Sunday lunch is one of the busiest times for the restaurant trade in Harare, as it seems to be a time that many people, especially family groups, dine out together and look for a mix of pleasing ambience, good food and affordability.
Many dining venues are offering specials, often in the form of buffets, and I have noted that there is a lot of competitiveness involved. With such competition, of course, comes pressure on restaurateurs to make offers to diners that are attractive and appealing. Harare’s Spring Fever restaurant is one of the busiest of dining venues on Sundays, and a superb buffet is the draw card that brings all these people there, many of them regulars.
As I have noted before, the restaurant is in its third location, having first started in the Karoi area but moving to Harare when the owners were forced to relocate almost 20 years ago. It operated from Rowland Square in Milton Park for a long time, but in mid-2017 it relocated to the Chisi Walk retail complex close to the Chisipite shopping centre.
It is owned and managed by the very competent and welcoming Elise Oosthuizen, who is renowned as a good cook and a lovely host, offering what she calls a plaaskombuis (farm kitchen) cuisine. It is a mix of great home-style cooking with generous portions.
We dined there this past Sunday, arriving around 12.30pm and taking a table on the terrace outside the covered veranda, a cool spot on a hot day. By the time we left the place was busy, with a really interesting mix of patrons, and there were many children and elderly folk in these groups, meaning that families came together as three generations for a meal and some of what we these days call quality time.
Spring Fever is a daytime dining venue, starting early morning and ending at the close of the normal working day, but closing early afternoon on Saturdays. Sunday lunches remain perhaps the major attraction, featuring this excellent buffet spread. Special buffets are also offered on selected other days, such as public holidays, and I was interested to hear from Elise that she will be open every single day during the coming extra-long weekend in April: Independence day on Thursday April 18 through to Easter Monday on April 22.
My guest and I had a super meal this past week. Head waiter Smart Saluti, a really delightful hospitality personality, brought us leek and potato soup to start, exceptionally tasty and accompanied by fresh rolls and butter. We then helped ourselves to the main course from the buffet, which that day offered beef curry, roast chicken, rice, potatoes, sadza, butternut, a pea and courgette combination in sauce, bean salad, spicy beetroot and buttery avocado. It was a feast and it was excellent.
Desserts that day were roly poly pudding, an old-fashioned favourite for many, as well as a strawberry cheesecake. I chose the cheesecake, with cream, and it was one of the best I have ever sampled. My guest had the roly poly pudding, covered with custard, and she was thrilled with it. We ended with coffee, before heading off at the same time as some late arrivals came in with their families for a 2pm-ish lunch. The Sunday buffet is $50 per person, or $25 for under-10s and over-80s.
There is a standard menu for the rest of the week, including a specials board for Friday lunches, which remain in place for the month. In March this offered Friday chicken or beef pot pies at $20 per person, and this will be changed for a Friday offering throughout April. Saturdays offer a breakfast special, and I know this to be almost as popular as the Sunday lunch.
Elsie also runs a retail outlet within the restaurant, where people can buy biscuits, sauces, marmalades, jam and pre-cooked frozen meals. I have often made use of the meals and they are not just handy but great value, too. She also likes catering for functions and celebratory occasions and in addition to baking great cakes, for weddings and other events, does cooking lessons, too. A key feature of the restaurant’s operation is a team of friendly and efficient staff, among them Smart Saluti, who is without doubt one of the most welcoming hosts in Zimbabwe.
The trio of good food, good prices and good company is what one gets at Spring Fever, and it is a venue to which I often send people who have not heard of it. Home-style cooking with generous portions is the offer. The restaurant is open from 7.30am to 4.30pm between Monday and Friday, and closes at 3pm on Saturdays. On Sundays, they close when the last lunchtime guests move off. Advance booking is essential for Sunday lunch and for special events. Call 0772 711985 (Elise) or 0772 687344 (Smart) for enquiries and reservations. It’s at Chisi Walk along Shortheath road in Chisipite, eastern Harare.
Feedback and comments are welcome, including information on new venues and innovation in the dining out scene across Zimbabwe: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org