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 is 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 21 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. For pudding, consider a 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 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 – as well as cuisine that shines 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. Xudum - Botswana
A place to bliss out… Xudum is a waterside lodge in the Okavango Delta, where each suite has a rooftop deck for game viewing and birding over the floodplains. Although you are in a remote part of Botswana, the menu is no way compromised. Lunches consist of light treats like butternut-squash bread, melanzane or fresh salads studded with cashews and segments of grapefruit. High tea is a safari tradition, and pairing your iced tea with peanut brownies will tide you over until dinner by lantern light under millions of stars. Entrees have local touches – like guinea fowl stew with hearty mustard mash – while dessert pairs old favourites such as gingerbread pudding with fragrant pear sorbet. Join the chef in the interactive kitchen to learn more about cooking in Africa.
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 Saldanha Bay on the country’s West Coast before moving onto Karoo lamb neck with homemade spiced sausage, and ending 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 21 century.
8. Le Quartier Francais - Franschhoek, South Africa
The Tasting Room restaurant at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek has been a regular on the San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list since 2002 and is today still considered one of the most innovative in the region. Set aside at least three hours or more to savour the 8-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 her 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 while 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, an intimate space that serves some of the best dishes in Johannesburg.
10. Bartholomeus Klip - Cape Winelands, South Africa
Back to the farm… Bartholomeus Klip is off the beaten tourist track but foodies will revel in its authentic, laidback atmosphere and enjoy getting their hands into puffy dough, light pastry or fresh vegetables as part of the cooking classes here. Think elevated ‘farm cuisine’ made with as much local produce as possible. In addition to keeping game like zebra, ostrich and small antelope, Bartholomeus 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 that was bred in 1925 as a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut.
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.