Input your search keywords and press Enter.

A lot to like about The Spice Lounge in Churchill Avenue

JUST when the time seemed right to party, or to investigate that all inclusive holiday in the culinary hotspot and shopping Mecca of Dubai, an upsurge in cases as the third wave of COVID-19 spreads through the country, may be giving you pause for thought.

The fully vaccinated can take heart, however, knowing that should the insidious Delta variant and its latest mutation, Delta Plus, breach your rigorous regime of social distancing, hand washing, and breathing exercises, your chances of recovery are relatively good.

Tighter restrictions have been introduced in some farming areas and resort towns that have become hotspots, while the recent banning of sit in dining at restaurants and cafes will alarm the already struggling hospitality industry. Once a mecca for fine dining, where highly-trained and talented chefs could showcase their skills, Harare is fast becoming a centre for take away meals. Restaurateurs have had to rethink their business models, finding ways to create food that still tastes good after being packaged, and choosing the most hygienic and reliable modes of transport for delivery.

Indian butter chicken, naan, Tandoori chicken and mango pickle.

Until recently, my favourite port of call for take out was Pizzazz Pizza in Greystone Park, where the Monday fish and chips special attracts patrons from far and near. Two hake fillets ‘deep fried in our secret crispy batter, served with chips… lemon wedges and tartare sauce’, priced at $5, was a treat too good to miss. Two Mondays ago, George returned empty handed from the evening trek to Greystone Park to collect our order. The world and his wife had also descended upon Pizzazz for the Monday special, and the wait for delivery, if you could spare the time, was one hour.

Later, there were outraged tweets from hungry patrons, and management vowed on Twitter to buy more fish fryers to satisfy the demand.

Missing out on my fried fish fix, and at risk of going cold turkey, I thought it worthwhile to order fish and chips, now the usual price of $9, for lunch the following Saturday. Expectations were high, but by some twist of fate, the crispy, golden ‘secret’ batter was missing, and the fish was encased in a thin, soggy film of egg and flour. Neither was any consolation to be had from the chips, which were soggy and oily. Mondays will never be the same again, now that my weekly tryst with Pizzazz has ended.

There’s a lot to like about The Spice Lounge in Churchill Avenue, as I discovered while continuing my quest for good lockdown takeaways. Specialising in North Indian cuisine, the chefs at Spice Lounge have created a wide range of traditional and authentic dishes, focusing on the Mughlai cuisine, dating back to the 16th C Mughal Empire. Rich and aromatic, the curries feature saffron, black pepper, cardomom, and lashings of butter and cream.

We recreated a restaurant experience at home last Sunday with some of Spice Lounge’s most popular dishes – Indian butter chicken ($14), tandoori chicken ($10), and a large pile of naan. The butter chicken was deliciously mild, creamy and fragrant, with a subtle hint of dried fenugreek leaves. The naan (flatbread), baked in a tandoor oven, travelled well and was still fluffy when taken out of a specially lined paper bag. You can eat butter chicken with steamed rice, but it’s particularly good with naan.

Beautifully charred in the clay oven, the tandoori chicken was delicately spiced and perfectly cooked – crisp on the outside and tender within. The chips became soggy en route, and are not really worth ordering as takeaways. A version of Bombay aloo (Indian potatoes cubed,fried and seasoned with turmeric, mustard seeds and chilli powder) would make a tasty substitute for chips. A small tub of crunchy mango pickle included in our order, provided the right amount of kick and flavour contrast to the soft and flaky naan, and the rich, creamy butter chicken.

If you have your own transport, it’s probably more affordable than paying delivery charges for takeaways. For instance, delivery from The Spice Lounge to Highlands would cost in the region of $7, and $15 to Ridgeview.

It’s not always easy to make money in the restaurant business, and while lockdown prohibits sit in dining, restaurants can hold out by upping their game in quality control and packaging, and providing delicious takeaways. For the hospitality industry to survive, foodies must continue to support restaurants and cafes, whether by ordering takeaways, or dining in whenever lockdown permits.  A Matter of Taste Charlotte Malakoff

Comments to: