There is the choice to either sitting under the cover of the veranda or in the garden, in sun or shade or both – whatever your preference. The metal garden furniture I choose to sit at is simple, yet comfortable and at a distance far enough from the other coffee shop-goers that I am alone, but not quite isolated.
When the waitress Emma brings my menu it takes me a few minutes to decide what looks good, as I sift through words such as “Banoffie Pie” and “Heavenly Cake”. She assures me that the spinach and feta muffin ($4) is the most popular teatime treat, but choosing to stick to what I know best I order a slice of chocolate cake ($3). I also order the café latte ($3) to fulfil my afternoon coffee requirements.
While I wait I have a chance to speak to a few of the other customers, who have nothing but kind words for the staff and food at The Bottom Drawer. Firstly, I speak to a table of three young women seated in the garden for lunch, one of whom has brought their daughter. Nyaradzo explains that she comes to The Bottom Drawer partly because it is a safe, fun place for her daughter and partly because of the “divine” food. Digging a little deeper I ask them what exactly it is about the food that gives it this ‘divine’ nature. Carol states that it’s the freshness of the meals that has her most hooked, while Theresa (a first time diner at the coffee shop) claims that the presentation was the winning attribute for her.
Also full of compliments are an elderly pair sitting on the veranda, Judy and Rosemary. Before I’ve even had a chance to finish my question Rosemary is churning out praise after praise. She uses the all-encompassing word “ambiance” to explain what she loves about what is clearly her favourite coffee shop. Citing the friendliness of staff, the size of the portions and the beautiful presentation, clearly for her it would be hard to not fall in love with The Bottom Drawer immediately. Judy tells me that what she loves most is the great service.
With all these compliments swirling around in my head and on my notepad I make it priority to speak to one of the owners. Early the next day I speak to Bridget Hoard, one half of the sister duo who own and run The Bottom Drawer. When I ask her what it’s like working with her sister at such close quarters she mentions that while they are similar in appearance, they’re very different in personality – but that this works to their benefit. Hoard tells me that she prefers to stick to the admin side of things, while her sister, Sarah McMillan holds down the ‘creative’ fort. Her artistic style can be seen in the presentation their customers have been raving about.
Curious about the name of the coffee shop I ask Hoard where it comes from. She explains something my mom has once mentioned to me: the bottom drawer represents mothers putting away small items of kitchen or house-ware for their daughters, to use one day in their own house. They first named their bridal registry service The Bottom Drawer, which originated in 1994, and the name became synonymous with the duo when they opened their property in 2001. Summing up our conversation Hoard declares “It’s our little hobby.”
It is proved to me that their little hobby is a great success when my “teatime treat”, as per the menu, is brought to me. I see now why the customers praise the presentation. My chocolate cake is accompanied by a single red rose, sprinkled with icing sugar and placed upon a large white plate. Sprinkles of another kind appear on top of the foam of my café latte, this time of cinnamon. The chocolate cake is rich and delicious and the café latte is perfectly separated and paired with a piece of sugared shortbread. Hoard mentioned to me that all the food is prepared fresh, daily and the kitchen staff are entirely women – a fact they pride themselves in. All in all, these women have done a wonderful job of preparing and presenting their food.
The Bottom Drawer can be found at 14 Maasdorp Avenue,Belgravia, Harare and is open weekdays from 8.30am – 5.00pm, and Saturday from 8.30am – 12.30pm. Visit www.eatout.co.zw to view their Coffee Shop Tour menu.