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Victoria Falls Dining Options
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, has a variety of world class dining out options but what and where are they… Read this essential article to find out!
By Jess White for Victoria Falls Guide
Whether you have been trekking around the town, rafting down the river, roaming the rainforest, or jumping off the gorge, you are bound to work up a healthy appetite adventuring around Victoria Falls. Everyone becomes a bit of a foodie while on holiday, and there are dozens of creative restaurants and cafés dotted throughout the town to tantalise your taste buds.
If you are staying in a hotel, they will probably have dining options for you and some of those are detailed below, but we also recommend that you venture out to one (or all) of these eating spots for a bit of cultural cuisine and a unique dining experience. Each restaurant in Victoria Falls has its own unique décor and design, but they have exquisite food in common.
Fine Dining Options
Fine dining is not something you do before the evenings activities. Fine dining is the evening activity, where you practise the art of indulgence!
Palm restaurant is the crème de la crème of fine dining establishments in Victoria Falls. The piano music and distant hum of the waterfall create an ambience of romance and refinement. The restaurant offers an authentic taste of Africa, boasting mouth-watering main dishes such as the warthog loin, slow-braised Blesbok shank, a crocodile and Porcini mushroom risotto, and the popular Kudu wellington.
The Palm Restaurant, Ilala Lodge
The entire menu is poetry to a food lovers ears. It strikes the perfect balance between complexity and simplicity, so you can pronounce everything on the menu, but you couldn’t recreate it at home. If you are not a dessert fan (apparently that’s a thing) you will be after you have tasted their Frangelico and Nutella Cheesecake, or their Granadilla Pana Cotta. The moonlight paints the world silver, so why not have your dinner by candle light out on the patio.
There is an African proverb telling us that stealing a drum is easy, but finding a place to beat it is not. The tale of the Royal Drum inspired the Makuwa Kuwa Restaurant. Legend has it that the drum, for hundreds of years, was kept as a symbol of power and authority by the Songwe village. One of the drums was called Makuwa Kuwa, after it leapt from the raider’s canoes and sank to the bottom of the Zambezi River, where the drumbeats are still heard through the water. I believe that anyone who spends time in Africa leaves with a little bit of that drum's rhythm beating through their veins.
Makuwa-kuwa restaurant at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
This restaurant embraces its Africa heritage from her roots in the national park, to the thatch split-level design. It is dressed in traditional African attire and blends in seamlessly with the environment. As the sun sets, golden hues spill into the restaurant, and if the décor wasn't already so richly coloured, the sun would paint red and orange tones across its interior. The restaurant overlooks a watering hole that teems with wildlife. Elephants amble through the trees, impala prance along the water’s edge, vultures draw patterns onto the sky and on occasion, a pride of lion will stride into view. The menu mirrors this exquisite setting, with adventurous specialities such as Pumba fillet (not the Lion King star, I checked), smoked crocodile pasta and Kudu fillets. The restaurant is an idyllic marriage between African authenticity and elegance.
Makuwa-kuwa restaurant at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
Stepping into this restaurant feels like stepping back in time. The pictures on the wall portray different parts of history eras of innovation and excitement. The room is an embodiment of old world charm, but the food is modern, stylish and elaborate. Although the dress code has been relaxed and a jacket and tie are no longer required, slipping out of your safari gear and into smarter attire adds to the experience. It is not hard to imagine a time when ladies in lace jabots and strings of pearls sat at the white linen tables, admiring the silverware and fresh flowers.
The Livingstone Room at Victoria Falls Hotel
Beautiful piano music floats around the room and the attentive the Maître D' materialises before you have even thought that you may need him. The descriptions of the dishes promise decadence, and the seven courses are artfully paired with wine chosen by the sommelier. The dishes live up to their lavish descriptions, surpassing expectations of excellence. Starter choices include Loch Duarte Scottish salmon with an avocado, fennel and red onion salad served with chive hollandaise. The main course is equally scrumptious, and a popular option is the aged Zimbabwean beef filled with bubble and squeak, slow roasted balsamic tomato, rocket and parmesan salad, time butter and peppercorn jus. Even after this bona fide feast, it is impossible to resist the seductive dessert menu. Gordon Ramsey couldn’t fault their dark and white baked chocolate cheesecake with honey-macerated strawberries
The Livingstone Room at Victoria Falls Hotel
Casual Dining Options
The River Brewery
An artist, a hotelier, an ecopreneur and a brewer walk into a bar…there is no punch line but there are six craft beers that pack some punch. The River Brewing Company was started by a group of Zimbabwean friends who want to share their love of good beer, good company and good food with their customers. Lionel McCauley, and Alaskan craftsman, blends imported Grains from Belgium with fresh Zambezi water, giving beer lovers a true taste of Victoria Falls. The craft beer revolution has taken the town by storm, and the funky, arty and airy River Brewing Company has become a firm favourite among locals and tourists alike. The high ceiling, hip lightning and minimalist interior create a welcoming and open atmosphere. While the focus of the bar is their freshly brewed beer, there is a wide range of other beers, wines and spirits available too. And in keeping up with the Gin Era, the menu also boasts gin tasting paddle that muddles various gins with fresh, tangy accompaniments.
The River Brewing Co
The menu is simple and covers the bases of a classic pub menu, 200g steak, pork belly (which is to die for) and sticky chicken wings. However, these dishes are slightly more pricey than other restaurants. A cheaper selection of delicacies has just been introduced which should keep the hordes from navigating their way to the better value Three Monkeys, only 150 meters away.
The River Brewing Co
The Brewery ticks all the boxes in terms of being a trendy hot spot - there is a large projected screen for sports lovers, a long bar behind which the brewing tanks of beer can be seen, and outside area for smokers and people watchers, snack platters and the occasional superb live musician. It is the ideal place to make and meet friends while you get your buzz on. The Brewery in essence is the cool new kid on the block that everyone wants to hang out with.
The River Brewing Company is tucked between the Elephant’s Walk Shopping Centre and the N1 Hotel, and short walk away from Ilala Lodge, the Kingdom and the Victoria Falls Hotel. Their cold drinks are a welcome reward.
This restaurant is one of the newest additions to the Victoria Falls dining options, and it has already made a big impression. It is definitely at the top of the list for a fun-dining experience that bridges the gap between local and tourists, backpackers are hotel-stayers. No matter when you eat here, it always feels like an event. For one, the restaurant erupts from an old railways carriage and is covered by a Bedouin tent. The open plan welcomes the breeze, and a large green tree stands proudly in the corner, looming over the tented roof. Just beyond the fenced lawns runs a railway line, and every now and then a locomotive steams past at ground shaking speed. If the Three Monkey’s were a person, it would be the fun uncle that is always travelling, drinks before noon, and is loved by all the kids but doesn’t have any of his own. The restaurant is as playful as the name, and the green lawns beg to be run around on, while parents can enjoy a cocktail from the full service bar. The Three Monkeys is situated in town, but when in Victoria Falls, the wild is never far off. On site is a reptilian park, where the brave hearted can watch snakes have their dinner before they enjoy their own.
The Three Monkeys restaurant
The restaurant has a flame grilled and wood fired menu, which offers the best pizzas in town. They specialise in international cuisine, and there is a button-popping full roast dinner every Sunday evening. Round off the evening with a big smile and photograph under the famous "I ♥ Vic Falls" sign.
Ma Roberts Dinner Cruise
What better way to bid the day farewell than with a dinner cruise on the Zambezi. It is an amazing experience, because not only will you dine under the stars while drifting silently down the mystical Zambezi, but you will also catch the sunset, a collage of colour before the sky becomes a navy blue blanket covered in a spray of stars. The Ma Roberts is an immaculate catamaran and the third vessel in the Zambezi Explorer Company’s fleet. It gives a nod to history with her canvas ceilings, copper basins, and classic teak counters which transport guests to a bygone era of safari romance. Ma Roberts has been exploring the Zambezi for 20 years, but has recently undergone a major refurbishment and is now available exclusively for sunset and dinner cruises. The vessel has two levels, and from the top deck, guests can survey the islands and surrounding riverine as the boat glides upriver. The on-board kitchen serves guests with freshly prepared snacks during the sunset cruise, and a four-course dinner thereafter. Due to its recent refurbishment, the attention to detail, the upper deck and its fine dining menu, the Ma Roberts is probably the first choice for a sunset and dinner cruise.
Ma Roberts cruise boat
This restaurant is tucked into the corner of the Victoria Falls Hotel garden, but feels miles away from the fancy upholstery, gentle pianist, and sweeping staircases. It is the kind of restaurant you wouldn’t think twice about wearing a T-shirt to, but could also be the setting for a romantic date. The food is beautifully presented and even if your eyes are bigger than your stomach when you dish up, it is so delicious that you will find it in you to power through. Every evening there is a performance by the spiritual, masked Makishi, which epitomize the spirit of Africa and make you feel as though you are sitting in a little haven in the jungle (And a jungle with a sushi bar is somewhere you will want to be). The riveting performances are possibly the best part of the evening, telling the tale of African legends through song and dance. They last about 40 minutes, just the right amount of time to appreciate the performance, without it seeming as though it is dragging on. Jungle Junction is great value for money, the buffet table is loaded with seemingly endless options for starters, main courses and dessert. I am always a bit wary of buffets because more often than not the food is about quantity rather than quality, but every dish I have sampled at Jungle Junction (that is just about all of them) has been divine.
Jungle Junction at the Victoria Falls Hotel
The Shearwater Café comes alive at night. All the hustle and bustle that crossed its path during the day pours up the steps and through the low wall. After dark, it is the larger, louder sister to the daytime dining place. The café is built for the way that travellers want to eat most frequently: casually, with good friends, great wine and live music by local artists. And the people watching is just as riveting at night- sun-kissed adventure seekers park off in the cool air conditioned interior, dates progress under the Tiki torches, and everyone from the dad in cargo shorts to the tatted up tourist can comfortably sip an ice cold Zambezi Lager while enjoying local musical talent.
Before my most recent visit, I realised that the last time I visited the Boma was 2008. That was before avo-toast was Insta-famous, before gluten was scary, and when Michael Jackson was still alive, (may God rest and keep him). I like to think that since then, my palate and I have become more mature and refined. However, I was as infatuated by the fortune-teller, and as hyperactive during the drumming lesson, as the 14-year-old me would have been. The only notable difference is that when I ate my fried Mopani worm and received the honourable certificate, I put it into my handbag instead of commanding my mum to guard it with her life. Once I had knotted the chitenge provided
The Boma was my favourite destination for every birthday meal, because an electric atmosphere buzzes through the traditional African interior. In all honesty, the food is more quantity over quality, but it is an impressive spread nonetheless. You start the evening off with a glug of Chibuku (local traditional beer) and roasted snacks, before making a beeline for the buffet. The starters include crocodile kebabs, salads, cold meats and freshly baked bread rolls, but make sure you leave plenty of space for the main course. A parade of chefs stand behind an elongated grill, with platters of raw ostrich, warthog, beef, chicken and just about every other meat laid before them. I have to recommend the warthog steak; it is must-try for every visitor to the restaurant. The smell of char grilled steaks will draw you to the table like children after the Pied Pipers flute, where the hiss and sizzle will make you mouth water while you wait in line.
Heat from the grill reddens your cheeks and if you can tear your eyes away from the feast, you will notice the man weaving between tables, painting intricate patterns onto diners' cheeks, and the woman in the corner with her lightning fast fingers turning strands of hair into tight little braids. Just beyond where the main course is served is a small table covered with bowls of fried Mopani worms and a patron watching closely, laughter in his eyes, as people try the local delicacy. He has a small stack of certificates in front of him, signing them with an official flick of his pen and handing them out to those who try Mopani worms (I have mine stored in my file of achievements, in between my O' and A' level certificates).
The highlight of the evening is the drumming session. Just as you start wondering if it is time to unbutton your jeans and set your stomach free, waiters hurry between the tables, setting down a small drum in front of each guest. A space in the centre of the restaurant is cleared, and a group of drummers moves into the middle, commanding everyone’s attention. With a shout of "One, two, three and four", the energetic drummer has everyone slamming their hands on the drums. In a few short minutes, its sounds as though a storm has swept into the Boma and thunder rumbles between the tables and people beat their drums in unison. With palms tingling, ladies are invited onto the dance floor first, followed by the men, until very few seats remain occupied. Chitenge's swirl around the dancing bodies, colours melting into one another while laughter bounces off the walls.
Dinner at the Boma is not just a culinary experience; it is a complete submersion into authentic African exhilaration.
Night Drive and Bush Dinners
I am, and always will be, a bush girl at heart. I grew up sticking my Barbie’s into holes to check if a warthog lived there. I would eat elephant dung, because my uncle told me it would make my hair grow (it didn’t). I know that Sunday’s are Park days, when you load cooler boxes and skottles into the car, lather yourself in SPF50 sunscreen, and take a game drive through the National Park before stopping for a braai on the banks of the river with friends and family. I know that a meal that follows a game drive always tastes better. This is why I can confidently say that the night drive dinners are perhaps the best way to spend an evening.
Driving across the landscape in the game park is a special experience during the day. However, exploring Africa after dark, when nocturnal animals prowl into the star-studded night, offers a riveting glimpse of the wilderness that appears very different during the day.
The game drive has a trifecta of components that could make it the star of your trip. First, the look: a world painted silver by the moon, a spotlight trailing over bushes, the wildlife moving comfortably under the cloak of darkness. Second, the wow factor: On these trips, you are alone with the wilderness, and you have an exclusive introduction to the nocturnal animals that are rarely seen by day visitors. Three, excellent food in an exquisite setting. After the drive, when your anticipation of a meal under the moon has built, you are seated for a three-course dinner by candlelight in the heart of the African bush. It is everything you could want from a dinner, and more.
"We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly." -Anna Thomas