Another stunning restaurant has arrived quietly on the Harare eating-out scene with a Wow factor needing a capital “W”!
Emmanuel’s, a fabulous fine-dining outlet really worth that title, can be found at Bronte Hotel, with a special entrance from Josiah Chinamano Avenue.
I ate there on Tuesday with general manager Tracy Roberts, a local lass from Lion’s Den who has vast experience in hospitality in the UK where she met husband, Mark, in West Wales.
Mark was at our table in the gleaming conservatory-style restaurant as, briefly, was the innovative executive chef.
He’s Steve Hyde, born Kadoma, raised Mutare; back home in a mid-life career change, having headed Hospitality, Travel and Tourism at Westminster Kingsway College, London.
A 47-year-old, resplendent in sparkling whites and traditional tall toque chef’s hat, praised colleagues’ teamwork in getting the place designed, built, equipped and opened on time, despite the fact he was in St Anne’s Hospital for a critical fortnight having a back op.
I was gob-smacked at the sparkling newness of this revolutionary (for Zim) eatery which used the Colonial-style home of the hotel’s first owner, Emmanuel Lutz, as its core.
Furniture is comfortable, sensibly spaced, linen, flatware, crockery, cutlery and crystal shone.
The menu was exciting as is a still growing wine list.
The food spoke loudly of freshness, careful sourcing and storing.
Cooking was exemplary and presentation spectacular: like you’d find at the world-famous restaurants of many of Steve’s ex-students, now global celebrity chefs, running chains of international restaurants, churning out cook books and appearing on telly twice nightly.
Game comes from Mashonaland West; beef, hand-picked by Steve’s team of chefs is aged at least 21 days; fruit and veg producers grow specially and organically for this new venture; herbs and some vegetables come from the hotel’s amazingly verdant, lush CBD gardens.
I’ve not before seen local lake bass on a Zimbabwe menu, but Emmanuel’s has oven-baked supreme Darwendale bass fillet, wrapped in smoked bacon, served on salt cod puree, with baby leeks, red pepper coulis and herb oil at US$19.
I could have ordered and enjoyed almost every item listed.
Regular readers know I’m a soupaholic and was torn between wild pigeon consommé: a delicately flavoured clear soup accompanied by a rich farce of game on rosemary skewer, with sour cream, horseradish and carrot salad at US$8 and chilled pea and mint cappuccino, served dusted with dark chocolate and crisp pea-and-goat’s cheese fritters, an attractive, highly unusual, US$7 dish I relished.
This was after an unexpected amuse bouche, of dinky miniature cottage pies, we applauded. When did you last enjoy an amuse bouche (a free starter to entertain the palate) in Central Africa?
Tracy asked me to order wine. We thought it was a night for white wine (US$13-$32.) I chose a 2009 Terra del Cappo Pinot-Grigio from RSA, with clear hints of green apple, peach and nuts tastes, at US$19.
Reds are US$16 (Nederburg Shiraz ’06 or Zonnebloem Pinotage ‘05) to US$38 for the ’07 La Motte Cab-Sauv.
Bargain of the list: a ’07 Vergelegen Mill Race, well-oaked, robust, hugely drinkable at US$24.
Cape method sparkling wines are US$29-US$32 and Kanu Noble Late Harvest US$35.
Bream is whole and boned, served on Thai vegetable noodles and collops of Mozambique prawns, with vine cherry tomatoes and chili jam at US$16, which Mark had.
Other mains included venison loin (US$20); free-range huku breast filled with date, apricot and basil mousseline, enriched with cream cheese and served with red wine sauce at US$15 and beef tournedos (US$20).
Vegetarian dishes include herbed Piedmontaise gnocchi (potato dumplings) with chives and tarragon poached, then quickly fried for crispness, served with paw-paw, mint and chilli salsa and crisp basil (US$12) or a US$14 mille feuille of roast Mediterranean vegetables Tracy had.
I love roast rabbit, rabbit stews and pies, so went for roulade of rabbit: rolled, almost sausage-like, sliced with rabbit loin encased in chicken mosaic mousse, peppers, leek and bacon served with a wide range of beautifully fresh vegetables, including patty pans, parsnip, asparagus and glazed beetroot just at US$18. It tasted even better than it looked.
I heard Mark’s vanilla Bavarois was Steve’s signature sweet, encased in orange-scented joconde sponge, peppered pineapple marmalade and sauce à l’Anglaise at US$5, but went for Oeuf à la Neige (“snow eggs”): poached meringue with pears macerated in red wine, served in a crisp vanilla basket, also US$5.
But then, all puds are a fiver, except chocolate decadence and crème brulée (topped with green-tea sorbet!) which were US$6 each.
Tea, coffee and a mouthwatering selection of petite-fours cost US$3.
This new restaurant is a welcome addition to Harare’s hospitality scene.
A five-star-plus operation in the friendly three-star family hotel, it will be a winner.
They’ve been serving supper only, but from December 1 at the latest, lunch will also be available, with Christmas-theme meals offered.
Dress code: smart/casual. Handicapped- friendly but steps to nearest gents.