Seared tuna with wasabi mayo wow factor at Victoria 22
VICTORIA 22 in Newlands is definitely where it’s at. Having previously endured long delays while waiters faffed around searching endlessly for tables booked earlier, and encounters with unimpressive hand sanitiser stations, it was a pleasure to walk into Victoria 22 for lunch last Saturday afternoon.
At the imposing entrance to the restaurant, shaded by bromeliads, ferns and palm trees, were clean white hand towels, fresh, clean water, and hand sanitiser. A smartly dressed maitre d with a smile to brighten your day, led us to a table for two on the verandah. The elegant table setting with sparkling glassware and silver cutlery promised an exciting dining experience, with nothing left to chance.
It was always the intention of Manuela and Mark Wollmann to offer patrons the finest in food, service and atmosphere when they opened Victoria 22 in the suburb of Newlands 24 years ago. Experienced hoteliers, they left Mombasa, the sacred forests of Kaya Kinondo and the soft white sands of Diani Beach to make their home in Zimbabwe. The small colonial house on a two-acre plot where their venture took off, is now an elegant oasis where an upmarket clientele can enjoy five star dining and hospitality. While the potholes in Victoria Drive are a challenge to any vehicle other than a 4WD, and Newlands may no longer be the stylish and sought-after suburb it once was, once you pass through security and the electric gate, all is sweetness and light.
Manuela, who grew up in Milan, makes perfect pasta, and you can expect to find many classic Italian dishes on the menu. Mark’s home town is Hamburg, a port city in Northern Germany, where pork fillet wrapped in bacon with a port wine reduction is a comforting dish to eat in the cold winters. It’s also a popular choice at Victoria 22, where it’s prepared with a unique twist with the addition of garlic, chilli and sweet and sour soy sauce. Oxtail, lamb shank and roast quail, must have favourites for Zimbos, also feature on the menu.
Our waiter, who had an in depth knowledge of flavours and sauces, ran through the menu and specials with us, before expertly opening our bottle of wine, and pouring out 29 ml for George to taste and approve, and then the correct amount of 147 ml in each glass, all without spilling.
With temperatures in the 30s, it was relaxing to sit back, sip a glass of wine and enjoy a delicately-flavoured dip (complimentary) with home made tortillas and cucumber and carrot batons.
Seared tuna, served on a bed of lollo rosso, surrounded by rosettes of wasabi mayonnaise and a dipping sauce of soy and ginger was a definite wow factor. Tasting as fresh as the best Bluefin tuna from Toyosu fish market in Japan it was the kind of starter you wished you had ordered as a main course.
A creamy blue cheese sauce accompanied a man-sized beef fillet, perfectly cooked to medium rare. Chips, aka French fries, were served in mini fry baskets. Although unevenly-sized and with some charred ends, they tasted fine. Had I read the small print, I would have ordered a lady’s portion of steak. What I couldn’t finish, however, was packed for take away and was enough to make two delicious steak sandwiches the following day.
Salted dark chocolate tart served with coconut ice cream and strawberry compote was a work of art to behold, and delicious to eat, the intense sweetness of the chocolate offset by the subtle tang of strawberry and the exotic contrast of coconut.
Seafood Tagliolini, a pasta dish with fish fillets, prawns, clams and crab, in a creamy garlic and wine sauce, was exceptional, and George said he would order it again and again.
Chef Lucas, Manuela and Mark’s first born son, returned recently to Zimbabwe after a stint at Silwood School of Cookery in Cape Town, and extensive culinary experience in Franschoek, Palma de Mallorca, and most recently in Zanzibar, where he was executive chef for a well-known hotel. Already installed at Victoria 22, Lucas held the fort when his parents, intending to take a short holiday back in Mombasa, were obliged by Covid-19 and the lockdown, to stay away for several months. In the meantime, Chef Lucas introduced the highly successful Vic 22 takeaways.
Lucas has exciting plans underway for a new tapas bar at Victoria 22. At the grand opening, expect to see a tasting menu involving dishes like panko calamari with wasabi mayo and jalapeno vinaigrette, smoked marlin carpaccio, tempura prawns with sticky teriyaki sauce and Hong Kong fish balls in a creamy coconut broth.
Combining the bonhomie and charm of both his parents, Lucas is poised to offer an eclectic cuisine to suit every taste, and a fine dining experience for every patron at Victoria 22. – A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff
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