Tinkabell is culinary treasure trove

The Epicurean
We are now three weeks into the new year and every one of us is hoping for good things in 2019, so I wish all readers of this column many happy and delightful dining experiences. I also wish all restaurateurs a successful year, especially as there were a number of challenges in 2018 which caused sleepless nights for most of them. Here’s hoping we can all make 2019 a better year.

Some restaurants were closed over the festive season, giving staff a break and getting thoughts together for new directions in 2019. Among these was Harare’s Tinkabell restaurant, one of the city’s most enjoyable dining venues and a place I genuinely look forward to visiting. It’s run by Jasmine and Rui Fonseca in the heart of the Ardbennie industrial area, and it is definitely an oasis in that area, right down to the palm trees and precious water hole! They are now a week into re-opening and getting into their stride for 2019.

I have said it many times before, and I say it again here: a visit to Tinkabell must be seen as a real adventure. Diners living in Harare’s southern suburbs and people who work in the surrounding industrial and commercial areas should surely see this as their first-choice venue for eating out during the working day; the restaurant is not open at night, except for occasional special events. For people from the northern suburbs, I simply say: get in the car and do yourselves a favour, and it’s worth the fuel, the drive and usual Harare road hassles — it really is!

From early in the day, it offers a great coffee shop experience, and people coming for coffee can sit on the entry veranda and either imbibe on site or have takeaways. Later on it is a lunchtime venue, and diners can stretch their lunches out into the mid to late afternoon, especially on Fridays. It is open on Saturdays and there is usually music to accompany lunchtime dining then, and Jasmine would like to start her one-Sunday-a-month lunches, too. These were previously very popular, especially with family groups.

Tinkabell is an unusual name and the restaurant is not Tinkerbelle (the fairy from James Barrie’s Peter Pan story).

Jasmine Fonseca’s grandmother was named Tinka, and she held a special place in her granddaughter’s heart, inspiring her to become a great chef. As I said, it is in the grounds of Rui’s engineering premises, but it’s attractive and relaxing with a lovely garden area in front.

At the moment Jasmine has dispensed with a printed menu, and diners instead check out the daily board for what is available and recommended. On the day my guest and I visited just before Christmas closure, we had choice of three starters: trinchado, fried haloumi cheese and samosas. There were 11 choices on the mains list, including mouth-watering lamb chops, lamb shank, various types of steak, prawns, fish, a lamb and steak combo, a rib combo, chicken kebabs and peri peri chicken — the latter one of the Tinkabell specialities.

My guest had the haloumi cheese and I had trinchado — braised small beef cutlets in a light spicy sauce. Both were appetising and in good portions. For mains my guest went for the lamb shank — very good portion and in her words “absolutely tender and delicious” — while I had the prawns, not having had this seafood treasure for quite a while. Most of the cuisine is prepared Portuguese-style, with a little Arab influence, and the spiciness is always pleasing on the palate.

In speaking to Jasmine I have a feeling there may not be a prawns option on the menu just at the moment; the cost of acquiring these makes the table cost unaffordable for most diners, so it’s better to keep it off the menu. Quite a few restaurants in Zimbabwe have gone this way with some of the expensive items, which is sad but fully understandable.

We enjoyed a lovely Portuguese wine with our meal, chosen by Jasmine. It was a JP Azeitao Branco 2014 from the Bacalhoa Vinhos company in the Setubal peninsula and is a blend of two excellent grapes: muscatel  graudo (or muscat) and e farnao pires. Delightfully crisp, it was highly suited to our main courses.

My guest did not have dessert but I could not say no. Jasmine’s desserts are definitely a Harare highlight and those of us with a sweet tooth will enjoy her superb creations, all of which are worth trying.

They are not the same every day, and waiters will advise on the daily offering. We ended with coffee, and Rui offered a special treat: a tot of Licor de Aniz Escarchado, a lovely finisher from the Madeira islands.

Jasmine hopes to make 2019 a busy and buzzy year at Tinkabell, with a number of special functions and themes thrown in from time to time. I wish her much success as her functions are always a treat and all the effort is best rewarded by good houses of people enjoying themselves.

Coming up soon will be a food and wine pairing luncheon on Saturday February 16, and this will include Portuguese and Spanish wines and meals. It will be open to all and a call to the restaurant will yield all information. Also coming up, either possible or definite, are such meals-and-more activities as Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day and other popular ‘going-out’ events.

Many restaurateurs are striving to keep prices down; this is not easy in the current environment but we consumers look for this kind of help as we try to balance budgets.

Tinkabell is a real treasure on the Harare culinary scene and it is my hope readers will enjoy their outings there even half as much as I do. It’s situated at 4 Upton Road in Ardbennie, and directions can be given if you call. Telephone (0242) 661697 or 664547, or cell numbers 0774 532184 and 0772 735177.

Source : The Herald

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