It’s not often that you have a meal while dining out and, after consideration, declare it to be the best meal of its type that you have ever tasted. But that’s what my decision was after lunch at Harare’s Centurion restaurant this week: quite the best oxtail I have ever enjoyed!
I had not been to this restaurant for three years, so was pleased to be there this past Monday. It’s situated in the Harare Sports Club, overlooking the cricket ground that is framed by the tall blocks of apartments along Josiah Tongogara Avenue.
We started off on the veranda, but winds rose up and clouds darkened, and soon enough there was a huge downpour.
We moved inside and our table was on the wonderful original sprung dance floor that the Harare Sports Club once used for Saturday night dances. One of the misperceptions about the place needs to be dispelled: you do not have to be a member of the club to dine there; it is open to the public and when we were there, all of the diners were casual visitors like my guest and I.
It was a relatively quiet day, a contrast to the last time we went, when the place was buzzing; my choice of Monday was deliberate, as this seems to be the best day on which to be able to have a chat to Lance Nettleton, who has run the restaurant since it opened almost a decade ago.
Last time there was a December 31, and Lance was gearing up for that night’s new year celebration, so we had no opportunity to catch up. It seems fairly busy to busy most of the time and I hope this remains the case at a time when business levels are down for most dining venues.
The Centurion is, in fact, a pub and grill rather than a straightforward restaurant, so the dining is exactly as one would expect from a venue where the drinks are as big a drawcard — if not bigger — than the food.
The menu is extensive and there’s a buffet choice some lunchtimes, as well as specials listed on a board. We had excellent service from our waitress, Tabu Chilongo, and we managed our meal within a time frame that would have allowed to go back to work well in time for the ‘afternoon whistle.
We went straight for mains, with my guest selecting the eisbein and I selected the oxtail. My guest had previously enjoyed eisbein at Garfunkel’s Grill in Borrowdale, so we were keen to see how it compared.
It was a huge portion and she declared it every bit as good as her previous experience. My oxtail was simply outstanding: tender, tasty and very satisfying, with a delightful gravy. Both meals were served with excellent mashed potato and pumpkin.
No room for dessert after that, but Tabu persuaded us to have Irish coffees, which were a great end to a superb lunch.
I perused the menu and noted breakfasts from $8 to $32, starters from $9 to $26, main courses from $18 (quarter chicken and bangers and mash) to $56 (prawns), with a great many tantalising options in between. Grills of beef fillet, t-bone and sirloin, or pork chops, as well as steak, egg and chips, were priced between $28 and $43.
Burgers ranged from $16 to $23, while baskets and platters were $19 to $55 and a range of seven different pizzas were $16 to $26, with additional for extra toppings.
Rolls and toasties were $8 to $32 and a set of traditional dishes were $17 to $26. Desserts were priced between $8 and $14. It’s not cheap, but one thing about this restaurant is its reputation for good portion sizes.
The venue is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 8.30am and the kitchen closes at 11pm, which is certainly later than most restaurant kitchens in Harare and is a welcome option for folk who like to eat a wee bit later than the standard 7pm or 8pm here.
Lance told us evening activities provided variety: Tuesday is quiz night, while Thursday is karaoke night. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights are music nights, with a DJ in attendance, while Sundays have an appeal to family lunches.
There’s a VIP lounge on site, set up separately from the indoor dining room, the main bar and the veranda area, and I understand that this is popular with many drinkers.
I have never been there with a cricket match on at Harare Sports Club, but I can imagine the buzz factor reaches its high point when that happens.
We thoroughly enjoyed everything about our experience: excellent food, superb service and a friendly ambience. The Centurion pub and grill, Harare Sports Club (entrance on Fifth Street). Call 0773 784924 for information and reservations.
Don’t forget to let me have your comments and suggestions about dining in Zimbabwe: e-mail [email protected] with these and also with feedback on restaurants you like or don’t like – and reasons. I would also be keen to hear about where you think the best oxtail dish is served!