ZIMBABWEANS are well-known for their love affair with fine dining, so it’s unsurprising that La Chandelle restaurant at Rainbow Towers, renowned for its French cuisine, is fast becoming one of Harare’s favourite foodie destinations.Situated on the mezzanine floor, La Chandelle has a sumptuous new look. Gold damask table cloths offset spotless white napkins and gleaming silver flatware, while deep red carpets and the rich brocade upholstery of the light and curvaceous locally-made dining chairs, and reflect the elegance and style popular during the reign of Louis Quatorze of France.Executive Chef Innocent Masuku has come up with a menu for La Chandelle that reflects his training in haute cuisine and his love for innovation. Delicious soup of traditional roasted pumpkin is infused with Asian spices, and finished with a sabayon froth, while chargrilled leek and sweet potato soup is served with a crunchy peanut tuile. Creative and wildly delicious is the cappuccino of mushroom soup with a puff pastry cap, served in a cup large enough to be a cafe au lait bowl. If you think that real men don’t eat quiche, a mouthful of Chef Innocent’s mopani worm and biltong quiche, with ricotta cheese and rocket salad, is a game changer. Other starter options are pan fried salmon and tuna on avocado, and beef carpaccio with mixed greens, whole grain mustard and honey, with parmesan shavings and quail eggs. When it comes to the main course, choosing is difficult. Pan-fried loin of yellow-tail fish, with blue cheese and duchess potatoes sounds alluring, but venison fillet, with a parmesan and mango crust, on a galette of sweet potato and aubergine, with fig and rosemary sauce, even more so. Should you decide on succulent potroast road runner with saffron mash, asparagus, peas and gravy, you won’t be disappointed.For dessert, tiramisu with fruits, and pumpkin cheesecake have a certain attraction, but Chef Innocent’s classic Crepe Suzette with a twist really takes the cake. Honey, orange juice and orange zest are reduced and poured over a tender, freshly-made crepe, and garnished with sugar-caramelised cashew nuts. This one is just too good to share.
A well-chosen wine list complements these delicious dishes. Choose from the range of popular Fat Bastard and Porcupine Ridge red and white wines, or opt for Reyneke organic wines from a Stellenbosch vineyard established in the 19th C. At self-sustainable Reyneke the best land is planted with vines, with the remainder given over to pasture, compostmaking and pockets of wilderness. Companion plants are used to fix nitrogen in the soil and rather than using poisons or chemicals, natural predators such as ducks are used to keep down snails.An exciting addition to the wine list is a cabernet sauvignon from Casillero del Diablo (The Devil’s Locker), a vineyard in the countryside near Santiago in Chile. This elegant red wine with its intense aromas, would pair ideally with the venison fillet and other red meats on Chef Innocent’s menu.Sparkling and dessert wines are wellrepresented, not forgetting the world’s bestloved Champagne, Moet et Chandon.Chef Innocent, named Executive Chef of the Year 2015, exudes bonhomie as he describes his training at Bulawayo Polytechnic’s Hotel School and his attachments in the Eastern Highlands at Montclair and Mutare Holiday Inn. The first apprentice of his intake to find employment, he arrived in 1992 at Elephant Hills Intercontinental Hotel, where he was inspired by a network of top chefs with the highest standards, and collected several medals for his culinary achievements.‘Five years later’, said Chef Innocent, ‘I moved to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, where I revolutionised the Boma and made it famous!’ In 2000, this ambitious chef moved to Botswana, working at Kgadikgadi Country Club and later at the five star resort of Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel.On his return home to the city of kings, Innocent worked his magic at Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel, ‘filling the restaurant with diners and good food’.Although trained in classical French cuisine, Chef Innocent is constantly adopting new ideas and techniques and responding to trends and innovations made by great chefs around the world. ‘I make dishes for people to enjoy, not to claim territories’, he says.When not in the kitchen, Innocent can be found tending his herb and vegetable garden at Rainbow Towers, or working on a cookery book that he promises will be about ‘having a life as smart as your smart phone’ and about making and eating great food.