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Covid-19 etiquette varies in Harare’s restaurants.

LAST  Saturday we joined the members of Skal International, a global network in the travel and tourism industry, to drink a toast to the late Gordon Addams, a highly respected hotelier and leader in the travel and tourism industry. Gordon passed away at the age of 60, after suffering a heart attack in his home town, Mutare.

Sushi value platter with pickled ginger and wasabi.

We met at the Tin Roof Bucket Bar and Bistro, a popular watering hole tucked behind the shops in Lewisam Shopping Centre, off the Enterprise Road. There were no sentinels armed with thermometer guns or bottles of sanitisers at the entrance, but we thought no more about it, and joined the large group of friends and colleagues who had gathered to honour Gordon.

It was lunch time, and the Tin, as it’s affectionately known by silver surfer regulars, was kicking. Waiters, none wearing masks, were scurrying up and down with nice looking plates of food. I ordered a pork chop served with well-made mashed potato, pumpkin and creamed spinach ($10). The pork chop had an attractive crosshatch of grill marks, but was slightly pink inside, and had to go back to the kitchen for further nuking.

Drinks were flowing, we were seated cheek by jowl, and the noise level continued to rise. Having replaced my mask after lunch, I soon took it off, being surrounded by naysayers, and feeling out of place. Being up close and personal to the crowds began to freak me out, and I realised there would be a need to restrict social contact for the following two weeks.

So much for decisions made on the spur of the moment; the very next day, I made plans to visit Queen of Hearts for lunch. It was important to discover if the laissez-faire attitude to Covid-19 at Tin Roof existed in other Harare restaurants.

George and I decided on a late lunch. Leaving the house at 2 pm, we found the car park full, and parked outside in Hurworth Road. Temperatures taken and hand sanitiser applied at the entrance, we entered and arrived at yet another checkpoint, where a burly, yet courteous gate keeper with a guest list, enquired whether we had made a reservation. Having failed to do so, we waited with other hopefuls for a table to become available. Before long, friendly wait staff, all wearing masks, directed us to an outside table in the shady garden, overlooking a tinkling fountain. All tables appeared to be at least two metres apart.

Queen of Hearts has an all day menu, offering a delicious variety of dishes. Choose from a roast butternut and Danish feta salad, beef and chicken tacos with pineapple salsa and sweet chilli sauce, char-grilled T-bone steak, chicken and chips or crumbed bream fillet. Do impress all your Instagram followers with your selfie next to a Queen mushroom and blue cheese beef burger, served with chips and onion rings, but leave room for a gelato tub of honey comb ice cream, a slice of red velvet cake and perfectly made cappuccino.

After much deliberation, George ordered char-grilled pork chops, served with chips, salad and home-made sauce ($7). Attractively presented with edible flowers, the chops were perfectly cooked.

There was a non-stop demand throughout the afternoon for classic sushi from Oh So Sushi. Nicola Chapman employs six sushi chefs, who continued to keep up with the demand for tempura prawns, poke bowls, fashion sandwiches of salmon and sashimi, while creating popular maki and California rolls, and a huge variety of other delicacies. Nicola developed a passion for sushi while working on super yachts cruising the oceans, and couldn’t wait to return to Zimbabwe to become involved in re-creating this traditional Japanese cuisine.

The Value Platter ($10) consisted of four prawn maki, four crab California, and four salmon crunch rolls. Freshly made and served with a glass of chilled Du Toitskloof sauvignon blanc from The Horsebox Bar, this was the perfect meal to enjoy on a laidback Saturday afternoon.

Queen of Hearts operates a self-service system, so after our main course it was time to replace my mask and walk to the Gelato Bar to pay for a honeycomb ice cream and a cappuccino. Covid-19 etiquette in restaurants requires you to wear your mask when you get up from the table, not only to limit the particles you might inhale, but also to prevent spreading the virus and infecting others. The patrons at Queen of Hearts seemed to have no difficulty in complying with this request. Wait staff, who are in the frontline and most at risk considering the long hours they work, are particularly affected if masks are not worn.

Each restaurant seems to interpret the rules relating to Covid-19 limitation in different ways, so it rests with the individual to choose a venue where they feel most comfortable. I never got to visit Gordon Addams at his boutique hotel in Main Street, Mutare, mainly because of the coronavirus and travel restrictions. But I have a feeling he would have observed all the rules without sacrificing any of the comforts or pleasures. RIP Gordon.   A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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