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Go big at Victoria Twenty Two on Valentine’s Day

Platter of the day at Victoria Twenty Two

VALENTINE’S Day is upon us, and Harare has transformed itself, just for today, into the City of Love.
Chocolate makers will make more money today than at any other time of the year, Valentine cards and e-messages will be winging their way through the postal system and cyberspace, and florists will have sold out of red roses, symbols of love, longing and desire.
Substituting roses with a bunch of dahlias or sun flowers bought at the roadside will not convey the right message, and might even alter the course of true love, which Shakespeare reminds us ‘never did run smooth’.
Being without a partner on Valentine’s Day presents certain challenges. There’s nothing to stop you buying your fave slab of Cadbury’s at the supermarket, or treating yourself to a bag of crispy KFC to munch alone at home.
But if there’s a person of interest whose attention you would like to attract, prepare in advance by taking a short course in flirting. You will now be able to present yourself as a person who’s fun to be with, and the perfect partner for an evening of jollity.
As a last resort consider buying a love potion, but remember the cautionary tale told by The Clovers in the 1959 pop song ‘Love Potion No 9’.
A young man who ‘had been a flop with chicks…since 1956’ obtains a love potion from a gypsy named Ruth, but ends up ‘kissing everything in sight’ and falls foul of the law.
The choice for those with partners is simpler — either go big or go home. For a successful date night dinner with your sweetheart at home, choose an aphrodisiac starter salad of avocado pears vinaigrette with roasted asparagus.
For the main course, substitute popular but costly choices of salmon or scallops with sauteed fillets of tilapia, garnished for a natural high and increased heart rate with crisp-fried green chillis and onion rings.
Montezuma and Casanova, both legendary red-hot lovers, relied on the potent antioxidants found in chocolate, so whip up a sweet and dark chocolate mousse for dessert.
If you’ve decided to go big this year, you’ll have made a booking well in advance at a romantic restaurant of your choice.
When I phoned Victoria Twenty Two last week, reception said they were fully booked for Valentine’s Day dinner, but was I interested in the day before or the day after?
Since I’ve never reviewed Vic 22 for this column, I decided to celebrate the most romantic night of the year, not on the day, but a week in advance.
Night fell and last week we set off by moonlight for Newlands and Victoria Twenty Two, home since 1996 to restaurateurs Mark and Manuela. A rustic but well-lit path led through a flourishing tropical garden to the restaurant entrance; here we were greeted by a courteous and immaculately attired waiter, who escorted us to a table for two.
The wine list, although not extensive, was stylish and refined. If you can’t afford the new prices for wine, you are welcome to bring your own bottle, and pay $8 corkage.
The white damask table cloth gleamed and wine glasses glinted in the candle light.
We were surrounded by tasteful original art work, bowls of fresh flowers and attentive waiters.
Everything was set for a romantic evening. Could anything go wrong?
We chose a starter platter to share. Wafer-thin slices of cured beef garnished with Parmesan cheese, a retro prawn salad with Marie Rose sauce and shredded lettuce, and fried Halloumi cheese with a dipping sauce ($32) were delicious.
Pork fillet with a port wine reduction ($42), George’s choice for his main course, was beautifully plated and delectable.
For a generous plate of high quality gourmet pasta, Victoria Twenty Two is the place to go.
Ravioli Alfredo ($32) was freshly made and piping hot. The pasta was silky, and the creamy mushroom sauce fragrant. (A charming maitre d’ exchanged without demur the first plate of pork-stuffed ravioli that had arrived, owing to a glitch in ordering.)
We listened to the sweet sounds of FaB Fusion, as dessert (caramel ice cream, $16) arrived.
After a long wait, a waiter took our order for filter coffee and hot chocolate, stylishly served and accompanied by a silver platter of friandises.
Any attempts at flirty conversation or exchanging endearments were doomed, as George listened entranced to Fay and Brennan’s rendition of Malaika, Hotel California and other favourites.
The evening was over, but it was just a trial run for the real thing.
We’ll be celebrating tonight with a cosy meal at home, and if that fails to impress, there’s always recourse to Love Potion No 9. –  A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff
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