It’s entertaining being able to watch a chef prepare a meal, and at Harare’s Kombahari restaurant the interaction between chef and customer is part of the overall dining experience.
Kombahari has been on the dining scene in Harare for three decades, having been established when the restaurant was created in what was then called Harare Sheraton back in the mid-80s.
The hotel is now Rainbow Towers, but the restaurant still retains the name and at lunch and dinner one can still find the selection of international guests and local folk enjoying what it has to offer.
We dined there on Thursday, when heads of travel and tourism organisations had one of their regular luncheons, and key to our experience was the preparation of the mail course at the cooking stations in the centre of our seating area.
The restaurant’s menu explains that the restaurant’s name derives from the Shona language – and it basically means “gathering around the pot” – which is what diners here do, more or less: they gather around the area in which chefs prepare the dishes.
The restaurant style is grillroom, but there is also an infusion of eastern food, mainly Chinese. We did not make use of the menu, as we were a pre-booked group and we were advised by the team of what was being made available for us that day.
We all started with a soup, some choosing a mushroom creation and the more adventurous going for the Spicy Asian soup, which was delightfully hot and spicy. We then had a selection from the salad bar, which also included some sushi-style preparations.
Then it was onto the mains, prepared for us at the cooking stations. Choices for meats included chicken, fish, fillet steak and lamb, and I selected the latter.
It was served as requested and was tender and tasty, accompanied by potatoes cooked in their “jackets” and a stir-fried vegetable selection.
Desserts were brought on a trolley and, again, we had a number of good choices.
I selected a really tasty trifle, with a dollop of ice cream, and then ended with a filter coffee.
It was a charming and enjoyable meal, and the ambience helped the group get into the discussions and chats about the state of Zimbabwe’s travel and tourism sector, which is enjoying a definite renaissance and looks set to continue in this vein.
Some of the folk gathered around our table had been to the World Travel Market in London in the past fortnight, and interest in Zimbabwe was high there.
Although the economic situation remains challenging, the travel and tourism leaders remain focused on the positives and making sure the sector keeps on a growth path.
Our luncheon was hosted by Rainbow Tourism Group’s chief executive, Tendai Madziwanyika, and also present was the RTG operations director, Tich Hwingwiri, who is the current president of the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe.
The other guests were a mix of hospitality and airline bosses, and the conversation was interesting and insightful, always with the emphasis on going forward and getting things done.
It occurred to me that a great many board meetings and other round-table discussions should be held, equally useful and informative, in such surroundings, with a much more pleasing and encouraging ambience like the one we had, instead of in formal boardrooms.
Kombahari would be suitable, especially on quiet days when discussion will not be disturbed by other diners.
We had excellent service from the staff, and our interactions with executive Chef Comfort Tazarura and our allocated chef Shingi Bandera (almost like Antonio Banderas, he joked!) were as enjoyable and entertaining as the food.
They explained what was on offer and how they were going to prepare it, and took us through the cooking as they did it.
Kombahari is a very pleasant venue for lunch or dinner, for either business guests or families, and is open from 12.30pm to 3pm and again 6.30pm to 10pm Monday to Friday, with only dinner servings on Saturday and Sunday.
Rainbow Towers is situated adjacent to the Harare civic centre and is reached from Rotten Row along Pennefather Avenue. Visit www.rtgafrica.com or call (04) 772633-9.
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