There is a concept called the ‘paradox of choice’ which suggests that counter to our intuition and what society tends to believe, instead of happiness, a variety of choice brings us confusion, envy, and regret. In this regard, Paula’s Place has an excellent menu. Simplicity is a selling point for a place like Paula’s. They specialise in chicken, but do offer a few (but not too many) complementary alternatives.
Indeed, Paula’s Place has a menu which could really grab the Harare market, especially on a Monday night when many eateries close their doors. I’ve heard it on the lips of more than one local diner that Harare needs more simple, hearty and affordable places. The kinds of places that big families can go for special occasions, or where the average bachelor might grab something tasty and wholesome on a more regular basis.
Paula’s Place comes close…
I have eaten at Paula’s Place twice before. It has hit the spot previously, but on the cold, moonlit Monday night in question, I left feeling disappointed.
The highlight of the meal was our waiter who ushered us in like royal babies. He urged us to sit in the warmer area but we wanted to smoke while we shared a beer. Nothing royal or infant like in that! He persevered in his attentiveness however, passing a litmus test for service, that is, remembering to bring a glass of water with our other drinks.
We ordered starters.
The soup ($3), touted by our waiter as ‘a very good vegetarian option’ arrived. If I had to unpack the recipe as it slimed across my palette, I’d guess that it was corn flour, a stock cube, water, some shreds of spinach, with a dash of hopelessness. It was gloopy, bland, and grey. Our second starter was the giblets ($4.50). The waiter pushed us in their direction very firmly too, and they were better. These came in a very nice looking gravy which turned out to be perhaps a tad basic for a speciality dish. The giblets themselves were a little too rubbery, and perhaps because of the Icelandic temperatures, they were lukewarm.
We held our breath for the mains. To ensure diversity, we shared their bestselling half chicken and chips ($12) and the steak and calamari ($17.50 – ouch!).
The food was ready quickly. First impressions as it landed: too little calamari, grey steak, rice looks nice, chicken and chips ok. We had agreed on the mild chicken option, and mild it was. It was a big portion, which always wins me over, and it was ok. Hardly the dazzling signature dish I’d hoped for though. If I eat there again I’ll jazz it up with the spicier options and avoid the chips as a side. They were a good colour but perhaps because it was a quiet night, they weren’t fresh enough to excite us.
The best thing on the table was the calamari. It was soft, buttery, hot, and beautifully seasoned. I wish there had been more! The steak was a somewhat ignoble bedfellow in comparison. I think it was fillet, and they did get it spot on medium rare, but I thought the way the meat was cut and the colour of it left a lot to be desired. It passed muster though and, ultimately has had no effect on my final rating.
Last to arrive was the chocolate mousse ($5). It was unremarkable for the price. Reminiscent of instant pud.
So reader, I have to give Paula’s place a sorry 2. Nearly a pass for somewhere that is nearly budget friendly, nearly serving hot fresh food, and nearly flavouring it right. Well done to Paula’s for the service and the menu at least, but there is still some ways to go!
Have you eaten at Paula’s Place? If so, please share your thoughts below…