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Feel-good cocktails and perfect charcoal grilled steaks at Wombles.

JACARANDAS are coming into bloom around the city, school kids are preparing to write exams, and in a few week’s time the pressure will be on to find dried fruit to make Christmas cakes and puddings.

Plans are underway for festive celebrations, and diasporans are looking for cheap fares to fly home in December, the month in which I’ll be mulling over my short list for restaurant of the year. If you think you have something special to offer, send an email, and there could be a slot available before the final countdown.

Chargrilled steak, egg and chips in the bistro.

Zimbos like to start the weekend early, and after four and a half days of trekking to and from the office in the CBD, hunching over a computer while working from home, or trying to promote that side hustle, what better way to kick back than to enjoy a great meal and a few drinks at one of your local restaurants. Khaya Nyama Wombles serves a pub-style menu in their bistro section, overlooking a well tended semi-tropical garden of palm trees, clivia, farms, bromeliads and msasa trees. Last Friday at lunch time, this seemed the perfect destination.

The magic began when the genial maitre d’ directed us to a table for two in the outdoor seating side of Wombles. On the opposite fine-dining area overlooking the waterfall, patrons included an eclectic mix of NGO types, well-heeled locals and uniformed school girls. Waiters Japhet and Admire hovered nearby with menus, but a lazy afternoon stretched ahead, and the siren call of the well-stocked bar couldn’t be ignored.

A champagne cocktail ($10) suited my intention to get cheerfully plastered. Graham Beck Brut with sugar, brandy, Angostura Bitters and a cherry, calmly and efficiently mixed by bartender Raymond, created an immediate feel-good high. George’s choice, a Margarita ($8) packed a huge punch with its heady combination of tequila, triple sec and lime juice. The only guests seated at the bar, we soon got chatting to Raymond. The ideal barman should not only have a pleasant personality and be skilled in mixing cocktails and preparing drinks. He also needs to be able to deal with difficult customers, and if what you see in the movies is accurate, he should provide a shoulder to cry on for dejected drinkers.

Gammon steak with pineapple and chips.

There being no call for drastic action, Raymond simply described his previous experience as a waiter at the News Cafe in Fife Avenue, and his years spent at The Brewing Company in Victoria Falls, where he worked with the makers of fine craft beers, learning  the essential mixology skills he uses today.

Stylish decor in the powder room at Wombles.

While there are fewer choices for diners on the outdoor bistro side of Wombles, it’s still possible to indulge in a three course meal. For lovers of a well-cooked steak, there is no better destination than Khaya Nyama Wombles. Steak, egg and chips, with a colourful salad ($20), was attractively presented, and the steak was cooked to charcoal grilled juicy perfection. From a variety of sauces, I chose a delicious blue cheese sauce, which wasn’t totally necessary, as the steak was perfectly seasoned and full of flavour. Had I realised there was an extra charge of $5 for sauce, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. Special mention must be made of the chips, which were blonde, crisp on the outside and fluffy within.

A large gammon steak ($20) was cooked to a turn, garnished with caramelised pineapple slices and chunks, and served with perfectly cooked chips.

After several cocktails and one or two bottles of mineral water, a visit to the the powder room becomes necessary. At some establishments the loos look very much the worse for wear, but at Wombles, the ladies room is actually a room you might want to visit. The toilets and floors are spotless, there are fresh flowers near the hand wash basin, the paper towel machine works, and there’s eye catching decor everywhere.

Thwarted by a power cut from enjoying an after-lunch cappuccino, our waiter suggested vanilla milkshakes, served in the garden. Overlooked by shady trees and a larger than life size Mother and Child statue by Dominic Benhura, this was the perfect ending to a leisurely Friday lunch date.

A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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