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Feel-good venture as Tinkabell opens in Ballantyne Park

CAN’T tell an SI from a WI or an AI? If you can, you’re probably in the hospitality industry, and well aware that an SI, or Statutory Instrument, is a form of legislation that can be brought into force without parliament having to pass a new act.

As a restaurant owner, you’re struggling to get going again, and may often be confused by the ever-changing rules and SIs necessitated by recurring lockdowns.

Opening a new restaurant in Harare used to be a slam dunk until the arrival of the pandemic, forcing some establishments to close, and others to teeter on the brink. So I felt surprise followed by admiration on hearing that Jasmine and Rui Fonseca, owners of Tinkabell in Ardbennie, were opening a second branch in Ballantyne Park.

Jasmine Fonseca serves guests at launch of Tinkabell Restaurant

‘I had my doubts about opening another restaurant ,’ said Jasmine, ‘but cooking is my passion, and I have a good feeling about this venture.’ With the spreading of Tinkabell’s wings (no relation to the fairy Tinker Bell in J M Barrie’s novel Peter Pan and Wendy) to a new locale, the privileged denizens of Ardbennie and Workington are no longer the only patrons able to enjoy Jasmine’s unique and delicious cuisine on their doorstep. While Ardbennie Tinkabell remains temporarily closed for renovations, however, it will re-open in a few weeks’ time.

Celebratory cake at Tinkabell Restaurant

From the age of eight, Jasmine spent many hours in the kitchen with her grandmother, Tinka Ali Arab, acquiring  the skills she has today. Tinka was a well-travelled and versatile cook, drawing on her Cape Malay roots for exotic curries, and on her extended family in Mozambique for spicy charcoal-grilled peri peri chicken.

Tinkabell Restaurant is a family affair, and Rui, Jasmine and their daughter Natasha were all hands on at the restaurant’s recent launch in Ballantyne Park. Balloons festooned the entrance to the restaurant, while guests gathered outside beneath a white marquee for the chilled vibe of a hand-crafted Woodstock gin and tonic. After a short speech, His Excellency Miguel Veloso, Portuguese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, cut the ribbon, and we all made our way inside.

Hungry guests fell upon the generous buffet. Spicy giblets in gravy were served with fresh, white bread rolls for starters, together with a cold prawn salad. Macaroni cheese, Portuguese rice and vegetables accompanied the grilled chicken, alongside a crisp Greek salad. Numerous desserts included chocolate mousse, pasteis de nata (custard tarts) and a huge celebratory iced chocolate cake.

Tinkabell has a well- stocked bar. Luckily knowledgeable wine columnist Lebbie Musavaya was seated at our table, and with her help we chose a smooth French Chardonnay from Pays d’ Oc to drink with our meal. Tinashe Munjoma, charming and urbane General Manager of Meikles Hotel, also seated with us, opened the bottle with a skilful flick of the wrist and a corkscrew, and proceeded to pour the wine without spilling a drop.

The Woodstock gin company, founded in Cape Town in 2014, was well represented, with several intriguing flavours available. How could anyone resist a hemp-infused gin labelled 142 on Gympie, created to ‘celebrate the rule breakers and hustlers’, or 001 on Searle, with its ‘fiery ginger notes’? More cautious drinkers might opt for 021 on Victoria, inspired by the nuns of Victoria Road, ‘symbols of purity amidst the grit of the streets’.

Complimentary tots of Conjure Cognac, distilled in France, were served as we savoured our chocolate cake. Blended by US rapper Ludacris, ‘Conjure-A Hustler’s Spirit’ could become your new favourite drink. Cognac experts and vintage specialists will tell you that Conjure has a bouquet of cedar, cocoa and hazelnut, but all I can say is that it was velvety smooth, and the perfect way to end a meal.

While the welcome is warm at Tinkabell, and the food delicious, the decor and seating are utilitarian. Unless you are particularly broad across the beam, you might find the heavy, upright wooden chairs confining. Moving later to comfortable armchairs in an airy space opposite the bar, we asked the barista for potent Illy espressos, and chatted to Stan Higgins, driving force in ROAZ (Restaurant Owners Association of Zimbabwe).

As we sipped the espressos, thick, sweet and smooth on the tongue,

we expressed hope in the future of the hospitality industry. We also praised Jasmine and Rui’s bold, new venture, and wished them every success.

A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff