Beautiful views, discreet service, enterprising chefs, and only the very best in food and wine: these are the best places to stay in Africa if you’re a foodie who wants a great hotel restaurant just steps away from your luxurious suite.
1. Angama Mara - Kenya
You’ll pick up a whole new foodie vocabulary at Angama Mara: in East Africa, snacks are known as ‘bitings’ and chicken as ‘kuku’ (enjoy it hot off the grill in the Maasai boma with an ice-cold Tusker beer straight out of the bottle). The chefs have taken their cues from classic safari food that’s unfussy and uncomplicated, but deeply tasty. Steaks and burgers are from grass-fed Kenyan cattle, vegetables come fresh from the Kenyan Highlands (a third of the menu is vegetarian), and juicy prawns and other seafood come from the country’s balmy Indian Ocean coastline.
At tea time, nibble old favourites like scones with cream and jam, dense but moist fruitcake, and delicate cucumber sandwiches. Drinks run the gauntlet from gin cocktails to an extensive wine list where you can put South African varietals like Pinotage, Chenin blanc and MCC (Methode cap classique) up against New World Pinot Noir and Old World Bordeaux.
2. Sasakwa - Tanzania
Silver service is alive and well at Sasakwa in Tanzania, where the grandeur of Out of Africa is reflected in everything from the damask to the decanters. But what is the point of gorgeous views and refined settings if the food doesn’t match? Fortunately, the chefs are more than equal to their extraordinary surroundings. At breakfast, your plate will groan with perfect crepes, fresh fruit and freshly baked bread. Before your afternoon game drive or horse ride, tuck into fragile chocolate or mint macarons, dainty petit fours and lemon sponge topped unexpectedly with caramelized popcorn. Dinner is preceded by a blueberry gin royale enlivened with a hit of thyme, before you sit down to something like mango salsa on grilled lobster or ‘mtori’, a traditional Swahili dish of beef and green bananas. And you won’t go thirsty: the cellar has at least 220 wines stored in perfect conditions.
3. The Olive Exclusive - Namibia
A safari to Etosha or Damaraland may involve an overnight stay in Windhoek, where the restaurant at The Olive Exclusive guesthouse is the place for dinner. Although Namibia is home to world’s oldest desert and welwitschia plants have been alive for over 2 000 years, The Olive Exclusive has its feet firmly planted in the 21st century. After enjoying a sundowner at the fire pit, sit down for fresh oysters, African salmon sashimi with hot sesame oil and citrus dressing, or a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad with plump Cape gooseberries. For mains, try a butter-braised fillet or famous slow-roasted Karoo lamb with preserved figs and a touch of brandy cream. While pudding should certainly be the chocolate and pistachio semifreddo with a delicious granadilla brulee.
4. The Oberoi - Mauritius
Mauritius has long been considered a paradise island in the Indian Ocean – it’s hard to believe that it’s a just a short-haul flight from South Africa. The Oberoi’s The Restaurant has tranquil views of the capital Port Louis’s glittering lights in the distance and cuisine that shines just as brightly on your plate. Mauritian and Indian dishes are worth opting for: try a fish moilee with coconut milk, or scampi and taro cake with coriander chutney and palm-heart salad. Desserts will remind you that you’re on a dreamy tropical island as bananas, pineapples and coconut are paired with basil or star anise into fresh takes on ravioli, sorbets and soufflés. Even the green pea risotto is taken to new heights with a subtle hibiscus emulsion.
On fine nights, head to On The Rocks for a beach barbeque (think massive tiger prawns on the coals) or the historic Gunpowder Room to enjoy a touch of the past. The wine list is dominated by France’s finest but Chile, Australia, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand and even India are also represented.
5. The Royal Livingstone - Zambia
Set on the banks of the beloved untamed Zambezi River, mere steps away from one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia offers experiences that are difficult to compete with. Transcendent views of the world-famous Victoria Falls and regular visits by Zebra who snack on the vibrantly green lawns are topped off with otherworldly food. Locally produced and sourced, dishes take direction from traditional Zambian meals, modern European creations and inexpressibly tempting flavours that only Africa can provide.
Every meal is an unmissable experience at The Royal Livingstone. Sample the free-range poitrine de poulet supreme, filled with sun-dried tomato, mozzarella and basil pesto, as you ride The Royal Livingstone Express steam locomotive through Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Or tuck into braised lamb shoulder, slow cooked in pan juices and served with charred cucumber heart and petit pois, at The Old Drift Restaurant. Snacking has never been more sophisticated than during High Tea. Sandwiches, patisserie creations and scones with preserves and Chantilly cream tide you over between breakfast and lunch. And the Travellers Bar provides the perfect segue into dinner – cocktails flow freely as the gentle sounds of the live piano set the evening’s tone. An exclusive gin menu is also on the cards. Sample New Harbour Distillery’s specially produced Mundambi Gin, found only at The Royal Livingstone.
6. Cape Grace - Cape Town, South Africa
The Cape Grace lies on the yacht basin of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town and boasts views of Signal Hill, so called because of the cannon that was used to ‘signal’ the time to ships in the harbour (it is still ceremoniously fired at noon six days a week). The Cape Grace’s restaurant is fittingly named Signal and takes its inspiration from the centuries of different cultural influences that have passed through the Mother City.
Try rooibos-infused salmon fish cakes or bobotie-spiced springbok, both traditional South African flavours, used in a new way. If you’re keen to sample game, Signal occasionally has kudu or ostrich on the menu. The city’s connection with the Dutch East India Company is noted by a remarkable Indonesian layer cake that is topped with crunchy palm sugar and a mango-lemongrass sauce. For a nightcap, head downstairs to Bascule Bar, where you can take your pick from over 500 premier whiskies from across the world.
7. Delaire Graff - Cape Winelands, South Africa
It calls its style of food ‘bistro chic’ but then this must be the chicest bistro in the world. Delaire Graff is a place where the bespoke olive oil is from the estate’s own olive groves and the home-baked breads are crafted from stoneground flour. The menu mixes South African classics made from the best produce using sophisticated gastronomical techniques. Start off with fresh Atlantic oysters from the West Coast town of Saldanha Bay before moving onto Karoo lamb neck with homemade spiced sausage. End the meal on a high note with a parfait that includes maple bacon gelato and whisky jelly. Delaire Graff is renowned for its sensational wines that are borne of a sea and mountain terroir.
Africa is a land of diverse scenery, brilliant sunrises and unfettered wildlife, and eating well is an important part of local hospitality. From safaris to cities, lodges and hotels across the continent are raising their cooking game and are striving to offer guests tastes of local culture reinterpreted for the 21st century.
8. Le Quartier Francais - Franschhoek, South Africa
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek is still considered one of the most innovative restaurants in the Cape winelands region. Set aside at least three hours or more to savour the eight-course tasting and wine-pairing menu – diners at the same table will get different courses with different pairings, adding to the fun. The chef takes inspiration from South Africa where the staple food is maize, but gives everything a whimsical twist; for example, corn bread (known as ‘mielie bread’) is baked in a pilchard tin that is a feature of everyday local diets, while a traditional Afrikaans ‘potjie’ is made with sweetcorn. Whole guavas are roasted in salt and kapokbos carapaces, while protiens run the gamut of locavore Joostenburg ducks, springbok loin and West Coast crayfish.
9. The Saxon - Johannesburg, South Africa
The Saxon is Joburg’s VIP hotspot – former president Nelson Mandela lived here was he was writing his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. In fact, the hotel’s casual restaurant – Qunu – is named after Mandela’s birthplace (of course, ‘casual’ means excellent wines recommended by the sommelier and outstanding dishes well prepared).
Its flagship restaurant is X, overseen by Luke Dale-Roberts who also pioneered The Test Kitchen in Cape Town. The space is small, but the concepts are bold: try the grapefruit salmon or pea mousse with morel jelly on the seven-course tasting menu, which also offers up the unexpected combination of pork belly with blue cheese.
10. Bartholomeus Klip - Cape Winelands, South Africa
Bartolomeus Klip is off the beaten track and foodies will revel in its authentic, laidback atmosphere where they can get their hands into puffy dough, light pastry or fresh vegetables as part of cooking classes offered here. Think elevated ‘farm cuisine’ made with as much local produce as possible. In addition to keeping game like zebra, ostrich and small antelope, Bartolomeus Klip also has agricultural staples like a flock of sheep, fields of canola and acres of maize. Once you’ve helped in the kitchen, sit down in the Victorian-era dining room and tuck into classic comfort food like kabeljou (fish) from South Africa’s Eastern Cape province or succulent lamb neck, all accompanied by full-bodied Pinotage, the country’s own varietal.
If you’re keen on trying new flavours or would like to learn to cook new dishes on your African holiday, please do tell your African Safari Expert so he or she can arrange the most suitable accommodation and activities for you.