Pos­i­tiv­ity in the air at Meik­les Ho­tel

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Lifestyle / Crossword & Cartoons - The Epi­curean Feed­back on this ar­ti­cle or any eat­ing-out is­sues is most wel­come and, in­deed, en­cour­aged. E-mail aquarius@iwayafrica.co.zw

In the cur­rent chal­leng­ing eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment restau­ra­teurs and hote­liers are not find­ing it easy to source the in­puts they need, whether food or bev­er­ages, so all praise to those who are get­ting on as best they can and pro­vid­ing the rest of us with good din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

AFEW weeks ago a plan was set to host a gath­er­ing of heads of travel and tourism busi­nesses, giv­ing them an in­for­mal plat­form to chat about is­sues of the day and build up so­cial and net­work­ing con­tacts. At the time of set­ting this up the fo­cus of the event was wide, but as events of the past fort­night de­vel­oped, the gath­er­ing be­came fo­cused on the whole is­sue of sourc­ing in­puts, pric­ing and how to “steer the ships” of the travel and tourism sec­tor through some very trou­bled wa­ters.

An in­for­mal group of such lead­ers used to meet reg­u­larly, but this had fallen away, so Meik­les Hos­pi­tal­ity MD Carol White felt it was time to get them go­ing again, and of­fered to host this week’s gath­er­ing in Harare’s five-star Meik­les Ho­tel.

I was pleased to be able to join this meet­ing of minds this past Thurs­day in the Liv­ing­stone Room, the small but charm­ing ban­quet­ing venue ad­ja­cent to La Fon­taine Grill­room, the ho­tel’s flag­ship restau­rant.

The guest list in­cluded heads of ma­jor hos­pi­tal­ity groups, as well as of air­lines fly­ing into Zim­babwe, and it was an ex­tremely pos­i­tive group of peo­ple de­ter­mined to re­main pos­i­tive in the face of a num­ber of chal­lenges, as we call prob­lem ar­eas these days.

The ho­tel’s ex­ec­u­tive chef, Bosco Govera, cre­ated a spe­cial ta­ble d’hote menu for this gath­er­ing of a dozen guests, and he cer­tainly laid on an ex­cel­lent se­lec­tion of of­fer­ings, some of them from the new menu he has launched for La Fon­taine in re­cent weeks.

As if that has not kept him busy enough, he has also re­leased new menus for all other ar­eas of the ho­tel’s food and bev­er­age op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing room ser­vice and ban­quet­ing, as well as The Pav­il­ion restau­rant, the Tan­ganda Lounge, Ex­plorer’s Bar and Club din­ing room.

Our group could choose from two starters, four mains and three desserts, and be­tween us I think we man­aged to se­lect each of these of­fer­ings. I chose a prawn and shrimp starter, a de­light­ful and at­trac­tive dish that used the flavours of chopped salad items, clev­erly set in onion bas­kets, to re­ally set off the sim­ple flavour of the prawn meat.

The other starter was a tangy tomato soup, which one of the other guests said was en­joy­able. One of the guests was able to take on ei­ther of these starters and so had a de­li­cious off-menu mush­room soup, some­thing that is very pop­u­lar in La Fon­taine all year round.

Main course of­fered choices be­tween chicken breast, os­trich fil­let, beef fil­let in pep­per sauce and an ori­en­tal-style veg­etable stir fry. I went for the pep­per steak, which was ten­der and tasty, and com­ple­mented by a lovely ar­ray of veg­eta­bles, in­clud­ing mashed potato, pump­kin and peas. There were a num­ber of com­pli­ments about the os­trich fil­let and Cresta Ho­tels coun­try direc­tor Chipo Man­dela, seated next to me, said it was one of the most ten­der and flavour­some meat dishes she had en­joyed in a long while. I don’t think any of our group went for the stir fry, mainly be­cause we were a car­niv­o­rous bunch. All these dishes are on the new la Fon­taine menu and can be en­joyed for lunch or din­ner there.

Desserts of­fered choco­late mousse, crepes Suzette and fruit salad. I jumped at the chance for the crepes, al­ways a treat in taste terms but also in vis­ual terms, as it is pre­pared the­atri­cally on the flambé trol­ley in front of guests. It was in­deed a dish worth hav­ing and I can thor­oughly rec­om­mend this for all La Fon­taine guests.

On hand to pre­pare this was Ge­orge Chindiya, La Fon­taine’s maître d’ho­tel, a very com­pe­tent and pleas­ant host whose good in­ter­per­sonal skills are al­ways ev­i­dent. We fin­ished with cof­fee, hav­ing also had a sim­ple but good choice of a white and a red wine dur­ing the meal.

The su­perb meal and ease of ser­vice in clas­si­cally re­lax­ing sur­rounds made for a lunchtime treat for us all, and cer­tainly helped make it an oc­ca­sion for brain­storm­ing and shar­ing thoughts, ideas and plans.

What char­ac­terised the event was the pos­i­tive na­ture of all dis­cus­sions, fo­cus­ing not on the prob­lems of the day or point­ing fin­gers in any di­rec­tions, but rather on how to sur­vive, get round the prob­lems and “make a plan” as we al­ways say in this coun­try.

There was a be­lief that an over­all so­lu­tion might be quicker in the mak­ing than many of us have been fear­ing; let’s hope this is son.

Clearly it is a very dif­fi­cult time for all hos­pi­tal­ity op­er­a­tors. There has been grow­ing de­mand from cus­tomers, do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional, across the coun­try and the last thing any op­er­a­tor needs is to have to dis­ap­point be­cause of lack of in­puts or soar­ing prices.

As I said, I think we should ad­mire and sup­port all of those folks who are get­ting on with the busi­ness of stay­ing in busi­ness.

I know some restau­rants have closed tem­po­rar­ily be­cause of in­abil­ity to source in­puts or pay sub­stan­tially in­creased prices and one hopes they will be able to get up and run­ning again soon.

How­ever, I re­gret to say that among these are a num­ber of peo­ple who would ap­pear to be clos­ing up to “make a state­ment” and I have to say this is dis­grace­ful, and we the con­sumers should re­mem­ber who they are when things get to nor­mal and we have choices aplenty again.

I have been chat­ting with var­i­ous restau­ra­teurs about how they are get­ting on and in next week’s Epi­curean col­umn hope to share their thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences. Let’s hope we do so in hind­sight and not in the midst of con­tinue such chal­lenges!

This week’s lun­cheon at Meik­les Ho­tel once again showed me that this re­mark­able hos­pi­tal­ity op­er­a­tion has gen­uinely earned its place as one of Zim­babwe’s na­tional trea­sures.

Staff are cheer­ful, ef­fi­cient and charm­ing, the venue looks as though it gets a re­fresh­ing spring clean on a twicedaily ba­sis and there is al­ways a sense of com­fort in know­ing how much thought goes into a menu there. Well done, Chef Bosco!

It was a very in­ter­est­ing lunch and showed me some­thing else worth re­mem­ber­ing: whether times are good or bad, the value of net­work­ing can­not be over-es­ti­mated. I would rec­om­mend sim­i­lar kinds of chat groups and brain­storm ses­sions for all other group­ings, es­pe­cially at the mo­ment.

Try out these and other dishes on the new La Fon­taine menu, or the menus in the other din­ing ar­eas. When go­ing there al­ways park in the Meik­les Parkade ad­ja­cent to the ho­tel and get you park­ing voucher en­dorsed in the ho­tel for free park­ing.

It’s a good idea to book ahead for La Fon­taine, which is open daily for din­ner and open for lunch Mon­day to Fri­day. Call (024) 2707721 to do so.

An evening shot of Meik­les with the Liv­ingston Room of lit win­dows on the first floor on the left side

Chef Bosco Govera

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