I have spent the past few weeks in the chilly climes of northern England. Despite being assured that this was, in fact, ‘summer’, we found ourselves needing to stock up on carbs in order to prevent extremities going numb. So having survived largely on a diet of pork pies (if you’re passing, M&S Melton Mowbray are the best, believe me we ate them all), fish n’ chips and lots of real ale, we came home several kilos heavier and craving a few weeks of healthy eating.
We have previously reviewed The Shop Café when it was still at Doon Estate and gave it a gold star rating. But that was many years ago when Harare News was in its infancy. We wondered whether in the intervening years the newly opened Shop Café @ Amanzi had retained its former quality – and also whether after having sampled so many Harare meals good, bad and indifferent, Mystery Eater’s palate could still tingle to the mostly vegetarian menu.
The Shop Café @ Amanzi is on the side patio of the main restaurant and has therefore kept the open air informality of the Doon premises. It is open lunchtime only Tuesday–Friday, though may soon be opening on Saturdays as well. The central serving table is a self-service display of cold vegetarian salads – an immediate feast to the eye. For a flat cost of $12, there are nine or more cold dishes to chose from and a couple of veggie hot dishes as well. But if you or your guests really can’t survive without animal protein, for an extra $5 there is a choice of Honey Roast Gammon, pan-fried Tilapia or Chicken Schnitzel.
However, being served with freshly baked in-house bread and butter (we had seed bread and an unusual tasty beetroot bread), the vegetarian plate is a splendid sufficiency. There are some staples which are always there – a delicious char-grilled aubergine and tomato topped with cream cheese, the famous pumpkin and feta salad, a “plain” green garden salad which with the addition of a variety of herbs is anything but plain, a chickpea with garlic and onion dressing, a pasta salad with sweetcorn and peppers. And then there are seasonal dishes – avocado, beetroot, peas and beans all made different and delectable with the addition of seeds, shoots, flowers and wonderful dressings. On the hot-plate the day we went was a pasta bake and an Asian leaf stir-fry.
This is vegetarian food at its best – not only healthy but scrumptious in the extreme. What a shame there are only a handful of establishments that take advantage of the truly fabulous vegetables we grow in Zimbabwe. Sometimes it takes going away to appreciate some of the excellent things we have – and take for granted.
There are generally a couple of puddings on offer – tarts or pies and what can only be described as the best carrot cake in the world.
One or two quibbles – our waiter failed to mention the home-made lemonade on offer – and instead just offered rather pricey drinks from the Amanzi bar. Also the same waiter was a hoverer, constantly pacing up and down the tables ready to pounce on an empty dish that could be whisked away to the kitchen. It reminded me of a duty teacher during school meals making sure we were behaving ourselves! This is attentiveness taken to an annoying extreme.
But despite this, the verdict is that Shop Café is as good as if not better than ever and M.E.’s palate is still up for titillation. Good to be home!
3¾ stars out of 4.
Image: The change of premises hasn’t stopped The Shop Café from putting out the best vegetarian fare in the city.