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Limp chips and chunky schnitzel disappoint at Garfunkels on Rolfe.

GARFUNKEL is a Jewish surname, deriving from a Yiddish word meaning a red gemstone, and originally, people with this name were usually in the diamond trade.

Today, singer Art Garfunkel is probably the best known bearer of the name, followed by Sol Garfunkel, an American mathematician, and Lieb Garfunkel, a Lithuanian politician. In 1979, Philip Kaye, a successful British business man, founded the Garfunkel’s Restaurant casual dining chain in 1979 in London. The idea that an enthusiastic foodie called  Garfunkel had entered the hospitality trade, captured the public’s imagination.
Pork schnitzel and chips.

Pork ribs and chips.

In Zimbabwe, the Garfunkels brand started some years ago with a small pig farm in Chipinge. Carefully tended, and given the best quality home-grown food, the herd flourished, and Garfunkels pork products are now found in supermarkets around the country. The next logical step was to open a restaurant, where food lovers could enjoy delicious pork cooked to the highest standards. In 2017, Garfunkels Grill opened in Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale. This remains the go-to place not only for crispy pork chops, slow roasted pork belly and juicy jumbo ribs, but also for steaks, seafood, salads and pizzas.

Almost two years ago, Garfunkels on Rolfe opened in the Rolfe Valley shopping centre, on the former site of Sorellas, a popular pizzeria much loved by school boys from nearby St Johns School. Re-built and re-designed, this attractive cafe-bar  is a convenient place to stop off when shopping in the area, or looking for fuel in the nearby service station.

When George and I dropped in for lunch last Thursday, well known restaurateur/historian Llew Hughes and a lively group of friends were having a good time at a nearby table. Llew explained that he and his friends, all lovers of good food, ate out together every Thursday at restaurants of their choice. With high hopes for a good meal, we studied the menu.

Since the success of a small pig farm in Chipinge gave rise to the Garfunkels behemoth that now supplies all manner of delicious pork products to the nation, it made sense to honour the pig and order a piggy product, rather than a steak or a pizza. I chose a pork  schnitzel, a retro dish for modern times. A classic schnitzel, whether of pork, veal or chicken, is always pounded into a thin, tender cutlet. Crumbed and sautéed, the result is a crispy crust with a juicy centre, best served with lemon wedges. A traditional side dish would be boiled or mashed potatoes, but longing for fabulous chips, this is what I asked for.

The wait was long enough for the chef in the kitchen to enclose the chops in cling film and beat them into paper-thin cutlets. But the result was a chunky pork steak – tasty, but not a schnitzel. The chips were the opposite of fabulous – limp, of different lengths, and varying in colour from pale blonde to dark brown. For some stylistic reason, the chips were piled on top of the pork steak, altering the texture of the crispy coating on the pork. A random scattering of grated cheddar cheese over everything, added nothing to the flavour or appearance of the dish.

Pork schnitzel and chips.

George found the pork ribs, coated in a sticky sauce, flavoursome enough, in spite of being served luke warm. The chips were attractively plated, evenly cooked and crisp.

The Greek salad we ordered might have compensated to some extent for my lack lustre schnitzel and chips, but it never materialised. Dennis, our waiter, said this might have been owing to the fact that he had needed to go out to make a delivery. Or perhaps the kitchen had lost track of our order.The slice of lemon meringue pie we shared was intended to make up for a disappointing meal, but the pastry was too thin and tough to balance the tart lemon curd and sweet meringue. If there’s a barista at Garfunkels on Rolfe, it may have been his day off, as the usual artistic swirls on the steamed milk were nothing but smudges.

It was cool and pleasant sitting on the veranda at Garfunkels on Rolfe, but until the quality and presentation of dishes improves, they’d have to pay me to go back.

A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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