Zim on a Plate, Zim in a Glass
Restaurant Reviews

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14 Maasdorp Ave
Belgravia
Harare
745679

 

Bottom Drawer - pamper yourself in Eden! 2013
Situated in Harare’s central suburbs, this outdoor café is lovely both visually and gastronomically.  The double storey house next door holds a morning market every Wednesday and Saturday for those keen on home produce, and this helps attract an interesting array of people from all walks of life.  There is also a shop run in conjunction with the café, and some most unusual and quite delightful items can be found here.  It was enjoyable to have a quiet browse around and pick up some gifts in such pleasant surroundings.

There are various choices of seating, from the relaxed and peaceful seating areas around the secure swimming pool, then for the less adventurous, or perhaps on a cold winter’s day, the more formal veranda seating, to the wonderfully rustic benches under umbrellas, nestled in and around a lovely garden setting, with an interesting mix of gorgeous roses and palms. Like an English country garden, this idyllic setting is definitely very soothing; all greens and whites, with the quiet twitter of birds in the background.

Arriving with boisterous children in tow, there is plenty to keep them occupied, from the trampoline, which has a shallow, child-friendly pit, from which all things can be, and were often, retrieved, to the sweet little Wendy House, where little girls can play house.  Of course this was unlikely to happen, as our young tyrants proceeded to turn the place upside down, and they probably would have been found lurking in there, if their natural exuberance did not mean they could not resist play-fighting and hauling each other around by their underwear and generally making a nuisance of themselves - as one does, when one is still pre-school, and generally has no respect for others, either large nor small! 

The arrival of these young terrors did not even cause the staff of this establishment to break stride, as this appeared to be a normal day for them, although I am sure there were other patrons who were quite delighted when we finally packed up and left! 

We were very attentively looked after by the sweet and cheerful Emma, an absolute star.  Nothing was too much trouble for her, she bent over backwards to attempt to make our day better.  Even the Chef was seen out and around, conversing with the visitors from time to time, about various enquiries about the menu or any issue arising.  Apparently those running this place will move heaven and earth to keep you happy and satisfied.

The menu is well thought out, perhaps the only fault being, that for such a family oriented café, there is a lack of child-friendly meals.  The coffee milkshakes were, we thought, amongst the very best in Harare; big and very creamy and therefore quite delicious!  They serve homemade, lovely fresh lemonade and other refreshing beverages are also on offer.  Our wonderfully tangy, fresh salads were so appetising, served with their delicious herb bread and their own special salad dressing, definitely making you want to come back for more.  The plate was exceptionally well presented, with good attention to detail; most artistic, and very pleasing to the eye.

Service was quite prompt considering it was quite full, and although we were left to enjoy ourselves, we were periodically attended to in a most unobtrusive manner. Various puddings were on offer, and although we were already very satisfied by our milkshakes and salads, we decided to sample a Lemon Flan between us.  This was a wonderful experience, and I would highly recommend it; truly delightful!

After spending a couple of hours in this Eden, we were most reluctant to return to the real world and get on with day to day living.  If you want to pamper yourself in a relaxed atmosphere, I recommend this lovely place.  Spend a couple of hours indulging yourself here, you won’t be disappointed!
Deluxe Coffee Shop
5 Plates
Expect to spend $10 - $20 per head
14 Maasdorp Avenue, Belgravia, Harare

 

 

A Top Lunch at Bottom Drawer 2012
When the weather allows, there is nothing more pleasant than having some lunch out on the lawn, basking in the sun. And that is exactly what we managed to do the other day. We went to Bottom Drawer in Alexander Park, and found ourselves a lovely table in their extensive garden. Sitting in the open air, when there is not too much wind, and being warmed by the gentle winter sun: is a pleasure that one only finds in wintry Harare.

Not only the weather played its part. The food did its bit too, and how! We started off with a lovely glass of fruit juice, fresh, light and quenching. Studying the menu we saw that there were some nice breakfast choices to be made as well, but we focused on the fare for lunch. There are toasted sandwiches, quiches, open sandwiches, salads, as well as attractive looking pot-pies. It is also possible to come between meals and have a lovely pot of tea or coffee with an assortment of cakes, scones and muffins to complete one’s repast.

For our lunch we chose the pot-pies: one beef and potato, and one chicken and mushroom.  We observed our surroundings and for a moment got up from our table to admire something in the garden.  The less fortunate lunch guests who had not managed to secure a table in the sun, tried to occupy our lovely sunspot instantly, but quickly saw the error of their ways when they saw our belongings still on the chairs and our alarmed look at the possibility of  a serious Harare hijack happening. Clearly we were the lucky ones having made claim to the one sunny table available.

Our dishes arrived and were put in front of us on the lovely table cloth, accompanied by proper napkins (I am always intensely thankful for linen napkins; those flimsy paper thingies just do not do it for me at all). The two little ramekins had a beautifully browned hat each of puff pastry glistening with butter and decorated with a tuft of parsley. Everything at Bottom Drawer is always served with a fresh salad, and ours looked sumptuous: various types of lettuce, some carrot, baby mealie cobs, celery, spring onion and tomato, dressed with delightful vinaigrette.

We shared our pot-pies and found that both of them were excellent. The chicken and mushroom was seasoned properly: enhancing the taste and making one long for the next bite as soon as the first entered the mouth. The beef and potato had succulent very tender beef cubes with potato chunks that had taken on the deep taste of long and slow cooking.

We were quite replete after this meal, but in order for the reader to know what the desserts at Bottom Drawer are like, I manfully ordered a strawberry pavlova. The lengths one has to go to for one’s readership!  It took some time to arrive, and my accompanying espresso was nearly finished when it did.  But the espresso soon had to take a back seat. The pavlova was served on an elegant plate, sprinkled with chocolate chips, and proved to have a marvellous meringue base with a layer of silky whipped cream over it, generously strewn with sweet and ripe strawberries. All this made eating this superfluous dessert not really as difficult as we had feared.

After paying the bill we finally got up from our sunny table. Within seconds it was taken by the next pair of lucky lunch guests.  Bottom Drawer is a great place and its food is done with care, love and attention to detail. Go there.
Deluxe Coffee Shop
4 Plates
Expect to spend $12 - $18 per head

 

Divine al fresco eating at Bottom Drawer 2011
It’s a typical winter day, with a chilly bite to the air but the sun is shining, inviting you to bask in its light. I check the street atlas once more before driving to Belgravia. Once again, I discard my pre-planned route, believing my inner compass can traverse the roads in this area and guide me timeously to my destination.  Once again, I am wrong.  After a couple of wrong turns and dips into potholes the size of craters, I finally find the right road. Thankfully I am saved from guessing which direction to turn as there are many cars parked outside the coffee shop. The Bottom Drawer is located at number 14 Maasdorp Road and lucky for us, it is a popular venue at lunch time.  I am directed to park inside the property and as soon as we step out of the vehicle we are assailed by tantalising aromas emanating from the kitchen.

En route to the dining area, I am side-tracked by the shop and want to see what is on offer. My friend suggests that we browse after we eat, so we continue to the café which is located in the back garden.  It is beautiful. There is a fenced and gated swimming pool, an abundance of lush vegetation and various bird-calls.  It is child-friendly with a Wendy-house, trampoline and miniature tables and chairs.  The tables are well spaced out so it is possible to have a business meeting or a romantic tête-á-tête in relative privacy.  I am enchanted.  We find our table and the waitress arrives with our menus.  I must commend the waitresses for their ability to walk without tripping whilst wearing bizarrely extra long aprons!

The menus are printed on recycled paper that has various petals and grasses embedded in it. There is a large selection of hot and cold beverages.  They serve tea-time snacks, breakfast, lunch, desserts and meals specifically for kids. The breakfast selection is very tempting and I know I have to return to try it.  I order a Mediterranean quiche and homemade lemonade to drink.  My friend opts for the chicken and mushroom potpie and a strawberry smoothie.

The Mediterranean quiche is made of fluffy egg with plump, black olives; sweet peppers; onions and feta cheese in a homemade pastry shell.  It is delicious.  It is served with a salad of fresh, crisp lettuce leaves; carrot strips; bean sprouts, sliced cucumbers, shallots, red pepper strips; tomatoes and snap peas.  The salad oil is slightly sweet with a tang of garlic.  I clean my plate and I start to seriously consider ordering another one, but I have to leave room for dessert!

The chicken and mushroom potpie is made in a ramekin overflowing with creamy chicken, mushrooms and topped with homemade flaky pastry.  It’s served with the salad.  My friend says it has a peppery kick that she finds very enjoyable.  As I eat I notice that there are several bantams running around, and a couple of playful kittens.

After our main course we ask for the menus to order dessert.  I opt for the filter coffee and Heavenly Cake. The cake is described as “made with very little more than just chocolate.  This decadently, delicious mousse cake is a chocoholic’s heaven”.  It is divine, so full of chocolate that it is oozing out of the slice.  The strong filter coffee goes well with this sweet treat.  I assuage my guilty conscience by promising to go to Zumba tonight.

My friend orders the cheesecake.  It is described as “absolutely smooth and creamy”.  It is “served chilled and drizzled with a syrupy fruit-in-season coulis”.   The fruit is granadilla and this makes the cheesecake pleasantly tart.  My friend is unable to finish her dessert because her smoothie is a “meal by itself”, very thick, creamy and filling.  After paying the bill we wander through the shop looking at bedding, kitchenware and stunning handbags.  I am well fed and relaxed.  

The Bottom Drawer is a beautiful place to dine al fresco!  We had only two criticisms.  We experienced not much of a welcome, and a long wait before our order was taken - the place was very busy but appeared to have only 2 waitresses, clearly not easily coping with the demands of the clientèle; however, once we had ordered, everything was delivered quickly; and the attire of said waitresses - who are dressed more like maids - quite off-putting!  Other than these two small issues, Bottom Drawer is a lovely place to eat, and the food is great.
4 Plates
Expect to spend $10 to $25 per head
14 Maasdorp Ave, Belgravia

 

Bottom Drawer child friendly, service needs tweaking (2010)
I had tried in vain to book for the Bottom Drawer, given the vagaries of out telecoms in this country, and eventually managed to establish that they closed on a Saturday at 11.30, so it was no use going there for Saturday lunch.  Unfortunately, their phone must have gone out of order totally after that, so I decided to go after work on a weekday.  My friend and I screeched in at about 1.30 pm, with jangled nerves after narrowly avoiding being caught at the Police Road block on the way, by just remembering to slow down in the nick of time!

The place was packed with scores of satisfied customers, already finishing their lunch.  We managed to get a table and decided on the Spinach and Feta quiche and the Mediterranean Quiche and we were enjoying the lovely surroundings and congratulating ourselves on actually getting it together to go out for lunch.  After disappearing to the kitchen for quite some time, the rather overworked looking waitress returned to take our order, only to inform us that both the quiches we wanted were finished.  We both felt that it would have been better if she had told us this in the first place when she handed us the menu.  Neither of us fancied the remaining Tuna Quiche so it was back to the drawing board. 

I glanced wistfully over at some slightly larger ladies who were heartily tucking into their chicken and mushroom pot pies with gay abandon, like I would have done a few years ago before my keep fit regime!   Finally I decided on the Caesar Salad and my vegetarian friend asked if she could have an open sandwich with the avocado, but without the bacon.  When eating out with a vegetarian friend, it quite often seems to me that when the cooks in restaurants here are asked to accommodate vegetarians they can appear determined to make the offending customer wait a very long time!  One could perhaps imagine the chef gritting his teeth and muttering “Merde” or some similar expression as he chopped up the feta to go with the avocado, instead of the bacon.  We waited forty minutes while my friend sipped her lukewarm iced tea, and I tried not to be too disappointed by the rather dull chocochino, which was a bit like very bland hot chocolate with no froth to be seen.  

While we were waiting we contemplated the ideal customer at Bottom Drawer.  Obviously the place is a haven for people with small children, and there is a super jungle gym and trampoline.  No doubt the rather predictable menu with its toasted sandwiches and so on would also be very popular with children and young teenagers.  This is a restaurant that is very child friendly indeed.  Also, since it is so near the National Ballet, we decided that it would be perfect place for the Ballet Mums to sit somewhere soothing and enjoy a gossip over tea and cake.  There was a tempting selection of cakes, especially Heavenly Chocolate Cake and scones with jam and cream.  The muffins looked interesting too, chocolate chip, spinach and feta or carrot. 

Finally our meal arrived and the Caesar salad was acceptable, with bacon, cheese, lettuce, hardboiled eggs, and a little salty anchovy, which was not mixed into the dressing but was an appropriate nod to authenticity.  I would have liked some croutons or a little piece of bread with it, but not the end of the world.  My friend enjoyed her open avocado sandwich, and both dishes were attractively presented.

For dessert, I am afraid to say I slipped off the straight and narrow and succumbed to a Banoffi Pie which was very pleasant with banana, caramel toffee and fresh cream.  My friend’s cheesecake however was not the best she’d tried.  It was the type that seemed a bit of a shortcut, rather than the real thing, rather gelatine-laden, and it had a metallic tang in the taste.

Just before I went I checked out the gifts in the shop, and saw some very serious stainless steel saucepans that I have been looking everywhere for.  Most places only seem to stock the ones with glass lids which are a disaster in my house and only last about three months!  So maybe come payday I might be tempted to treat myself to one, while waiting for my dear daughter to finish her ballet lessons.

After a meal at a restaurant that has turned out to be a bit disappointing, I do tend to be plagued by imagining the problems of actually trying to run a restaurant in Zimbabwe at the moment.  Certainly, we are not out of the quagmire yet and it must be really disheartening to try to operate with the relentless power cuts we have been having recently.  Over the school holidays, I was quite impressed by a cook at a resort in the Honde Valley who managed to make the most amazing meals all on a Dover stove, mainly because they only have about two hours of electricity a day there!  Likewise, a tea factory in the area looked very productive at first sight, but later we discovered that they were forced to use a generator for most of the day, so one can imagine all the profits being sucked up into that.

Also, when the dining experience is not totally wonderful, I find that I do have an over developed sense of guilty conscience and so then I start blaming myself.  This was the case after dining at the ‘Bottom Drawer’, of which we had built high expectations, given its ranking and award finalist status over the past couple of years, and where we sadly got the feeling that it was a case of ‘the early bird catches the worm’.   
Deluxe Coffee Shop
3 Plates
Expect to spend $10-$15 per head

 

The charmingly elegant Bottom Drawer
2009 Review

Spring is in the air, Winter is on the way out and the school holidays were about to start – what better time to go out to lunch and dine alfresco?  The Bottom Drawer seemed to be the ideal choice for two tired mothers as this has been a long and busy school term.

We didn’t make a reservation and when we arrived, the inside car park was full.  However, the vigilant guard on duty at the gate indicated where we should park outside, and promised that he would ‘keep an eye’.   As you enter the garden you can literally feel the stresses and worries of life in Zimbabwe melt away.  The surroundings are serene and the gardens are lush and green with splashes of colour everywhere.  I put out of my mind the dry and brown image of my own garden and decided that places like The Bottom Drawer are designed to take you out of the ordinary and give you a genuine ‘feel good’ opportunity.

We decided to sit on the large verandah area, which is airy and light with high ceilings.  The atmosphere is very relaxed; diners were all deep in conversation and there were plenty of small children running around.  The gardens are extensive so the happy sounds of children are muted and simply add to the ambience.  The Bottom Drawer is charmingly elegant without being ‘over the top’.

We were given the menu just as we were seated and enjoyed looking through the choice of delicious meals. We decided to have coffee and a light meal.  We selected a cuppacino and an interesting sounding vanillacino. These were served quickly.  I like a good robust coffee and this one fell short of my expectations.  The vanillacino, on the other hand, was delicious.

What the coffee lacked was more than adequately made up for in the meal we ordered.  From the appetizing menu we chose a Bacon and Avocado Open Sandwich and a Spinach and Feta Quiche.  Both are served with a side salad.  All the while we were waiting, our taste buds were being tempted by the aromas wafting from the kitchen.  Thank goodness our meal was served promptly by the graceful manageress, Helen.

The meal was sublime.   All conversation ceased as we started to eat.   The presentation of the meal was artistic; the rich colours of salad vegetables complimenting the quiche and sandwich.  My bacon and avocado was tasty, richly enhanced by the wholesome salad.  The salad dressing was excellent; a condiment that would encourage even the most reluctant eater to enjoy their vegetables.  The Spinach and Feta Quiche was light, tasty and not a crumb remained on my companion’s plate.  Prices at The Bottom Drawer are on the high side, but the meals are worth every cent (should I say ‘dime’ now that Zimbabwe has entered the global market?).

After our meal, the conversation flowed.  Two old friends were allowed the luxury of uninterrupted time to catch-up and enjoy each other’s company.  The bill was brought timeously and the issue of change was graciously handled by Helen.  Although the restaurant was busy, it was not hectic, and we felt very relaxed after our meal.  The waitresses had plenty to do, but simply went about their business without making us feel rushed or uneasy.

An added bonus to The Bottom Drawer is that one can browse through their shop after the meal.  There are plenty of different and interesting things on sale.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at The Bottom Drawer and will definitely be back, sooner rather than later.
Deluxe Coffee Shop
5 Plates
Expect to spend $10 per head

The Bottom Drawer is calling…….Unmistakable euphoria!
2008 Review
Once upon a time in a big African city, there was this special little place tucked away in a special little neighbourhood called Alexandra Park. So special that once the inhabitants of this city had been there once, they found themselves returning there repeatedly for all that it has to offer.

Across the land children would nag their parents “Oh please, when can we go back to that place where we saw the giant guinea-pigs; the lettuce-munching rabbits and the pretty birds? ” All they could say in reply was “Soon my child, very soon.” And so this place was frequented more and more until it became one of the most popular venues around.

“It’s more than just a coffee shop, you know….” The ladies would mutter; insisting that they and all of their friends meet there with their kids for some coffee, some good wholesome food, some up-to-date gossip and a bit of indulgent retail therapy in the well-stocked “petit magasin” which gives this unique enterprise its name. Here one enters into an emporium, guilded with elegant crockery, cutlery, linen and numerous other soft-furnishings which you will not find anywhere else.

There is an enchanting garden for the children to play in, with a trampoline and an open-plan wendy house for the adventurous imps to explore, once they have become bored of taunting Brer’s amigos with flowers from the eloquent rockeries. None of this will go unchecked as the tables are succinctly scattered about the veranda and garden, beneath a canopy of umbrellas.

As if trying to imitate Tinkerbell, Emma the waitress flits between all of the tables and the kitchen, efficiently and happily seeking to fulfil the culinary desires of the customers with amazing success, more so impressive as she does this almost single handedly, apart from the vivacious team of “propriétaires” who are incessantly ensuring that everyone is comfortable and that orders have been taken, and if not, then they do it themselves immediately.

Several businessmen’s meetings were transpiring on the day I met my companion there: giving the grounds an air of haughty importance. We quenched our thirsts with their original home made lemon juice, served at a chillingly perfect temperature. As I did not have an ensuing engagement I ordered the tuna quiche as a main meal, which was accompanied by a delectable salad, garnished with nasturtiums and lavender (or maybe coriander…..?). It was freshly made and was the tastiest quiche that I had sampled in quite a long time. Although the latter had indeed placated my impending hunger, I could not resist a carrot muffin and a cup of traditional cappuccino. All of this was totally satisfying, as well as relaxing, despite the relentless heat on a mid-October’s day.

Thus the fable continues to this present day, in a land rocked by woes and hardships, should you deny yourself a visit, then so let it be your loss. For the most part, folk who do partake in The Bottom Drawer’s pleasures depart filled with an unmistakable euphoria which gets them through another day, helping them to live happily, ever after.
Deluxe Coffee Shop
5 plates