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A post-lockdown visit to Organikks in Chisipite.

Coronavirus lockdowns across the world are starting to lift, and many restaurants are re-opening. This comes as a relief not only to restaurateurs, who are among the worst hit sectors countrywide, but also to food writers and the scores of lovers of good food, who enjoy the social bonding and feelings of wellbeing when eating out.

Crispy catfish and chips at Organikks Restaurant.

Trapped at home for the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about take out pizzas from #joeyspizza dark kitchen, Thai meals in cooler boxes delivered by drivers wearing gloves and masks, and @freshinabox vegetables ordered online and delivered to my doorstep. We’ve discussed lockdown larders and how to make a tasty cottage pie from a tin of bully beef, the versatility of tinned tuna, and the wisdom of keeping a stash of pickled onions and gherkins to liven up a bland lentil stew or baked beans on toast.

WFH has also been a topic, and I should remind you of the advisability of keeping a freshly-laundered Zoom shirt at the ready for online conferences, and the need to look smart from waist up. Advice for a keep fit routine at home while gyms remained closed, and the benefits of at least seven hours sleep every night were followed by an in-depth interview with #friendshipbench Professor Chibanda, who spoke about the Friendship Bench and ways to alleviate the anxiety and depression exacerbated by the lockdown.

When a reliable source and foodie of note last week informed me that information minister Monica Mutsvangwa had announced that restaurants were now allowed to serve food within their premises, I was excited. An invitation to join the food hounds for lunch at Organikks was even more exciting. I could resume the all important occupation of food writer, while enjoying the camaraderie of friends and the pleasure of once again eating well-cooked food in elegant surroundings.

Track suit dropped into the laundry basket and semi-formal attire retrieved from the back of the wardrobe, I tied on the obligatory face mask, and set off for Organniks in Dacomb Drive, Chisipite. Although feeling elated to be out and about, I felt some trepidation about possible exposure to the dreaded virus.

A reservation had been made to be seated on the verandah, overlooking green lawns, palm trees and a sparkling blue swimming pool. Pristine white tables for two or four guests were socially distanced, accommodating half the usual number of patrons. On arrival our temperatures were taken and our hands sanitized. All protocols having been observed, our server, wearing a mask and keeping a two metre distance at all times, showed us the menu.

Although Organikks offers a great selection of wines, including favourites like Fat Bastard sauvignon blanc, Rupert and Rothschild and Niel Joubert merlot, I played it safe and ordered a pink soda, attractively served in a tall glass, with a politically correct bamboo straw. The a la carte lunch menu was also varied, offering seafood, sushi, curries and grills, in addition to wraps, salads and sandwiches.

We all opted for a $10 two course lunch time special, offering starters from three different soups, followed by fish and chips. Miso soup, authentically served in a lacquer bowl with a lid, was a popular choice. Made from fermented soy beans and brimming with seaweed and mushrooms, the soup had a strong, deep flavour.

Catfish, also known as basa, and not to be confused with muramba or katsi hove, was fried in a crisp, delicate batter, and served with a Marie Rose sauce, a wedge of lemon and an optional fresh red chilli salsa. A generous portion of well-cooked chips was served on the side. A firm, white fish, similar to cod and hake, basa is found in South East Asia.

A slice of red velvet cake served with an espresso coffee was too good to miss, and we lingered on the verandah long after lunch, chatting about meals we had prepared at home, and how much we had missed eating out.

I wondered how many people would now feel confident about sitting down to a meal in a restaurant, and how many would feel safer cooking in their own kitchens, and indulging in the occasional take away.

Large social gatherings in restaurants are now a thing of the past, and the experience is more subdued. But having a meal served to me, after weeks of pasta and fried rice, felt great, and I’m looking forward to the new normal and my next visit to a restaurant.   A Matter of Taste  Charlotte Malakoff

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