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When I heard that the chef from the “old” Bamboo Inn, in the CBD was cooking at the “new” Bamboo Inn in College Road, New Alexandra Park, my eyebrows flew up!

Because the “old” restaurant never re-opened after the owner — George Danville Kee — was brutally murdered there in mysterious circumstances in 1999… and that’s 15 years ago!

Fifteen years later and “GD’s” slightly younger brother, Greg Kee, turns out to be the maestro behind the really excellent Cantonese-style cooking at the “new” operation, as indeed he was all those years ago at the much-loved Bamboo Inn in Robert Mugabe (formerly Manica) Road.

Greg ran the busy kitchen “GD” was front-of-house manager and a jovial Irishman apparently only known as “Paddy” ran the bustling bar.

The Kee brothers’ father started that famous old HarareSalisbury eatery more than half-a-century ago, having emigrated from China about 30 years previously, and later trekking up to this part of the world from South Africa.

The Kee brothers were born here and went to Morgan High School their sister, Mayleen, married Mick Wood, formerly of the British South Africa Police, and the couple opened and ran the wonderful Little Swallow Chinese restaurant in what is now Mutare, initially at the Forbes Border Post and later, after the Bush War heated up, at Brown’s Hotel.

(Their faded sign still stands on the now dilapidated building, decades after the restaurant shut!)

There’s no fooling the taste-buds and I sure as hell was eating authentic Bamboo Inn food again, at least a decade-and-a-half after last tasting their trademark chicken and sweetcorn soup (US$6) and chicken spring roll, which proved to be three separate crisp, piping hot, golden rolls, bursting with beautifully cooked chunks of huku breast, which was also US$6 but would have fed two or, maybe three, covers. I ate two of the three rolls, taking the third home in a doggy bag.

Once upon a time, there were two excellent Chinese eateries within about 150m of each other in ManicaMugabe Road and, I think, I preferred the “other” one: The Mandarin.

(It closed when the owners threw in the towel on Zimbabwe and emigrated to SA,) but I certainly ate often at Bamboo Inn and drank there even more frequently in Paddy’s Bar with my old (in every sense of the word) pal the late Jack Rickards, a former tobacco farmer from CentenaryMount Darwin, who was then a “pin-hooker”.

He had national colours for deep-sea angling and Bisley shooting and was a skilled raconteur of note!

In my photograph you can probably count 18 or 19 smallish, but tasty, sweet-and-sour prawns, again in a crisp, golden batter (last time I ate at Great Wall, the batter was sad and soggy), so I suspect there were more: some laying on top of others, probably two-dozen in all. Prawns have suddenly shot up in price in Zimbabwean eateries and this dish cost US$23 (sweet-and-sour chicken or pork is US$12.)

With it, I had an enormous portion of grand chicken chow-mein, which Linda Ramsay (ex-8, Groombridge etc) later told me was intended to feed two or three punters. And at only US$9 for a heaped platter of tender chicken breast, stir-fried vegetables, including, cauliflower, green beans and (I think) pak-choy and, of course, the lovely al dente soft noodles which give the dish its name, that was tremendous value-for money.

Friends of mine went at night and complained to me that the place then lacked atmosphere and ambience, mainly because the lights were allegedly too bright. I went at lunch time when the ambient light was just perfect and wide open windows provided excellent ventilation to yet another former Colonial-era dwelling turned restaurant.

It totally lacked atmosphere, however, because I was the only customer! I even forgot to ring my friend the podiatrist to join me and she loves Chinese graze.

Rooms are certainly spacious and airy and all the furniture, fittings, crockery, spoons, chopsticks etc are virtually brand new. Background music was, presumably, Chinese, but not that dreadfully monotonous plinky-plonky stuff often played in chop-suey houses.

Bamboo Inn, as in its original form, serves Cantonese food full of depth, delicious flavours and nuances, not the very hot spicy cuisine of northern China. But I hear Greg makes an excellent curry.

It’s fully licensed with a well-stocked bar serving drinks (but not wine) at reasonable prices if you take your own wine, there’s no corkage.

Bamboo Inn, 15, College Rd, New Alex Park. Opens Tuesday-to-Sunday lunch 12:30pm-2pm and Tuesday-to-Saturday supper 6:30pm-9pm. Takeaways available. Child and handicapped friendly. Secure on-site parking. Be careful driving in and out of the property. Bookings: 0779 003 575 0771 929 442.


Source : Zimbabwe Standard