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CheeseMonger

S. Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique....

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I'm in Harare. There really isn't much of a dining out culture here. We went out to lunch yesterday to a very pretty cafe near downtown called 40 Cork (the address), and the food was expensive and poor quality, what they had of it. Many of the items we tried to order were not available, even though they clearly do a brisk lunch business.

 

On the other hand, the markets are pretty good, even if you must visit several to get all of what you want. There's a small chain called Food Lover's Market which is the Zim version of whole foods- good selection of produce, meat, specialty products, and even some cheese- I got real emmenthaller for my Boxing Day gratin. Also on that menu- chateaubriand, Yorkshire puddings, grilled asparagus and a tarte tatin. The starter was a shrimp salad- we can get excellent shrimp from Mozambique. All very genteel in the garden under a large acacia tree.

 

To provide some context, I'm staying with friends on a couple of acres a little outside of town. Gated, of course. Productive vegetable garden, happy chickens, domestic help (not live-in). The bar at flying club is the place to meet and have drinks after a flight in the afternoons. The first morning I was here we were up for about 45 minutes and it was glorious. There is a pretty big British expat community here, including those that left, but come back for holidays, or moved back. They do enjoy their Gin and Tonics, naturally.

 

We had Chrismas lunch about 9k further from town at a beautiful house overlooking a lush valley and game reserve. The older set tell amazing stories about life here in the 1950s and earlier. Great granddad is 93, has seen a lot, and his memory is excellent. "Any more questions?" He would loudly ask when he finished a tale, he was a riot.

 

So we've eaten splendidly, but at home, or at homes of others. Except for the creamed spinach that had peanut butter in it. I thought I was going to lose that.

 

My situation is obviously pretty comfortable. I would not have come here if I was traveling about on my own, and without connections, I wouldn't really recommend it. When I told some of them that I was tooling around SA and Swaziland alone (with a car), they thought I was kind of crazy. I was never out at night, am always paying attention to my surroundings, never felt in any danger.

 

My friends that are hosting me just left on a pre-arranged diving trip to Mozambique for 6 days, so I'll hold down the fort here, collect eggs from the chickens, and explore the area- they left me a car to drive, which is completely necessary, even if a bit scary. Sometimes the traffic lights don't work, and while in the US, that becomes a 4-way stop, here it just means that everyone has the right of way.

 

Some of their friends have already invited me to picnics on the lake, and other charming outings.

 

In a couple of weeks I'll head over to Victoria falls- although Zim is pretty expensive, short hop flights aren't so bad.

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I'm sure the chickens are only happy up to a point.

The mistress of the house refuses to eat them (the birds). There are 10 ladies, and they run over to greet when you enter the large enclosure, and like to be pet. It's quite charming, I've never seen chickens be so friendly. Sometimes I pick one up and carry it around, and she just coos. But 10 eggs/day- can't keep up. Fortunately, in this unregulated land, I can easily sell them to the butcher shop.

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I've been in Harare a little over a month now. I've eaten in a few restaurants now, but only a few.

 

Gava's is an African restaurant located on the grounds of the Belgravia sports club. It's specialties are stews (oxtail, goat, etc.) and roasts. It's a small menu, which is good. Other places I've gone to have these extensive menus of various food types, and they are often out of most of them. It's super casual, and at lunch it's almost impossible to find a seat. All walk-in, with wooden picnic tables inside and out. They also have concerts on the sports fields on weekends.

 

We usually go in the evenings- be sure to coat yourself in mosquito repellent. Twice. They have an extensive beer selection, and run a good happy hour featuring many African craft beers. Peri-peri style chicken is everywhere in Zimbabwe. There's a chain called Nando's out of SA that my neighbors on the plane raved about, and said its always their first stop when they get home. It's okay.

 

Gava's makes an excellent roast chicken, served with sautéed greens and chips. It comes with a hot sauce of finely chopped garlic, bird peppers, ginger and vinegar, which is spicy and delicious. I like the texture of the fine chop rather than a purée. The goat stew is wonderful- tender, and delicious, with great seasoning. Comes with sadza (a cooked, fairly bland cornmeal mush, similar to pap in SA) and greens. I haven't tried the oxtail yet, but will if we make it back over.

 

One charming thing they do before your food comes is that a staff member comes around with a pitcher and a large bowl and pours water over your hands to wash them. I'm very big on hand-washing, attributing it to 75% of the reason I almost never get ill. I was about to go to the loo and wash, when I was kindly saved the trip.

 

We also went to the Queen Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant here in town. We got Doro Wat, beef tibs, and another thing I can't recall. I was with English people, which I only mention because they were not keen on stuffing injera+stew into their maws with fingers, so they used knives and forks. The food was wonderful, and I was excited to be eating Ethiopian food in Africa, and happily finding it much like what I've had at restaurants in Atlanta and Denver.

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<snip>

 

We also went to the Queen Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant here in town. We got Doro Wat, beef tibs, and another thing I can't recall. I was with English people, which I only mention because they were not keen on stuffing injera+stew into their maws with fingers, so they used knives and forks. The food was wonderful, and I was excited to be eating Ethiopian food in Africa, and happily finding it much like what I've had at restaurants in Atlanta and Denver.

 

Not only English. Paul was at an Ethiopian restaurant in San Antonio some years ago and was automatically given fork and knife. Because, as the server said, "People aren't used to using their hands." ??? In a state that eats barbecue????

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In my experience, eating stew-like foods with your hands is very different from eating ribs or fried chicken.

 

An aside, my mother used to have many clients from cultures where it's the norm to eat with one's hands. They used to complain about "Canadians" licking their fingers when eating because in their cultures, the behavior was frowned upon and only the uncouth did that. I sometimes suspect restaurants that provide cutlery when none is normally used do so because they are worried they have have to hear/see us licking our fingers.

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There's a chain called Nando's out of SA that my neighbors on the plane raved about, and said its always their first stop when they get home. It's okay.

 

 

The thing to do at Nando's is their livers, extra spicy if you're up to it. But mostly it's a 90s cult thing. (I'm amazed there are still so many of them, even some in the US)

 

http://www.rateyournandos.com/

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I'm going to Capetown and Pretoria the week of the 7th. Hopefully I can escape one night for a real meal. Maybe a cheeky nandos.

I stayed twice in Pretoria, on my way to and from Limpopo. One recommendation I have, if you're a beer person, is a brewpub called Capital Craft. Many beers, on tap and not. One is called "Tears of the Hipster". I had a pork loin and pistachio salad which was very good.

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double post, apologies.

 

Don't know where you've planned to stay, but I had a charming time at Treetops and Treats, and also at A Bed Above, which has a wonderful view of the city. Both of these in the $20-$30 range, given the state of the Rand at present.

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I really like Nando's, and so does N. Every time she goes to SA she brings back bottles of their hot sauce. They were good for a nice, relatively cheap meal in London too.

 

They seem to have a good foothold in the Baltimore-Washington area. I think it would get a good reception in other parts of the US. Too bad the US branches don't have some of the SA things, but maybe they wouldn't go over so well here.

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