YE OLDE RESTAURANTS AND HOTELS OF HARARE.
- 30/ 9/ 2011 <--Prev : Next-->
Here's some interesting news about the hotels and restaurants in Zimbabwe - it's old news but worth reading again for nostalgia.
The once much-loved George Hotel Avondale closed January 4: sold to Multi-Choice as new HQ. A planned valedictory meal in the grotesquely named Freckle and Phart pub, or depressing dining room, reminiscent of railway architecture circa 1946, aborted as it was semi-gutted well before closure.
Previously Charleston Hotel (ex-KamfinsaPark) also shut: "Due to ever rising rent hikes," I heard. Both places underwent major changes in clientele, facilities, ambience, even cleanliness but are fondly remembered for special functions. The George, especially, for wedding receptions.
Since independence Harare lost the popular Windsor Hotel on Baker (Nelson Mandela) Avenue. It housed the Colony, where Edwin and Rachelle played twin pianos to international cabaret standards to discerning diners in formal finery. Lincoln Room had fantastic value for money food in luxurious surroundings. It closed late November 1980 when set three-course lunch, featuring baron of beef rolled to the table, carved to order was $1,50.
1890 was the cocktail bar. Popular with lunchtime philanderers, it shut 2:30 sharp, when top-up topers moved next door to Branch Office (ex-Blue Room) opening 10:30 to 10:30. Some heroic boozers returned to 1890, which shut at 11:30. Egg and I was in the same building, as was Lion's Den:
The day the Windsor closed (earlier than announced to avoid vandalism seen at Meikles' Long Bar by "souvenir hunters") beer was 38c; bar lunch 35c.
Opposite was a complex housing the raucous Round Bar and Le Coq d'Or where little French was heard. The building was owned by an American religious sect which left the country at UDI.
Premises were banned from selling drink or tobacco; dancing was proscribed. For years they thought it was a library!
Picture the indignation when they found the country's most bawdy, boozy, bare-knuckled, bra-less nightlife had flourished there for years! Playboy was nearby, as was La Boheme: nothing to do with opera, it offered strippers of often venerable years and was a target of an inexpertly thrown grenade during the troubled times.
Three major Chinese outlets closed after 1980: Golden Dragon, a hang out of pre-independence Ministry of Information people, the bar a favorite with international journalists; Bamboo Inn with dark, dingy but somehow appealing pub run by an Irishman called (of course) Paddy. Mandarin had no bar, but hacks and hackettes gathered round a service hatch as if in a Fleet Street club.
Down the way Pink Panther!
Run by two aged sisters from the Caucasus, they served delicious kebabs at the original site, later Linquenda House. One also owned the Georgian Grill.
PP later became Alfredo's then Front Page: restaurants with lively pubs, gregarious regulars, liberal hours. The "Page" owners: a blonde and a brunette belonged in international glamour magazines.
Pino's in Union (Kwame Nkrumah) was arguably the best seafood joint around, but gained notoriety when someone complained and the ebullient eponymous Portuguese proprietor whacked him over the pip with a flamb pan. Bombay Duck between Jameson (Samora Machel) and Central was run, improbably, by ex- BSAP troopie, Tug Wilson; it served iridescent curries all hours for next to nothing.
At Msasa, Red Lantern, run by S-W African (Namibian) Germans specialized in eisbein, knackwurst and bratwurst I can still smell and taste. Beverly Rocks was an hospitable hostel : good food, great music, lovely gardens (now a government training centre.) Going east, the old Jamaica Inn was run by various characters including an ex-Federal hangman and Commonwealth boxing gold medal winner. Good stop there on the way to or from Three Monkeys Marandellas (Marondera) for lunch. (Now a religious institute.)
Glen Lorne's local was the festive Highlands Park , run by ex-Kenya big game hunter Toby Royston. Great dinner dances, lovely Sunday lunches, cream teas in the garden. Spaniards, Marlborough (ex-Quorn) served incredibly good food, except soup: always watery, insipid and costly.
There's not been another Harare establishment like Sandro's. Starting as a private club, it retained clubland ambience till the end. Five star cooking or basic bar lunch, often polished cabarets; journalists and businessmen rubbed shoulders with cabinet ministers. Sardinian Sandro also ran Eros: fine Mediterranean food and friendly bar and Sandrock's, for back-packers.
Close by was Taco's with usually picaresque punters pinting.
BB House has recently been rebuilt; Ramambo Lodge was there. Never my
favorite, tourists liked its rustic furniture, Shona sculpture, marimbas, game meat. I preferred a previous operation: Flanagan's with foot-stomping trad jazz Saturday lunches (Bob Gilmour and the Bobcats.) Fish and chips, tripe and onions, steak egg and chips, curry and rice 75c. Covered Waggon/Homestead served scrumptious salads: a favourite with females, when ladies who lunch lunched in town!
I played domin s in The Chalet as a suitcase bomb exploded at Woolworths nearby with many fatalities (the mother of my children was due to be there.) Regulars helped survivors. (Barbours was the real target.) On more pacific Chalet days, great juicy joints were trundled in at lunch; patrons sliced their own for 50c with pickles, mustard, horseradish, chips and rolls. The city's best pies were served in a motor sport-theme cocktail bar. There was a civilized snooker room (not a crummy pool hall.) It became a motor parts store, then a Spar.
Tipperary's on Fife Avenue, came and went unlamented, as did the adjoining Khyber Pass; Cassidy's, Glenara, had fleeting popularity; now a car showroom. Park Lane (now GMB HQ) the Kiya Nyama steakhouse there unrivaled outside Bulawayo . Howff, Chisipite, a Scottish theme pub/restaurant with super sing-along nights, memorably good prawn specials. In the same suburb, Sports Bar enjoyed a brief dedicated following, earning no stars from moi, unmourned when shutters fell as Innscor concentrated on "core" business.
Clovagalix, Fife, caught fire once too often, becoming Cafe Med, Borrowdale.
Caruso's 4th/Samora was a great Chips d'Oliviera club-cum Portuguese
pub/restaurant. As Vila Peri it moved to 3rd/Baines where the usually grubby Pointe is now. Next door was Fat Mama's, previously Spago's. Now Mama Mia's it thrives at Newlands.
The Cellar, Marimba Park was tops with journos and the printing trade,
serving wonderful whisky prawns, real rosti; upstairs bar often seemed the centre of the universe. Kamfinsa's Bizarre Bar (later IT, previously Buster's, The Cockpit, etc) was hugely popular with yuppies, briefly with buppies; once a license to print money. New owners cut corners. Now it's a swimming pool sundries shop.
Meikles closed Mirabelle, The Causerie, Flagstaff and Captain's Cabin;
Bagatelle, there, and La Chandelle, The Sheraton's fine French restaurant no longer routinely open; Aviator's Arms is shut to non-residents. Monomotapa lost 1001 Horsemen and Bali Hai, but gained La Francais from Avondale.
When everywhere else closed, you could get ABFs at Al's Place The Kopje.
Probably unlicensed: whether you ordered whisky, brandy or rum it came from one bottle; gin, cane, vodka, white rum another. High Chaparral (ex-Nick's Bar), Avondale opened all hours : a good greasy spoon where coffee and steak rolls helped avoid the worst "mornings after." Especially after Le Matelot (ex-Lighthouse), opposite where I squirmed as West End stage stars died a death. Aphrodite, Strathaven, was a superb Greek restaurant; Demi's near State Lotteries closed due to commuter omnibuses' anarchistic parking. Up the street, Copacabana served wonderful Portuguese food, having previously been a great Chinese (White Lotus?) Himalaya , nearby, did colossal searing
noon curries at minimal cost but was avoided after dusk.
Variously Rosedale's, Rose Bowl and Rose & Crown the Hatfield outlet was a superb Sunday lunch venue with live entertainment. One of the best seafood platters I've eaten here was at Kentucky, also Hatfield.
On a positive note there's a flurry of recently opened ethnic restaurants, tea, coffee shops and lodges; Jameson's Tiffany's re-opened after many years. Sadly, few seem to have the character or characters in which the closed establishments were so rich, but time will tell.
Written by an unknown Harare Journalist - thank you wh ver you are !