it! What else are you to fry in? A bowler hat? fruit bowl?)... Tilapia fillets with red-pepper couscous and white grapes. The three bream fillets were pearlescent white and beautifully firm yet moist beneath a slightly seared crisped skin: A lesson in how to cook fish.
The starch: North African couscous had a rich brown natural hue; tiny cubes of bright post office red sweet peppers added additional colour, which the white grapes helped to offset, their sweet juicy taste cutting through any possible dryness in the starch.
How I hated the word OR, when getting down to the tail end of the menu!
It read chocolate mousse tart and doughnut with passion fruit jelly OR cheese board with toasted raisin and nut bread. How I wish that little word read AND, instead of OR!
Both looked stunningly attractive, but my own slight preference at the end of a meal (if I can't have both!) is for savoury rather than sweet and cheese: well-kept imported hard and soft varieties with more plump, juicy, sweet white grapes and a splodge of fruit compote, certainly went down well with the last few sips of delightfully chilled Pilsener lager in a froth-lined glass.
We finished with tea or coffee and if that isn't twenty-bucks' worth of stupendous value, in a five-star restaurant in a five-star hotel, I don't know what is!
I left with members arguing gently as to where and when the association should hold its Christmas /end of year event.
My worry is that some of the more prestigious upper-end outlets are trying to outdo one another in terms of service and quality and quantity and service of their servings. Great for us rank-and-file members, but it might tend to deter ma-and-pa type eateries from offering their own special homely hospitality!
Sadly I never got to eat at Eve's Garden in Highlands, which always did well in the Restaurant of the Year competition in its few very short years in business. (The one time I tried to go, the place was block-booked by some Third World Groupie charity.)
I now hear it's gone. The property's been sold to a group medical practice and apparently the Eve's Garden impedimenta was auctioned, making it sound unlikely they'll re-open at a new venue any time soon.
As already reported here, Taverna Athena, which cooked among then best mushroom soups in the country, at Kensington, went into liquidation while I was overseas.
It will be sadly missed by me, although I preferred it when the restaurant was behind Holiday Inn.
I hear Arnaldo's, the well-established Portuguese piri-piri chicken restaurant at Graniteside, is to take over TA's now empty shell, opening a second branch of their local franchise, presumably also offering suppers, which they don't serve in the industrial site. I wish them well.
KFC (formerly Colonel Saunders Kentucky Fried Chicken) are apparently due to open their first branch in Zimbabwe for many years (the previous franchise sank without trace!) at the filling station at 2nd Street Extension "now-now".
The site is diagonally opposite their main rival: Innscor's Chicken Inn, etc., at Belgravia shops, where parking is already chaotic.
No space to do justice to a lovely, light Sunday lunch at Italian Club, Quendon Road, Strathaven, last Sunday but it's well worth a visit. We had a nice, meaty, lasagna or spinach-and-feta ravioli at US$6 which came with grand warm crispy rolls and butter.
With a big bowl of fresh "green" salad (loads of cherry tomatoes in mine) at US$3 and US$2 puddings: Tiramisu, crème caramel or ice-cream and a brace of drinks apiece, bottom line was US$12-US$14 a head.
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Labels: Rory Lumsden, Rory Lumsden Millionaire Chef Meikles Hotel Zimbabwe