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Culture vultures


We have two extremely excellent restaurants in Harare art galleries, both run by special people: Nomsa Gwataringa at Gallery Café at the National Gallery and Lauren Pyle at the Green Bean Coffee Shop, Richard Rennie Galleries.

(And the one at the National Gallery in Bulawayo is also rather fine!)

I tend to go to Lauren’s newer Green Bean operation more frequently than Nomsa’s eatery, mainly because there’s usually unlimited on-site, free, secure parking and you can pull in almost as an afterthought.

It’s more or less necessary to “make a plan” to go to the National Gallery; but several times I’ve spotted friends’ vehicles at the Green Bean, so driven in for an enjoyable hour or so.

Green Bean was formerly Cafe Ilala, run by Gilles and Karen Perot, ex- Le Tam-Tam and Riviera Rukova.

Several pals claim that Lauren (previously at Season’s and St Zita’s) brews the very best coffees in the country.

I bow to superior knowledge, usually preferring tea as a hot drink . . . and lager for choice! I do, however, confirm her coffee, bubbling and squeaking in a hissing, spurting shiny Italian coffee machine, strictly operated only by Lauren herself, always smells authentically mouth-wateringly Roman piazza-café-ish and absolutely to die for!

I went for lunch on Thursday, still unable to order anything very challenging because of damage to the inside of my mouth.

Intense pain

For three days I ate and drank absolutely nothing and couldn’t speak: the pain was just too intense.

Since then I have been avoiding food which is too hot, in either culinary sense, too cold, too spicy or salty, too crusty or sharp or just on the big-bite side!

In other words, I have been eating almost baby foods: mainly soups and pappy, mushy, milk-soaked breakfast cereals.

The previous night I’d had to ask for minestrone soup followed by spaghetti Bolognaise to be put through a liquidiser at the splendid, new Da Eros Trattoria in East Road, Avondale!

This is not a great attribute in a newspaper restaurant reviewer! But accidents do happen.

Green Bean has several new items on its attractive, but unusually spelled, menu!

I thought I might just be able to do justice to smoked salmon, sour cream and chives in a largish baked jacket potato with a substantial side salad at $8.

And I did: slowly and deliberately munching gingerly and favouring the undamaged side of my face!

Lauren tells me the smoked salmon (it appears in several new dishes) is Norwegian.

Authentic taste

In a recent column, I wrote about Scotland’s Loch Duart smoked salmon, mussels and oysters, flown here especially each Friday, having the authentic salty tang and taste of the North Sea.

I was inundated with e-mails and SMSs from north of the porridge curtain, tut-tutting and telling me that Loch Duart is actually in Sutherland on the western side of Caledonia, so it is very much washed by the Irish Sea. Sorry, maningi!

Whether Norwegian, Scottish or Canadian, I love the heavenly cured pink stuff, which is also served at Green Bean as “salmon eggs” (no, not the roe): smoked salmon strips on creamy scrambled eggs, drizzled with olive oil at $8 or as a smoked salmon salad (which, candidly, sounds almost the same as my lunch, but without the spud) also $8.

You can eat indoors or out and a garden breakfast there, now the weather has again warmed up, is a very pleasant experience in verdant surroundings amid the art exhibits.

In addition to the Full Monty-type egg-and-bacon-plus fry ups, there is an American favourite, eggs Benedict: poached eggs on crispy hash browns with a creamy roast-tomato hollandaise sauce ($7) or French toast ($6) stuffed with cream cheese, bacon and chives and a side salad.

For an anytime substantial snack or light meal, Lauren has introduced a range of classical toasted sandwiches priced at $5 and $6 with a side salad. A good idea for a business lunch or a spot of philandering is a deliciously varied shared tapas platter $16 for two.

A new main course suggestion is roasted rolled chicken: tender, de-boned huku, stuffed with spinach and feta and served with crispy roast potatoes in a white wine-gravy reduction, again with a substantial and varied colourful side salad at $9.

Last light

Green Bean, at the corner of Downie Avenue and Second Street Extension, is open from breakfast until last light Monday to Saturdays. They also do outside catering by arrangement and cocktail parties.

The last cocktail event of theirs I attended was a splendid affair at the opening night of a one-man art exhibition by Calvin Chimutuwah, at Richard Rennie Galleries, itself (now curated by freshly-back-from-Britain leggy blonde Jamie Ballantyne).

Some of Calvin’s impressive work is still on show there. Lauren bought a study of a goat’s head by him for her own art collection built up over a number of years, during the drinks party.

That was, sadly, much to the chagrin of another collector who ordered a third gin-and-tonic to purposefully ponder the proposed purchase.

Having at long last decided to spend the bucks, she was too late; Lauren’s red-sticker was already on the frame! False finger nails at five paces!

Oh, what japes and wheezes we culture vultures get up to!


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