About 30 seconds too late! Scores of conference attendees formed an orderly (or, rather, a pretty disorderly, bad-tempered, hungry) queue at the open-plan restaurant’s entry. I recognised some, identifying them as participants in a Culture Fund talkfest. Spotting that was easy; they were simply the least cultured-looking mob in the hotel complex!
Walking around to the Beer Engine pub it was disappointing to learn they no longer do food. They used to serve a not bad fish and chips, bangers and mash-type special plate at an affordable price.
Jazz Bar does have bar food, but I have never returned since its opening night several years ago, as they don’t allow shorts. This is totally amazing. If we ever do get tourists back to Harare, they tend to prefer to wear shorts on holiday (especially Americans).
What do we do: open tourist-style pubs, bars and eateries and exclude from them anyone not wearing long trousers!
Thinking it a forlorn hope, I asked at reception if, by any chance, the upstairs Tiffany’s Restaurant were open. Once Cresta Group’s flagship a la carte outlet and the scene of some splendidly festive “theme evenings” over the years, it has been shut a long time, following the post 2 000 tourist arrivals nose-dive.
An affirmative answer was immediate, but there was a slight hiatus in establishing that my KD shorts wouldn’t offend anyone. Far from it, the hotel’s immaculately be-suited deputy GM Mabasa Mwaziya, asked me to join his table.
He said Tiffany’s had been re-opened (totally unannounced) for two months. I was stunned to learn my old friend Garret Moyo, the Jameson’s previous, long-serving GM had taken early retirement in his native Bulawayo. New boss is Emily Mumba, formerly of Cresta’s Head Office at Msasa. She was out.
Mwayiza was only in town a few days, as he’s been promoted to GM himself and is taking over the Kwara Hotel, in Nigeria, on a three year contract for Cresta.
Although the Sandawana was full to bursting, with long queues for the help yourself buffet, Tiffany’s was sparsely occupied, with most people helping themselves in a civilised manner to a tempting display and a couple of tables ordering a la carte meals, which we did.
Top-marks for a splendid thick, rich, densely complex home-made cream of chicken soup with still-warm crispy in-hotel baked bread rolls and butter. This was $3, the same price as devilled chicken livers, Spanish omelette or a “pasta delight” on the starter menu. Pancake Jameson (filled with ham, tomato, onion and garlic, rolled, topped with melted cheese) was $4; assorted cold meat platter (picnic ham, ox-tongue, roast beef and smoked chicken with pickled vegetables) or Greek salad $5.
Almost everything is available from suppliers these days, so I was perplexed to hear that the hotel had no fillet or rump steak. I ordered a T-bone, medium, with the instruction that it must have nyama on the fillet side: I did not want a porterhouse.
I got a porterhouse! It was tasty, but not the most tender lump of dead mombe I’ve ever eaten this side of the Somabhula Flats. Golden chips were bang on: crisp on the outside, floury inside; an accompanying mushroom sauce was faultless and vegetables surprising edible.
All steaks are $10 (except minute steak: $8); a gourmet sauce is included.
Fish courses are $9 (choice of sole presentations or Nyanga trout), to $28 for tiger prawns, with bream, tilapia, fritto misto or Portuguese sardines $12 and queen prawns $16.
Chicken Maryland is $8 and sweet-and-sour chicken $10, which is the same price as grilled pork chops or smoked pork ribs; a beef burger costs $8.
Most of the waiters and senior chef Agrippa have been around Jameson’s restaurants, certainly since Gordon Addams’ GM days there (when Pontius was a pilot!) with his wonderful cabaret theme nights and there were welcoming smiles all round. Puddings are $2 to $5; cheese platter $3.
Local wines are pricey at $10-$15; imported $15-$20. Tiffany’s is open seven days a week for breakfast lunch and supper (so Audrey Hepburn fans can enjoy ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s!) They offer a traditional Christmas menu from today.
Tiffany’s, 1st Floor, Cresta Jameson Hotel, Samora Machel Avenue, Harare. Tel 774106