By The Epicurean
Restaurants come in all shapes, sizes and formats, and each of them gains popularity for filling a niche that one or more segments of the market are in need of. If there is to be a hierarchy of such dining places, it is perhaps the fine dining venues that would be listed by many people as being the top of such lists.
People often ask what is meant by fine dining, and once or twice I have offered a glimpse of what can genuinely be expected of an eatery that is described thus. My own observation is that it must be an all-round experience: food of a high standard, prepared and served stylishly and appealingly; a venue in a location that is attractive and one that is carefully designed to be comfortable and – again – stylish; service that is of the highest order; beverages, including good wines, that satisfy tastes that can be described as sophisticated; a feeling afterwards of having had a presentation of exceptional standards.
Of course, diners should be prepared to pay more at a fine dining establishment than in other venues – such as a family restaurant, where budgets may be tighter – mainly because they are paying for what might be termed a ‘bigger’ experience. In Harare there is a good selection of fine dining venues and it was to one of them that I went for this week’s review.
Alo Alo has become one of Harare’s best-known restaurants; it’s situated in the Arundel Village shopping centre, Mount Pleasant, and on my many visits there for a meal I have been able to tick all the boxes on the fine dining list. It has not always been in Mount Pleasant, though. Alo Alo started life in the grounds of Alliance Francaise in Herbert Chitepo Avenue, but moved a number of years back to its present location, roughly in the middle of Harare’s northern suburbs and therefore to be regarded as a prime site for a fine dining establishment. The former venue is now Chez Zandi, which I will be reviewing soon.
Alo Alo is run by the very experienced Lesley and Adrian Orford and they have created a venue that now has a reputation for a warm welcome and consistent standards.
My most recent visit there was on a Friday lunchtime, so we were able to make a choice between the a la carte menu and the special lunchtime selection, the latter offering two courses for $18 or three for $22. This special menu is changed from time to time, since so many diners are regulars and they look forward to new dishes.
For starters my guest chose the cheesy mushroom poppers, a delightful dish of mushrooms in breadcrumbs and with a tangy sauce. I had the bacon and potato fritters, also very tasty and spicy. Both are new dishes. For mains, my guest had the shepherd’s pie fritters while I went for the poached hake fillet.
Both meals were accompanied by broccoli, butternut, mashed potato, salad and delicate French fries and were excellent, with very generous portions Dessert was a huge and attractive presentation of ice cream, which I chose to have without a chocolate sauce; my guest could not manage a third course after a really substantial first two. Served at the start of the meal were cheese-infused bread rolls, and at the end we had coffee.
Alo Alo deserves its acclaim, not only from city residents but from visitors, too. The team there put in a lot of effort and hard work to create a welcoming and comfortable ambience and present meals that really are top of the range. It’s open every day of the week from 9am to 10pm, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through to Saturday, with Sunday and Monday opening from 9am to 2.30pm. People often pop in for coffee and social chats with friends during the mornings and afternoons, useful in a busy shopping centre which seems to be growing all the time.
There is a night-time special menu, too, with choices of two courses or three for $20, and this is also changed occasionally to offer variety. The wine list is not a big one but is made up of a really excellent set of labels that offer variety for style and budget. Alo Alo is very often the scene for special events for individuals and corporates, and over the years I have attended birthday celebrations and product launches there. Seating is offered indoors, on a terrace or in the colourful and tractive garden.
Alo Alo is a fine dining venue with class, so well done to Lesley and her kitchen team and to Adrian and his front-of-house team. The restaurant is at 10 Forest Road, behind the Arundel Village shopping centre, along Quorn Avenue in Mount Pleasant. Call (04) 369198 or 369257, 0773 265933 or 0712 602245. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.