Seeing as one’s from Durban with all the on-the-doorstep, affordable, seafront gourmet goodness that implies and bearing in mind they’d already been staying at the former Sheraton a fortnight and the novelty hadn’t worn off, that speaks volumes.
Hifa named Rainbow Towers as official festival hotel this year after 10 years at Crowne Plaza Monomotapa. That, of course, is much closer to most of the performances, but I hear last year African Sun (who own Mono’s) charged US$170 p/p/n bed and breakfast (and planned to increase it for 2012) whereas RTG quoted US$90 b&b: A saving not to be sniffed at.
I took myself off on foot to lunch there on Wednesday, also planning to renew my Press accreditation card at the Media Centre, which should have been done in January! On May 2 it hadn’t been done and — thanks to a panic phone call from the office towards the end of the meal — still hasn’t! I see last year it was October 10 before that bureaucratic task was accomplished.
Walking to the city’s “other” five star hotel from our offices in The Kopje is quicker than driving these days, given the dreadfully congested state of our roads by lunatic anarchic drivers, many in dodgy vehicles; poor (almost non-existent) maintenance of roads and traffic lights rarely working, as, very often there’s no power. Even if working, they are, apparently, synchronized against motorists.
Had I driven, I’d probably not have seen a rather off-putting, grim, grimy plastic banner warning “Typhoid and Cholera Alert” lashed to the Municipality’s Rowan Martin Building fence. Take that sports lovers! Welcome to the once Sunshine City for a week’s orgy of culture! Go home with a life-threatening disease!
The hotel was pumping mainly due to Hifa but I saw only one obvious Hifa-ite in the restaurant: a rather foppish young man with Hifa accreditation bracelet on decidedly limp wrist. His floppy hairstyle was loosely somewhere between those favoured by Oscar Wilde and Leo Sayer; he ate three plates of salad…chete!
I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed a flavour filled home-made cream of tomato soup in which — amazingly — garlic croutons retained crispness and crunch minutes after the soup was poured.
Salads were stunning: red cabbage, beetroot, cabbage-and-apple, tomato salad, Italian salad (really a caprese — but Capri’s in Italy) — carrot salad, cheese platter, cold fish platter, cucumber salad, chipolata pork salad, crispy lettuce and Portuguese salad. Had there been the odd plate of cold meat: (say) ham, roast beef, salami, polony, chicken breast…even brawn (“jellied heid” in Scotland), which I’d murder for, I might also have had three plates as the day was hot, sultry and cloudless, without a whisper of a breeze as my photograph of the exterior of the hotel shows.
So after a few sips of a delightfully chilled article of refreshment of a moderately intoxicating nature (a Golden Pilsener) and a chat (separately) with RTG publicist, leggy, power-dressed Eltah Nengomasha, and hotel GM, Richard Nkomo, about their Mothers’ Day plans for a fun-filled lunch besides the pool I visited the Main Dishes (Hot) station.
(I told Eltah, if she e-mailed me Mothers’ Day menus within two hours, I’d tell the world about May 13’s festivities. She’s three minutes left before I file my weekly missive!)
Believe it or not, I’ve a bird-like appetite these days and shuddered at the enormous quantities of graze some fellow diners shovelled onto plates that looked as if they wouldn’t hold another garden pea…and then pile fish on a separate side plate.
I heard one punter addressed as “Honourable Minister” by a gushing waiter. This also made me shudder as many of them are unarguably singularly dishonourable. The lawmaker (probably law-breaker!) had a flunky carry two plates of grub, then bellowed into a bright red cellphone non-stop for over 20 minutes. You could hear every word in English, Shona and Zimglish everywhere in the big room.
I tried a rather nice, piquant pork chop in ginger and garlic sauce and chicken “Gordon Blue” (sic) (cordon-bleu!) which was — as usual — very rich. Also available were “beef casserole Zimbabwe style” (ie full of bones!) and roast/baked (which?) whole Kariba bream stuffed with roast veg.
Starches were sadza, potato bake or saffron rice. I had a little of the latter two with the nicest mushroom sauce I’ve tasted in yonks and mixed veggies.
Although picking at a main course, I left room for pud! And what a dessert display: strawberry cheese cake, Black Forest gateaux, a gorgeous fruit salad, apple turnovers, brandy balls, fruit gateaux, pear tarte tatin, trifle (the absolute best!), custard pudding, chocolate gateaux, vanilla cake Devonshire ice-cream, and fresh cream.
Price for Harvest Garden’s lunch or supper buffet is US$25: Maybe a wee bit high by international standards, unless, ravenous, you can do justice to it. But breakfast is also US$25 (as is that meal at most Zim hotels) which — globally — verges on the scandalous, perhaps explaining why few Zimbabweans routinely go out for hotel breakfasts nowadays.
When my kids — now in their 30s — were growing up, four of us could go the Jameson, eating almost until lunchtime: ZW$7,50 for adults; half-price for wee’uns. (Surely that should have been reversed? Kids eat more than adults!)
Folk just can’t eat US$25 worth of eggs and bacon. One of the finest hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had was in Florida, not TOO long ago at US$15 for walk-ins. Bed and breakfast was US$80. The Wetherspoon Chain in the UK’s breakfast is usually about £6, often with bottomless tea or coffee; Wimpy in South Africa (not the dreadfully poor places they had here) do a grand breakfast from about R45; an artery clogging cholesterol fest in Edinburgh, with eggs, bacon, three kinds of sausage, haggis, hash brown, flap jacks, baked beans, buttered bap and goodness knows what else I’ve forgotten cost all of £4 with huge beaker of coffee and a local paper; I can stay in a reciprocal club in London, two minutes’ walk from Parliament for £49 with substantial Continental breakfast and in the lovely Oxfordshire town where my daughter lives, the local b&b charges £25; the landlady (an ex-planter in Malaya) will cook a pair of plump kippers after porridge and cereal and before bacon-and-eggs (if you have the appetite!)
(And in RSA, USA and UK they earn an awful lot more than we do in Ha-ha-ha-rare: Africa’s fun capital)
(Sorry, Eltah, you were just too late, my dear!)