For a change of pace this month, I have turned my attention away from the usual review of a restaurant and onto a new book. Having tested the recipes myself, am happy to report that it’s rather exciting.
Most people who have ever visited the Bvumba have sampled the delights of Tony’s Coffee Shop. How many wet afternoons have been spent enjoying his magnificent selection of teas, coffees and homemade cool drinks? And, of course, gorging on his amazing array of splendid cakes, all served on the kind of pretty bone china that reminds us of years gone by and Aunt Gladys’s tea set. The flamboyant nature of the Coffee Shop and its extraordinary host have been a welcome relief in our relentlessly conservative society.
What a treat therefore to be handed his book to review. The first section of Heart on my Sleeve takes us through Tony’s many ‘journeys’ which have resulted in the coffee shop in its various incarnations. This is largely a fairly tortuous but brave account of friendships broken and betrayed, business partnerships going sour, family tragedies and in some instances, breathtaking unkindness from those nearest to him. For those who are unacquainted with the dramatis personnae – and perhaps even more so for those who are – this is a hard read. But by the end, Tony has forgiven all those who have trespassed against him with a generosity of spirit which is amply illustrated by the second and magnificent part of the book.
Part 2, “a Story of Cream and Whipped Chocolate” is the recipe section – and shows an unselfishness of an astonishing kind. Tony Robinson has built his considerable reputation and continues to make his living from this culinary wizardry and here he is, sharing with us all the knowledge that other lesser and meaner beings would take with them to the grave. I am all for sharing recipes and indeed am most flattered when asked. But I am no more than an enthusiastic amateur whereas here we have the consummate professional giving away his trade secrets. They are all there – among others, the Orange Coconut Cake, the Austrian Coffee Cake, the Chocolate Mango Gateau, the Brandied Fruit Cake, the White Chocolate Cheese Cake and the incredible Chocolate Whiskey Cake. It is a lucky thing that we live in Zimbabwe and not some namby-pamby European country where this book would have surely been banned for health and safety reasons!
Take my personal favourite, the Chocolate Whiskey – lashings of dark chocolate, butter, macadamias, cocoa powder, eggs, sugar. Oh and then the whiskey. And this is even before we get to the icing which is more butter and dark chocolate. The result is, as one of my guests said when I tried it out recently, to die for. Hopefully not to die from.
Not only does Tony tell us how to create these wonders in the most minute detail, he also tells us how to make the extras that make them world class. Meringues, marzipan, ganache, Chantilly cream, tempered chocolate leaves, ice cream and praline each explained with the same painstaking care he has taken to teach every step of making each delicious cake, gateau and dessert.
Anybody with the vaguest desire to bake and serve slices of perfection, will be utterly delighted to have this book in their collection. It is beautifully produced and designed (printed in Zimbabwe) in hardback and illustrated with artistic and mouthwatering photographs of what the finished result should look like. It would make the perfect gift for a foodie friend – if you can bear to part with it yourself! Here’s to you, Mr Robinson!
A few copies of the book are currently available at Pistachio’s in Sam Levy’s Village, Bottom Drawer on Maasdorp Avenue, and Village Junction at Arundel Shops. Alternatively order your copy through Tony via firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 0735 393 272.