FOR the past few weeks, I’ve been telling readers about a recent trip to the Western Cape, courtesy of KWV wines and spirits of Paarl, but last week, KWV came to Harare and their superb wines were featured in a pairing session at La Fontaine for the Meikles Grapevine Club.
Travel with Dusty Miller
Coincidentally I was also invited to overnight at Meikles in one of their exclusive and fantastic Presidential Suites, so travellers to Harare can learn about what the capital city can offer.
I was totally stunned by my top (12th) floor suite and having paced it out and found it measured a jaw-dropping 198 sq metres containing two ginormous bedrooms, two gleaming bathrooms and separate toilets, a sitting/meeting/conference room which could accommodate major peace talks and a separate fully equipped glittering self-contained kitchen, could hardly wait to gushingly contact my daughter in the UK.
My luxury suite with magnificent vistas over Africa Unity Square from sun-kissed verandahs was more than double the size of her lovely little family home in rural Oxfordshire; possibly the whole of my Eastlea cottage could be dropped in the Hollywood style master bedroom!
Meikles’ friendly staff jokingly called me “President Miller” as I swiftly booked in to the US$2 000 a night suite and sure enough I am president (apparently for life) of Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society and had just left one of their functions. As we had a veritable Bacchanalian banquet slated for the evening,I was glad Greendale had comprised a light Chinese meal.
Welcoming drinks in the Can-Can cocktail bar were elegant flutes of “bubbly” : Laborie’s Method Cap Classique blanc-de-blanc (2010), a complex, indulgent wine showing clarity of fruit on the nose; hints of lime are accompanied by aromas of toasted bread and hazelnut. The palate is creamy, round and textured with explosive acidity and lasting finish.
A month earlier I stayed at Laborie Manor House (vineyard owned and run by KWV) and, candidly, I preferred their MCC Brut, also 2010: more to my particular palate.
First course was a tiny demi-tasse of a wonderful chicken consommé with ballontine and pastry fleuron, paired with KWV Cape Dry, which is what the South Africans now call Sherry (the real McCoy can only come from Jerez, Spain.)
Seared mackerel was a surprisingly blue-collar fish course for Meikles, but its smoky rich oiliness went well with a pickled cucumber and beetroot dressing and chilled KWV Cathedral Cellars sauvignon-blanc (2013), from which aromas again included limes and green apples with hints of spice and tropical fruits.
Main course was a magnificent melt-in-the mouth tender poached and roasted fillet of beef with braised white onions and carrot puree and the splendidly robust red wine pairing was KWV Cathedral Cellars Triptych 2011.
As the name implies, three varietals: cabernet-sauvignon, petit verdot and Shiraz went into this blend and it was the traditionally peppery Shiraz which stood out most to me. Nowadays I don’t drink a lot of red, but when I do it’s usually Shiraz with roasts, stews, games and particularly meaty curries.
Pudding was described as chocolate mousseline with blueberries, but, at our table, alleged blueberries were definitely delicious young raspberries (no train smash!) and with this came a KWV Classic Cape Ruby (NV), a drink which used to be called Port and was beloved, especially in the bitter winters of British West Yorkshire, by my paternal grand-mother as a warming drink and universal panacea.
We finished with excellent Zimbabwean filter coffee and “raisin financiers”, a term unknown by any of the foodies at our table. Quite delicious, light, fruity and still warm-to-hot, they reminded me of mini individual “spotted dick” steam puds without the custard!
After much convivial conversation and congratulating sous-chef Kenneth Chikeya, who was in charge of the grub in the absence of development chef Rory Lumsden, and George Thomson, of Cape Wines Ltd in Msasa (Zim agents for KWV and Bols) who provided the booze, it was back to the 12th floor to a comfortable bed the size of a snooker table, where I slept as soundly as a security guard.
One of the great advantages of booking into a Club Room or suite at Meikles is that it allows you unfettered use of the exclusive Club Restaurant on the 11th Floor, where standards and levels of food and service offered often make competitors’ attempts look like troopies’ messes!
I always look forward to steamed or grilled Scottish kippers there for breakfast and Saturday morning was no exception, with lightly poached eggs on toast after some superb fresh fruit and before well-made freshly brewed strong coffee, perusing NewsDay overlooking much of Harare from way above the tree canopy.
If you can’t afford to go to the Cape (and my ticket from KWV cost them R8 250 when that was US$825: I could have flown to London for US$10 more and Phuket, Thailand* for US$90 less . . . Southern African airfares are totally outrageous!) think about a long weekend, night or even just a memorably lovely meal at Meikles Hotel!
I didn’t want to go to Phuket. I don’t even know how to pronounce it without making the Vicar’s wife blush!