Traditional Christmas fare and fine dining at Meikles Hotel.
CHRISTMAS starts early in Zimbabwe. In the first week of December, Christmas trees are already lined up for sale on the roadside, supermarkets are awash with Christmas crackers, lights and decorations, and the shelves are stocked with dried fruit to make the all-important Christmas cake and pudding. Everyone you know is importing wine, whiskey and gin, hoping to make a few dollars to fund their own festivities.
Celebrated all over the world, Christmas is the time when families get together to celebrate the birth of Christ and to indulge in a feast of roast turkey, pigs in waistcoats, roast potatoes, baked ham and plum pudding. This menu can be tweaked with a seafood starter of prawn cocktail or smoked salmon, and the addition, for traditionalists, of Brussel sprouts and bread sauce. Turkeys being hard to find, a large churkey can provide a satisfying substitute, while pricey seafood can be replaced by an inspired combination of local ingredients. Perhaps crisp-fried kapenta on a bed of mutsvine and button mushrooms, served with a dash of Dr Trouble lemon chilli sauce?
Unlike our kith and kin in the northern hemisphere, who have been urged to keep numbers this festive season as small as possible, we can probably get away with inviting all our extended family to a sit-down Christmas lunch. But should the prospect of cooking up a storm and an early start in the kitchen on Christmas day seem unappealing, seize the day and make a reservation for a splendid meal at your favourite hotel or restaurant. At the time of writing, Amanzi Restaurant in Highlands is filling up fast, while Victoria 22 in Newlands and Alo Alo in Mount Pleasant are already fully booked for Christmas lunch.
Meikles, Zimbabwe’s premier five-star hotel, was recently bought by Dubai-based Albwardy Investments, and continues to be a top choice for Christmas lunch in Harare. The Pavilion Bistro will be hosting a buffet lunch menu, with traditional starters of deep-fried kapenta in cucumber boats, free-range chicken gizzard skewers, eggs mimosa, ground nuts and boiled mealie cobs. In addition to roast turkey and ham, the feast includes pan-fried tilapia, lamb curry, prime beef bones with rape, peanut butter rice, samp and sadza prepared in three different ways.
The buffet lunch menu in the Stewart Room offers contrasting gastronomic delights. Miniature appetisers of beetroot and marmalade tartlets, chicken galantine with mango and smoked salmon vol-au-vents are followed by festive salads of red cabbage and tropical carrot slaw, Greek salad on skewers and minted cous-cous. Enjoy sage-stuffed turkey roulade and cranberry sauce and glazed ham, and be sure to taste chicken Stroganoff in a mushroom and cream sauce, beef Bourguignon, and line fish served with a caper and anchovy cream sauce.
Executive Chef David Lupenga at Meikles Hotel loves fine dining and is excited about innovation and food presentation. Together with a group of journalists, bloggers and foodies invited to a chef’s Christmas table last week, we were given a preview of the Christmas Day lunch menu at La Fontaine, and an insight into Chef David’s artistry.
On Santa’s elegant platter of appetisers were a butternut and feta cheese Wellington (yes, really), smoked salmon with caper aioli, Coronation mushrooms and an ingenious salad of cucumber ribbons and crisp iceberg lettuce.
Among choices for the festive main courses, pepper crusted beef fillet served on a leek, mushroom and potato chowder was outstandingly delicious. Other options included flavoursome turkey roulade with cranberry sauce and baked salmon with tuna salsa.
Deep, dark and rich traditional Christmas pudding, served with brandy and custard sauce, was the hero of the Celebration dessert platter. Home made ice cream, flavoured with vanilla and mint, also provided a fresh contrast to the mellow and fruity pudding.
Finally, Christmas mince pies with their buttery short crust pastry and spiced fruit filling, were served with a well-brewed and aromatic filter coffee.
The new owners of Meikles Hotel will commence major renovations and upgrades to the hotel next year. Always a favourite destination at this time of year, Christmas and New Year celebrations at Meikles Hotel in years to come, promise to be even more exciting. A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff
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