Innovation, style from the Chatters buffet

Over the years I have experienced some very pedestrian buffet offerings at restaurants, so it is thrilling to look at a buffet station and with just a single glance recognise that a huge amount of thought has gone into it from the culinary team.

A buffet that never disappoints is the one at Chatters restaurant in Cresta Lodge, situated in a green and pleasant park at the point where Harare’s Eastlea, Greendale and Msasa areas meet. I have dined there possibly a dozen times in the past 24 to 36 months and although once or twice have enjoyed the a la carte menu, most often it has been a buffet offering. I have seen a great many examples of innovation and creativity in the style and layout, and have really enjoyed seeing the obvious results of chef’s planning.

The buffet is usually available when numbers of guests dining there look good; at other times the a la carte menu is available. On weekdays and Saturdays it is mainly business diners and conference delegates who eat there, while on Sundays I know there is a large following for the Sunday roast special. A call to the restaurant beforehand can alert you to the offering on the day in question.

Chatters was refurbished a few years ago when Cresta Lodge went through a multi-million-dollar upgrade programme, and it is a cheerful, neat and bright venue; there is indoor seating, including a salon privy for small groups needing solitude. Outdoors there is seating on the terrace and in the colourful garden, over which the restaurant looks. You would never know that only metres from the restaurant is the busy Samora Machel Avenue East, with its large east-bound or east-sourced traffic.

When I last dined there, during a rainy lunchtime, we chose to sit on the terrace, as the weather was warm and it was delightful to see the rain falling through the trees and into the garden area. Cresta Lodge prides itself on having its extensive lawns and gardens, not to mention hundreds of trees, and it really is a suburban hotel in the truest sense.

My guest and I started with salads, which are always decoratively laid out and which contain a good variety of content. Indeed, one has to be careful not to over-indulge here, knowing that step two is a choice from the equally extensive mains selection. On the day we went, there were choices of sadza, rice, potatoes, pasta and mixed vegetables, along with an exceptionally good offering of bream fillets, chicken breasts in a cheese sauce and tender beef.

We also liked the dessert selection, especially the trifle, and my guest, who has a fondness for custard, was pleased with the tasty, hot custard sauce which she poured over the trifle helping. A shameless indulgence on our part, but sheer culinary pleasure as a result. We enjoyed some fruit juice during the meal and then decided to move to the buzzy and pleasant Cool Beans coffee shop, looking west from the other side of the main building, for our coffee. This is another venue that does not disappoint, and their coffees are excellent, so I would recommend other diners do as we did and have the end of the meal either in the lounge area of Cool Beans or at one of the tables or central “bank” there.

Service is always cheerful and efficient at Chatters, and we engaged with several of the waiters, who were keen to show off the garden area and talk about the good number of different birds to be seen as regulars in the trees. Likewise, baristas in Cool Beans wanted to show off the newly-refurbished swimming pool, over which the coffee looks to the western lawns.

Chatters is a genuine treat, with competitive prices, good food and delightful service.

People living in Greendale, Eastlea, Highlands and surrounds should really make something of this local gem of a destination, and families will enjoy it as a relaxed and welcoming spot. I would recommend advance booking as sometimes Cresta Lodge is busy with overnight guests or conferences and Sunday lunches are popular. Call (024) 2487006.

Source : The Herald

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