Corky’s: A suburban culinary treat

An infusion of new ideas into a long-running dining venue is almost always a great thing, as this gives new opportunities to customers, even long-standing ones, to come along and try out new dishes.

While a great many people don’t want to see their favourites disappear from a menu, they certainly look forward to occasional novelties and to innovation on the menu.

New ideas are coming into Corky’s restaurant in Harare’s Ballantyne Park area, courtesy of Keegan Corken, son of Mike Corken, who opened this restaurant back in 2017.

Keegan (29) was educated in Harare before studying the culinary arts at the South African Chefs’ Academy in Cape Town.

He then travelled to work in kitchens in Britain, Australia and Zambia, as well as spending time working on yachts overseas. Now he is back in Harare and tasked with bringing additional value to the restaurant’s customers through the menu and other components of the operation.

Corky’s has a great position for a restaurant in Harare, right in the middle of what is often called the ‘golden triangle’ in spending power terms.

There has been a restaurant on this site in the Ballantyne Park shopping centre for years; once Womble’s and then Millers or The Mill.

Corky’s opened two years ago as an Irish-themed pub and grillroom and my own observations of the numbers of cars parked outside shows it is doing quite well, especially on Friday nights and when there are sports events on the big TV screens in the bar.

The Irish theme is still in evidence, but is part of an overall offering of food, drinks and ambience that is perhaps wider than before.

Last Sunday was, of course, St Patrick’s Day, the day when Irish people all over the world — and many others — celebrate all things Irish, so it was a busy weekend for Corky’s, what with Irish beers and whiskey (yes, with an ‘e’ as it’s Irish!) and related activity. Running up to the weekend was a short run of an Irish-themed comedy show Mrs Brown and Her Girls, a take on the popular Mrs Brown’s Boys from television.

We had lunch there on a Friday lunchtime and enjoyed seeing a new menu with some additions that made for tantalising of palates. My guest and I each had the crumbed mushrooms for starters, and we were delighted with the crisp freshness of the mushrooms, as well as the salads and very tasty sauces accompanying them.

For mains, I had the smoked brisket, one of the innovations from Keegan, and this was outstanding: shavings of tender brisket in a smoky brown sauce that gave a hint of whiskey and served with coleslaw and   chips.

My guest had the pork belly, two very generous portions of which were tender and tangy, served with mashed potatoes, vegetables and crackling. A charming helping of mango and carrot atchar was placed on the table and was a lovely, spicy condiment for these dishes. We had no room for dessert after very good portions of the starter and mains.

Price is everything these days, of course, and I noted on the menu that starters range from $16 to $23, salads from $20 to $26, mains from $20 to $40 (with sauces at $4 to $6 and side orders at $5 to $10), snacks at $21 and desserts from $12 to $20.

This is very much in keeping with general prices in restaurants around town; it must be a battle for managers these days to contain costs in a fairly volatile price situation. Keegan has introduced a 10 percent discount for pensioners throughout the week, which is a super thing to do.

We had a look at the cocktail menu and there is a small but super selection of drinks: Moscow mule, bloody Mary, classic mojito and something unique: frose — frozen rose wine with vodka fruit and lemon juice.

We didn’t try them but they looked excellent and well worth getting as part of the dining experience here. Of course, the main bar is big and well stocked, and I know it can be a very busy place. I understand the draught beers are especially popular.

There was also a specials board, posting things on the day we visited like roasted pumpkin, beef curry, Irish beef stew and (being a Friday) fish and chips.

Keegan told us that there are theme evenings: Wednesday features a burger and beer special, while Thursday is ladies’ night, with a free bottle of wine for groups of four coming in together.

Friday nights feature a DJ, while Sunday lunchtimes feature singers. Saturday is popular for the sport on the TV screens, especially the Six Nations rugby, the 2019 championship of which ended last weekend.

Seating is varied: in the bar, in the main restaurant and adjoining closed verandah, as well as in a garden area at the rear.

Corky’s is a buzzy restaurant with a lot happening and a good menu offering choice and value. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday, opens Wednesday and Thursday evenings only, and then open for lunch and supper on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It’s in the Ballantyne Park shopping centre, Wellburn Drive (close to the Addington Lane and Steppes Road access routes.

Source : The Herald

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