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Steak & kidney delight at Munch Box

Steak and kidney with sadza and muriwo at The Munch Box.

RUNNING a busy flea market is a hungry business, and project developer Davina Berman, whose work keeps her in Harare’s CBD, realised the need for an affordable city centre restaurant serving attractive, well cooked meals.
Before long she found premises at 79 Robert Mugabe Road, and a year ago, Munch Box opened with a flourish, offering an impressive menu to the denizens of downtown Harare.
Many people will remember the popular Bamboo Inn in Manica Road, favourite restaurant for lunches and dinners, celebrations and birthday parties.
Now renamed Robert Mugabe Road, this historic highway is showing signs of fatigue and disrepair, with many shops, including the Bamboo Inn premises, untenanted. The Munch Box is a few metres down from the Bamboo Inn, occupying part of a historic grey-painted building, with sash windows and white painted window frames.
It has two entrances, sharing one with a shoe shop. There’s no decor to speak of, and seating consists of small wooden stools, and cushioned benches against the wall. Tables are covered with easy-to-wipe-down black vinyl.
Arriving just before 1 pm last Friday, I was lucky to find an empty table. The largely male clientele, casually dressed and aged somewhere between 20 and 30 years, were by coincidence all eating the same dish — roast chicken and sadza.
No cutlery is provided at Munch Box, but if you’re a man of the people and accustomed to eating with your fingers, this shouldn’t be a problem.
When my date arrived, we walked over to the bain maries, where Anna and Audrey were taking orders and serving meals.
Neither the tripe or knuckle bones I had seen on Munch Box’s Facebook were on the menu, but attractive-looking choices of chicken stew, beef bones, steak and kidney, roast beef, Hwesa beef and roast chicken were available.
Bearing no resemblance to the small wild mouse of the same name, Hwesa beef ($7) is simmered with muriwo in a rich onion and tomato gravy. Served with freshly made sadza, George found it delicious. Incidentally, male members of the Hwesa totem ‘have an unparalleled culinary skill’ and a ‘highly evolved sense of taste and smell.’
A generous serving of steak and kidney and sadza, with a small spoonful of muriwo, cost only $5. The ultimate comfort food, this was the best steak and kidney I have eaten in a while.
Feeling territorial, I declined to allow George even a taste. All that was missing was a topping of crisp flaky pastry, and perhaps a few more spoons of muriwo. A plastic teaspoon supplied by the dinner ladies saved me from mastering the traditional style of eating.
Paired with a bottle of Pepsi ($2), and a dusting of chilli powder requested from the kitchen, this was a most satisfying meal.
Davina runs a tight ship at Munch Box. When Anna the cook isn’t preparing meals in the kitchen, she assists Audrey in taking orders and cash. The only other member of the team I saw was a tall young man stationed in front of a large barbecue, grilling succulent pieces of chicken for the lunch time rush.
Far from hip, Munch Box is not a place to see and be seen or a meeting place for shefus. A busy take away service, however, supplies all the CEOs and managers who prefer to eat in their own offices.
A self-taught cook, Davina is a stickler for freshly-cooked food and quality produce. To ensure a constant supply of smooth, shiny, steaming sadza, the first pot is cooked at 7 am, and then at different times throughout the day. A runner visits Mbare Musika market early every morning for the day’s supply of fresh vegetables, many of them produced organically by farmers, without insecticides. Standing orders are placed with reputable suppliers for both beef and chicken.
Not everyone is prepared to navigate the traffic and the crowded pavements in the city, but if you want to eat well without paying through the nose, pay a visit to Munch Box the next time you’re in the CBD.  A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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