Driving down the Enterprise Road towards town one Saturday evening in search of something new, we turned into Maestro which is close to Ridgeway. This has been a restaurant under various guises for many years – but its latest reincarnation is certainly very different.
It was teeming with clientele, diners and drinkers, mostly of the young and smart sort but despite falling into neither category, we were given a fulsome welcome and shown to the last available table for two.
The décor is nothing if not eclectic. The Maestro is depicted in huge blown-up black and white photographs of an orchestral concert. Amongst the dining tables and chairs there are raised platforms and recesses furnished in an extraordinary baroque style, where drinks are served before, after or maybe instead of dinner. But most surprising of all is a shelf high on the wall packed with hookahs, middle eastern water pipes, also known as hubbly-bubblies or narghile. We asked whether these were part of the décor or for practical use and were immediately shown a large display box of flavoured tobaccos from which to choose.
The menu is smart pub food. There are no starters as such, but there is a selection of “light” dishes – calamari, haloumi, chicken livers etc., which could be ordered as starters. There is also a choice of salads and “baskets” – chicken, ribs, fish all served with chips. I noticed in each section of the menu there was at least one vegetarian option, for example a crumbed mushroom and fried cheese basket.
We went straight for the dinner mains. It is not a particularly inspiring or innovative menu. The usual range of steaks, chicken, pastas and a couple of fish dishes. However plain and simple, it was well cooked and served. We ordered a peppered fillet steak which arrived plain but was perfectly medium rare with a generous portion of seasonal veggies. I would question why “seasonal” vegetables always seem to be carrots and spinach. And another puzzle is how a very 1950s Women’s Institute recipe involving spinach (swiss chard, more like) and a vague white sauce with a touch of nutmeg has invaded every professional kitchen in Zimbabwe! There are other – and better ways of cooking greens. However, having made that point, this was a rather tasty example of this curious dish. Our second dish was a combo of calamari and spare ribs, again, well cooked and flavoursome. There is little to be said about either ribs or calamari – they are either good or bad. These were good. I chose a side salad which was also excellent and we shared a side portion of good chips.
There isn’t much haute about this cuisine, but it is good, tasty, honest, well cooked, hearty food. There was a limited choice of the usual desserts, but we went straight for the coffee and liqueur option. The bar is extremely well stocked and offers a wide range of wines, spirits and cocktails. The wines carry a ubiquitous +/- 300% markup – but this seems to be the norm. The list ranges from an $18 cheapo to a $700 bottle of Dom Perignon. Needless to say we were unable to sample the latter but it’s good to know it is there – should we ever win the lottery.
The atmosphere is lively and friendly – with good music at a volume which allowed conversation. And yes, the hookahs are used and apparently enjoyed by some of the customers.
At around $30–$40 per head (with drinks but without the hookah) it is on the pricey side for pub grub, but I would nevertheless recommend it.