Traditional fare at The Cave Affair at Domboshava Caves.
THE Cave Affair Coffee Bar and Restaurant is open every day of the week. Surrounded by a grove of sacred mazhanje trees, it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from the granite hills of Domboshava, a National Heritage site in the Chinamhora communal lands, popular with mountain climbers, walkers and lovers of rock art. Although visitors can picnic or braai (bring your own wood) at the foot of the rocky outcrop, there are times when only a hot, sustaining carb-fest of traditional food from the nearby Cave Affair restaurant will suffice.
We drove north towards Domboshava on a chilly Sunday morning, passing the Glen Forest Memorial Park turnoff ( a road more and more frequently travelled as the cost of living soars) and drifted over the speed humps at Hatcliffe. Shop keepers in wooden shacks on the left hand side of the road advertised all manner of goods for sale, from cement to tyres to gutters. Bunches of fresh rape and pyramids of red tomatoes were in demand. Resisting the temptation to stop and look for bargains, we continued onwards past Domboshava village, eventually turning right at the sign post for the site.
Fitful rays of sunlight caught the red and gold lichen-covered dome of the rock, but as we pulled into the car park the skies became grey and a chill wind blew. Undeterred by wintry weather, determined dog walkers helped their German Shepherds and Golden Labs out of their 4x4s, and set off up the mountain in search of fresh air and adventure. A hot meal taking precedence over these attractions, George and I walked over to the restaurant.
Constructed like an African village with adjacent and interleading rooms with low, thatched roofs, the Cave Affair offers patrons a variety of dining experiences. To one side of the spacious main dining room is an intimate area, partially concealed by wooden poles and thatching, where a couple can discuss important issues over a cup of Tanganda tea, a hot chocolate or a Zambesi beer. A passage way leads to another dining area, large enough for a small family, or a group of friends requiring a degree of privacy. Open air paved areas, great for al fresco meals on sunny days, are surrounded by prolific banana trees and tropical plants. Whichever way you turn, the magical mazhanje trees provide a backdrop for this unusual restaurant.
We were greeted by friendly and attentive staff, who lead us to the well-stocked bar, before pointing put the various dining areas, and the kitchen, where food is braaied over glowing coals, or simmered in large cooking pots. Menu choices were chalked up on a large blackboard outside, close to an open air dance floor and stage.
We sat in the main dining room at a round wooden table, decorated with carved ndoros, symbols of power and wealth. The sweet sounds of The Power of Love, Jennifer Rush’s 1984 hit, drifted through the window from a well-tuned sound system, as we took turns to wash our hands with warm water poured from a jug. By the time our order arrived, the music had switched to sungura, Zimbabwe’s most popular music genre.
All the best pieces of a well-cooked and flavoursome road runner chicken stew – drum stick, wing and thigh – were served, alongside tsunga inedovi (mustard greens with peanut butter). At US$2 and 25c respectively, this delivers bang for your buck, even when the rate is 7 to 1. Pork trotters simmered in tomato sauce ( US$2) were silky smooth and delicious. I chose sadza rezviyo (US$1) over white sadza, partly for health reasons. Zviyo (millet) is known to be nutritious, helping with weight loss, regulating blood sugar levels, delaying dementia and building muscle power. If we had time to climb the rocks after lunch, this meal would be helpful!
Other traditional favourites are on offer at The Cave Affair, such as mazondo and oxtail. Salad lovers will find Greek salad, Garden salad, and an intriguing creation called Cave salad (50c). The menu is far from glamorous, so don’t expect to be offered a souffle of mopane worms and mbambaira, or a mazhanje gelato for dessert. But you will eat your fill of good food, and the wait staff will attend to your every need, whether it be a gas heater to warm the room, a tooth pick or another Pepsi from the bar.
After a leisurely lunch, we checked out an eye-catching display of Shona sculpture a few metres away from the restaurant. Although some small, well-made pieces stood out, trade was slow.
There was a chill in the air, and it was time to return to Harare. There would be plenty of opportunities to climb the mountain later on, when the weather warmed up. By A Matter of Taste Charlotte Malakoff
The Cave Affair Restaurant and Bar
Mobile: 0773 530 235