The cuisine of the Indian sub-continent is among the most varied, fascinating and delicious in the world, and Harare is fortunate to have a number of good dining venues at which some of these flavours and styles can be enjoyed.
One of my favourites is the Spice Lounge in Milton Park, where I have never been disappointed by the rich and flavoursome food, the welcoming service or the delightful garden setting of the restaurant.
Another hallmark of this venue is what can be described as an interesting mix of patrons, among them — reassuringly, for those looking for genuine Indian cuisine — a large number of people of south Asian origin!
My guest and I dined there on a Wednesday lunchtime, a delightful early summer day when the garden of the Spice Lounge looked green and pleasant, and all the diners chose to be either in the garden, under umbrellas, or on the long veranda that overlooks the garden.
Only once in all the times I have been there have I eaten indoors, and one of the most appealing aspects of the place is this ability to enjoy our delightful weather.
Restaurateurs around town tell me that business is unpredictable these days, and there is no pattern as to which days are good and which are bad, so I was pleased for owner Gita Ranchod that the place was busy.
The menu at the Spice Lounge is big and varied, and over the years I have made a point of trying something different each time I have been there.
It’s not always easy to stick to this, as it’ tempting to go back to something one has enjoyed previously, and there have been many examples of that at this restaurant.
We had a chance to chat to Gita, and her new manager, Saffiya Kassim, and get some advice on some of the dishes I had not yet experienced.
They also spoke of upcoming events, held from time to time with different themes. One of the biggest of these each year is Dewali, to take place this year in November.
Our pre-starter was a complimentary plate of deep-fried vegetables in a spicy batter, and this was followed by our real starters: Gobbi Manchurian ($8), an Indo-Chinese cauliflower creation with a lightly spiced sweet sauce, and tandoori mushrooms ($7) for me.
I had not thought that mushrooms were an Indian delicacy but Gita said they were, and increasingly so.
Both dishes were attractive and very tasty. For mains I had an excellent prawn biriyani ($22) while my guest went for a mutter and chicken keema, which was a tangy chicken mince and pea dish ($16) that she found really pleasing.
Accompanying these were a roti for me and butter naan bread for my guest ($2 and $3). Portion size is good and we both took home a reasonable amount of our mains.
Desserts were too good to pass: for my guest the jellebi/rabdi ($7), a mango pretzel in a fruit syrup, while I had one of my favourites, the mango kulfi, an Indian-style ice cream that is always a fresh and appetising finish ($8).
With this large menu, I think it well worth getting Gita or Saffiya to advise and inform, something that has brought me to a dish or two that I might not have chosen and which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The wine selection is also designed to provide wines that go well with different dishes, and although we did not have wine at our lunch I could not help thinking of some enjoyable accompaniments, such as an unwooded chardonnay or deep-red merlot for my dishes.
The Spice Lounge has conferencing facilities, and provides musical entertainment on selected occasions, and on a number of occasions I have seen busy private functions happenings, for individuals or corporates.
It really is a buzzy place and the ambience is always conducive to enjoyment.
As with so many restaurants out of the heart of Harare’s northern suburbs, some folk are choosing not to venture across town to Milton Park, but my advice to them is to do so; the trip is well worth the rich and rewarding culinary experience at the end.
Gita also advised she was doing live kitchens at people’s homes and businesses, as well as catering offsite for special events.
The restaurant provides its menu items for takeaway orders, too. The restaurant has a delightful bar, which is a great place to start a meal there, especially in groups.
I am often asked by readers if the food at place like this is all hot; the answer is no — diners can choose between mild, medium and hot for their levels of “heat” in the food.
The Spice Lounge is a tried and tested venue for all segments of the dining-out market, consistently offering a wonderful culinary experience that gives value for money, quality service and very flavoursome cuisine.
It is at 22 Lezard Avenue in Milton Park, close to the Kensington shopping centre.
Reservations are recommended, as one never knows when things will be busy. Call (024) 2 701672, 0867 7104745 or 0779 581000 to book or make enquiries, using [email protected] for e-mails.
The restaurant is open for lunch every day and for dinner every night except Sunday.
Feedback and ideas are welcome: e-mail [email protected]