In these financially stressed times I have, in vain, been searching for good food at reasonable prices in an amenable setting. The last couple of restaurants reviewed have provided not at all bad but, in my view, unreasonably over-priced food – and on both occasions we have dined in solitary splendour. I have been taken to task by a prominent local businessman (not in the food industry) for comparing Harare prices with Johannesburg in my last review. He said the cost of running a business in Zimbabwe is far greater than in South Africa. I agree that the cost of raw materials – whether food or other – is greater. But wages are, if anything, cheaper, as is power. So the search for a good value eat-out has continued.
And I am ecstatic to report that I can this month write a good review at last. Don’t get too excited – this is not, nor does it pretend to be “Fine Dining”. The Pointe, in 3rd Street between Baines and Josiah Chinamano, is plastic-covered tables at their finest. It has flashing fairy lights in gaudy colours draped around the walls, Grandma’s glass cabinets stuffed full of relics from the past, and inexplicably, a wall full of photographs of Elvis. I asked if this had been “The King’s” favourite restaurant and was assured by the witty femme maitre d that “No, but we were very close.” Never mind that he was probably dead before she was born!
On a freezing June evening both the welcome and the temperature were warm. And how delightful to sit in a restaurant with other fellow diners! The service was prompt, swift and friendly. Drinks appeared within moments of ordering, together with a basket of bread and a very good simple coleslaw salad – thank goodness, one without gloopy mayonnaise, just a delicious fresh dressing.
The menu is huge – always a bit of a worry – but all the dishes we ordered seemed freshly prepared and were extremely good. Starters are priced from $3–$5 and span a wide variety including a choice of homemade soups. We chose giblets and deep fried mushrooms. The mushrooms were sizzling hot, juicy and delicious, served with a good sauce tartare. The soft, succulent giblets came in a mild tomato-based sauce and were also cooked beautifully. Without pausing for breath, the mains were served – if I am looking to find fault, almost too quickly. I had char-grilled Portuguese sardines with green peppers and boiled spuds ($3 per sardine – I had 4 which was plenty) from a fairly wide choice of fish dishes. My partner chose one of the house specialities, charcoal grilled half chicken and chips ($10). The chicken was superb – moist, tasty and with a finely judged amount of peri-peri to give it a good kick. Mild or plain are the other options for this dish. My first mouthful of sardine was a disappointment as they had not been scaled properly which is essential for this fish. At that moment a finger-bowl arrived so I rolled up my sleeves, peeled back the skins (and scales) and ate with my fingers – and they were good.
The Pointe also have daily specials, all of which sound like delicious hearty good food and priced at $10–$12. The Oxtail (Tuesday) is particularly good. And I look forward to trying the Sunday roast suckling pig.
We had one pudding – a crème caramel which was nothing more, nothing less and to complete our sense of well being, we finished off with an Irish coffee apiece. We asked for the no-sugar version which is a challenge to the barman as the cream tends to sink into the coffee if there is no added sugar to help it float. Both arrived looking like perfectly poured Guinness, piping hot coffee sipped through vanilla flavoured cream. Again, if I am to nit-pick, they were a little light on the whisky, but otherwise a perfect way to round off dinner.
The food portion of the bill for two of us was $35. The bar bill a further $15. The Pointe could not be described as posh – or even smart. Eclectic to the point of being almost downright weird – but certainly warm, friendly, efficient and thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend it heartily.