I started this blog with the words, “The first thing I noticed about Dusty Road..” and then my fingers froze over my keyboard. Because when I stepped through the rusty gate in the Chinotimba township, I was overwhelmed by an eclectic tidal way of colour and craft. There was no one thing to notice- in every corner an eccentrically beautiful feature jostles for your attention.
Spinach bursts from the ground, stretching its green arms towards the sky as though it is trying to escape from its sandy roots. Flowers pour down the wall from tin cans, looking and smelling like a field you want to get lost in. An old pick up truck, painted vivid blue, stands proudly against the wall. The metal goats and chickens on the roof seem to be patiently waiting for the robot lights to turn green. If you look away for a second, it seems as though another quirky creation organically springs from the earth so that no matter how many times you walk through, there is always something new to catch your attention.
Every step down ‘Dusty Road’ feels like a walk down memory lane. A small market stall is tucked beneath a sheet of tarpaulin, and a table laden with hessian sacks spill their contents like jewels from a treasure chest. Oprah, a small lady with a big smile, warmly takes your hands in her as she explains how they source and use the traditional nuts and beans. We sat down at our table, and a platter of starters was brought over.
Indlubu and Indumba bean hummus on toasted Chimhodo bread is Zimbabwe’s superior equivalent to avo toast. The creamy texture of the beans put chickpeas to shame, and I couldn’t believe that it was my first introduction to the dip. It almost makes you want to march into the kitchen and start asking questions, but fortunately, there is a large assortment of spreads and nuts to distract you from any interrogations.
I have to devote some of this review to Dusty Roads glassware because anything that makes me pause with a glass of wine halfway to my lips is worth writing about. Protea wine and Roses Lime Cordial bottles have been repurposed, and cleverly cut into glasses. Dusty Road is a haven for anything and everything that can be redefined and more often than not, it is more beautiful this way that in its original form.
As someone who won’t do anything to an egg other than scrambling it for fear of what may happen, I found talking to Sarah Lilford, owner and chef, utterly enthralling. She crumbles a mongongo nut infused biscuit between her hands and explains how they have to experiment to get the textures and flavour balance right continually. She and her team are pioneers, artfully and passionately redefining the way ingredients are used. Their fusion of flavours celebrate local produce, but their ingenious techniques bring a modern twist to every bite.
To make some room for dessert, we took a stroll through the garden, before ducking into the curio shop. It was like we had stepped into an incubator for local artistic talent, with everything from chitenge earrings to homemade peanut butter. Dessert was a delicate assortment of chocolate, orange and mongongo nutballs, followed by baobab amasi cream with masawu and a mnyi berry drizzle.
With an endless jar of biscuits, pots of tanganda tea, and quirky things to discover while you unbutton your jeans, it is hard to find a reason to leave.
Zimbabweans will flock here because it feels like home. Tourists will come because Dusty Road epitomises what travelling is all about – experiencing a different culture through great food, people, traditions and décor. I also feel compelled to mention that I spent a lot of the evening fighting the urge to steal the glasses and plates. So book a table at Dusty Road now, before more people find out about this hidden gem and it the waiting list reads like a phone book. And also, don’t steal the plates.