HomeNewsBeating Zesa at Cresta Lodge!

Beating Zesa at Cresta Lodge!

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WHY did I book into a comfortable lodge less than four km from home (3,5km if the back gate were open)? I was asked more in envy than as a genuine academic enquiry.

Travel with Dusty Miller

1): Well I could . . . so there!;
2): I’ve often been invited to do so for research purposes several times over the past few years and
3): To escape blood-boiling Zesa incompetence.

Checking in at lunch time last Tuesday, we’d been without power slightly more than 24 hours and, exclusively on borehole water, when we’ve no power we’ve no water. I stayed at Cresta Lodge for about 24 hours and returned home to find the complex still in darkness and silence.

To be fair they did reinstate us, after a 60-hour cut, in the first few minutes of Thursday morning, which presumably shows someone was actually working overtime on the fault, but why don’t they ever fix things properly to start with?

I had been back three working days after a month-long sanity break holiday in South Australia and desperately needed to send scores of emails replying to over 2 000 messages log-jammed in my in- box and about 400 in the junk mail.

Five of those were far from junk!

Cresta Lodge has fairly recently had a US$6 million facelift. It’s a four-star hotel with 175 air-conditioned and centrally heated en-suite bedrooms set in rolling, verdant, landscaped grounds, thick with trees and alive with birds; it’s roughly half-way between Mukuvisi Woodlands and Cleveland Dam and neighbouring nature reserves.

Even before going on-line on my laptop (free Wi-Fi), first priority was to brew coffee in the room, even before a scolding 10 minute shower to rid myself of much grime (I felt less manky after a 24-hour 22 000 kilometer flight from Adelaide to Harare, via Dubai, on Emirates than I did then.) Then 15 minutes catching up on world news, sipping a second coffee.

My main moan with Cresta hotels (in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana) is that they don’t have Sky News in their TV bouquet. Somehow I find many Al Jazeera stories a bit suspect and CNN too focused on America: especially on a day Obama gave his State of the Union address.

I worked six solid hours until feeling the need to take a second invigorating needle-point boiling shower before supper in the rather tweely-named Chatters Restaurant, which opens to non-residents.

It was quite well supported mainly with businesspeople in pairs and a sprinkling of singletons.

The restaurant’s playlist is uncannily similar to one of my own, but they sometimes crank the music up a bit loud, especially at breakfast. Candidly I can do without Leo Sayer at strength 15 with my Weetabix!

Cresta Group food is remarkably good and extremely reasonably priced. Chief executive officer Glenn Stutchbury head-hunted prize-winning chef Brian Ndlovu from Vic Falls Safari Lodge; he’s now group exec chef, with a lot of talented under-strappers reporting to him.

Soup of the day was a splendidly dense fresh forest fungi-filed homemade cream of mushroom, piping hot and steaming at US$4.

Or there were starters of caper-flavoured fish cakes and Chardonnay-infused jumbo prawn topped with a citrus foam and sweet chili sauce (US$6) or layers of olive oil-marinated sun-dried tomatoes, avocado and mozzarella cheese stack “dolloped” with an orange reduction and served with deep-fried vermicelli at US$5; and mushroom and feta cheese phylo rollups with baby tomato comfit costing US$5.

Rarely eating red meat these days, I hear the steaks are excellent: rump, sirloin or tenderloin with mushroom or pepper sauce and chips, rice or sadza at US$12 for 200g portions or US$15 for 300g.

I went for sesame crumbed hake but with chips, rather than potato strudel: a very sound, satisfactory dish at US$13, the same price as chicken cubes simmered in coconut milk and green curry paste with risotto.

Now the Thai restaurant has moved from Msasa to Gun Hill, there could be increased demand for this dish. Also Kerry Wallace has sadly thrown in the towel and shut the splendidly alternative Shop Café, also at Msasa.

Lodge general manager Kudzai Ratisai told me the hotel was averaging over 80% occupancy. He was formerly GM at Cresta Oasis, Harare and Cresta Churchill in Bulawayo.

He worked for the same group in Zambia, Malawi and at properties in Ghana. Kudzai trained at Bulawayo Hotel School, where he earned a HND and holds an MBA from our open university.

Supper ended with the odd sounding but truly delicious combo of butternut-and-apple strudel and warm cinnamon-flavoured crème Anglaise at US$4. With two glasses of the outlet’s dearest white wine, the grotesquely named Cape Point Splattered Toad Sauvignon-Blanc 2012, the meal cost US$31.

Cresta offers some of the best breakfast spreads around. I mainly ate fresh fruit and yoghurt and ended with lovely juicy cold thickly cut ham and cheddar cheese with toast, but there were eggs and bacon and sausage and mince and liver and steak and baked beans and tomatoes, fish etc.

Also cereals, canned and dried fruit, toast and preserves, croissants, muffins and Danish pastries, tea, coffee, fruit juice and probably much more.

A two course business lunch for US$12 (US$15 three courses) is memorably good.

With friends, I have enjoyed light mango and avocado salad followed by bacon-wrapped beef fillets or pan-fried hake fillets mostly sharing ice-filled “buckets” of lager (five for US$10).

Beers are US$3 each separately; wine from US$2 a glass, there’s no corkage if you BYOB.

My executive room had a grand view over lush grounds from two verandahs, massive bedroom with Empire-sized comfortable bed, en-suite bathroom with overhead needle-point shower, bath and toilet; there was a separate WC off the sitting/meeting/conference room, tea- and coffee-making equipment, chilled bottled water and a welcoming fruit basket.

Bed and breakfast at Cresta Lodge Harare is from US$102 a night.
The breakfast would probably cost US$30 at some places! I wish I’d stayed a second night! Telephone 04-487006/8

dustymiller46@gmail.com

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