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Choice is limited at Butlers

We had booked for dinner at Butlers and found a parking place right outside, made our way to the entrance and were immediately greeted by a friendly waiter and led to our table. We admired the décor — a creamy theme colour, nice pilasters, good table linen, gentle creamy wall paint, all fitting beautifully with each other to create a most pleasant coherent ambience. Observing such style was a promising start to our gourmet intentions.

By Le Connoisseur

We were brought the menus and studied them, our appetites tickled delectably. We had not been offered drinks so I caught a friendly waiter’s eye and he hurried over. We ordered a beer and a gin and tonic. The bartender brought us a gin but no tonic, a large glass full of ice and an empty glass with a closed can of beer.

We pointed out the omitted tonic and unsmiling, she went off, returning with a closed can of tonic. We opened, poured and mixed our own drinks. My wife corrected the placement of our wine glasses which held a paper napkin each and were on the wrong side. Service thus far, not impressive. The menu however, was absolutely marvellous!

Our friendly waiter arrived to tell us there was “salmon, T-bone steak and mushroom soup today”. “Are those the specials?” my wife asked. “Yes!”, he beamed. So we had those to consider, as well as such great starters as wet biltong and gorgonzola salad, slow roasted salad of duck, roasted sweet peppers and Roma tomatoes salad, trio of prawns, dill-cured Scottish salmon gravelax (gravlax, as it should be) and wild mushroom risotto. The spelling was rather “creative” but culinary ideas and combinations, most tempting!

There were mains such as basil and almond crusted rack of lamb, flambéed pepper crusted beef fillet, Mediterranean-style prawns, chive and Cape mustard crusted seared salmon, and chicken “balontine’’ (ballotine, they meant). Such attractive dishes.

We chose the trio of prawns and slow roasted duck salad, then the salmon and Mediterranean prawns on savoury chorizo and bell pepper rice that would come with a trio of sauces: salsa “Verdi” (“verde”, not the opera composer I would think!), lemon “beure blank” (beurre blanc!) and a Mediterranean peri-peri sauce.

Our waiter approached smilingly and we beamed back, happy to order some delicious dishes: only to find that none of our choices were available. Only mushrooms were available for starters. So we opted for mushroom risotto and mushroom soup and asked for the wine list. After a few minutes the bar lady came with a colleague, each bearing two bottles of wine — this being the “wine list”. They were acceptable choices, but the prices were decidedly not. I stuck to beer while my wife opted for a single glass of wine.

The waiter who had joined the gathering now went off again without taking orders for mains, returning two minutes  later to announce the risotto was also off. We asked about our mains, the salmon and Mediterranean prawns, and were advised they were available, so was the T-bone, and nothing else. These then were not the “specials” after all, though he reassured us they were nonetheless, “special”! He said they had had a busy afternoon and ran out of stock.

My wife suggested we have the prawns as a shared starter, then the salmon and T-bone. When he brought the prawns, the promised rice, chorizo and bell pepper were absent. Of the three sauces, there were two, one plain white vinegar, the other coconut milk with lemon. The T-bone comprised two thin steaks which the chef had tried to fry medium rare as ordered. These and the chips were liberally coated with paprika, making the plate look like the red sea. The salmon was seared, certainly, but after a thin outer layer of cooked fish, was uncooked fish.

  • butlers should up their game

On the desserts front, what the menu promised was not available, but the waiter said there was chocolate cake and ice-cream with chocolate sauce. I had the cake with coffee — both poor. Waiting for the bill, I studied all the menus. There was a separate breakfast and lunch menu, both as enticing as our dinner menu, and offering different dishes — why, then, had our choices run out? Butlers needs to address service as well as menu options to ensure that what is printed and handed out is always available. They also need a proper wine list.

Deluxe Family Restaurant, 2 Plates
Expect to spend US$30 to US$50 per head
Newlands Shops, Harare

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