HomeStandard PeopleEatingOut With Dusty Miller: ‘Steering’ in to The Cattleman!

EatingOut With Dusty Miller: ‘Steering’ in to The Cattleman!

 

I was in “Skies” for Rainbow Tour- ism Group’s annual prestigious cooking competition, held this year in the spacious well-designed kitchen of the Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel, where general manager “Singa” Moyo allocated me a wonderful suite on the third floor for the weekend.

While the hotel’s food proved good (mainly served, portion-controlled, buffets) I had to get out of the place occasionally and late Friday night saw me introducing The Cattleman to Gary Webb-Stock, GM of Rainbow’s New Ambassador Hotel in Harare and RTG’s Business School, which he also runs there. Gary once headed the hotel and catering school in Lesotho.

Also in the company: indeed driving us in a very larney brand new 4WD, was an amiable African gent I only knew as Fred, who had just run out of cards, but promised to drop me off a DVD illustrating his business activities. Computer-designing hotels and restaurants, I seem to recall (We’d had “a few” in the bar at the hotel, with RTG regional execs; a few more in the cozy pub at The Cattleman with chef-patron Francis McGovern and even more at Mojo, a bar, lounge, café at Bulawayo Athletic Club, to which Fred introduced both of us.)

It was pumping with people and throbbing music, not really to my taste. In common with a long line of journalistic predecessors, I made my excuses and left at just after midnight. Bleary-eyed folk told me at breakfast they’d batted it out until after 4am! No thank you. I still await Fred’s DVD!

Gary had never before eaten the sort of grand, golden, beer-battered fillets of tilapia (Kariba bream), which Cattleman specialises in as ever-popular fish and chips.

So that was it. No argument:  three  local fish, chips and peas with great rolls and butter in the pub, talking hospitality industry “shop” until Francis gapped. He felt seriously crook and was in bed with flu for three days.

What can I say about fish and chips? Good, solid, reliable tucker, eaten across the globe, especially in places over which the Union Flag used to flutter, in a British Empire upon which the sun never set. (Allegedly because God didn’t trust the Poms in the dark!)

The grub was totally splendid. Fish dishes are “subject to quotation” on The Cattleman’s menu and, sadly, I didn’t ask for a quotation. I remember the bill being US$52: for fish and chips three times, a substantial number of Amstel Lagers (Francis, yonks ago, had a row with Delta Breweries and stocks no local beer!)  and whatever Francis drank.

Gary insisted on paying, and I really couldn’t be bothered to argue with him!

What I did spot on the menu was that currently a “Cowgirl’s” sirloin steak (a mere 350g of splendidly raised, properly butchered and well-hung meat) costs US$13 and a Cowboy’s — 500g+ — is US$17,50. When I was last in the restaurant, in mid-2008, during dreadful shortages and galloping hyper-inflation, I hungrily relished a great plate of the former at ZW$3,5 BILLION!

It was during that trip that I blessed the day, many years ago, I’d met Francis McGovern and his piratically-named brother-in-law, Ned McCoy, an erstwhile partner in The Cattleman, now in Australia.

Going through to Francistown, in Botswana, to buy a few “essentials” then not available here, (don’t you remember? NOTHING was then available in Zim! The stores were totally empty, with the possible exception of the odd kilo of Colcom polony!) I was stuck at the frontier post as a dopy driver had forgotten the vehicle log book, having assured me at 5am all documentation was in order.

As I rigorously questioned his birth legitimacy, Francis pulled in, gave me a lift to Botswana’s second city, treated me to lunch (hake and chips I recall) at the local O’Hagan’s and much later dropped me back at my Bulawayo hotel with tonnes of shopping! Thanks, china!

Francis was a master butcher before becoming a restaurateur and Ned, a fellow music hall Irishman, a cattle breeder. A formidable combination when you’re selling slabs of sirloin, rump, fillet, steak kebabs, beef Stroganoff, racks of ribs and chili-con-carne.

 

They once also ran The Cattleman at Victoria Falls, since sold off and, sadly now, not a patch on the Bulawayo operation.

I thought Francis’ chicken dishes quite pricey — certainly compared to Harare piri-piri joint charges — but a lot depends on quality and quantity. Half chicken and chips was US$14,50, whole baby chicken a tenner; huku Kiev or schnitzel US$17,50.

Individual salads were US2,20 to US$3 with a huge bowl for a big table costing US$8 to US$11; paté for the table was US$3 as was biltong-and-dips or what has always been grand soup of the day. Shrimp cocktail was US$5 and a seafood ditto, US$4; same price as deep-fried crumbed mushrooms or mushrooms-on-toast with cheese, pepper or garlic sauce.

Those are mainly attractive eno-ugh prices and with sweet at US$3 to US$4 and tea or coffee US$1,50, a memorable night out or lunch at The Cattleman won’t bankrupt you.

They serve superb full English-style roast Sunday lunch with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and often up to 11 different vegetables, but shut Sunday nights.

l dustym@zimind.co.zw

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