By Le Connoisseur
Readers of these reviews will already know of the excellence of the multi-award winning Makuwa-Kuwa deluxe restaurant at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, and so my expectations of dinner there could not have been higher. We arrived early in order to watch the sun go down behind the water hole and join the game in a sundowner. The design of the hotel maximises its wonderful position overlooking the plain and waterhole while minimising its disruption to the environment, a feat for which it deserves the highest accolade.
There are several vantage points from which to view the game while sipping a refreshing drink and it was good to see most of these occupied and the lodge bustling with tourists. We chose the deck above the pool and although my companion’s soda water was served without ice or lemon, this was quickly rectified and a plate of delicious snacks, mini-kebab skewers and sweet potato chips, put us in a forgiving mood!
As the sun set we watched a large herd of buffalo enjoying their sundowners at the water hole as well as several warthogs and the usual multitude (I know there must be a correct collective noun!) of guinea fowl.
Having had our dinner booking confirmed by email, and confirming it in person on arrival at Victoria Falls, it was disappointing that the dining room had no record of it, but as they were not fully-booked, this was not a problem.
The leather-bound menu is beautifully presented with clear descriptions of the dishes and the restaurant should be commended for conveniently displaying it at the entrance, a very common practice in Europe, but rare in these parts. Dim lighting in the restaurant gives just the right ambience, but alas for us “not-so-young”, meant I had difficulty reading about the delicious dishes on offer, as well as seeing what I was eating!
As my companion and I had dined the previous night at The Boma restaurant which specialises in game meats and all things Zimbabwean (including mopani worms!), our choice of dishes was not as adventurous as it might otherwise have been, though all the usual offerings such as impala, warthog and crocodile, cooked in most imaginative ways, were offered.
My companion’s buffalo cheese starter was stuffed with sundried tomatoes and served with a wonderfully piquant sauce of peppercorns and honey and my salmon gravalax (Norwegian salmon dolloped with balsamic vinegar reduction, caramelised baby beet and tomato essence en tasse) also had wonderful flavour.
Our meal began with an amuse bouche (literally “mouth-tickler”) of mini chicken pasties. Amusingly (how could I resist the pun?) our waiter initially told us it was fish but on checking with his companion, revised this to chicken.
This was accompanied by a basket of assorted beautifully presented and exceptionally delicious homemade breads. Perfectly cooked gala kingklip on a bed of mashed potato with dill was my companion’s choice for main course and showed no journey or storage fatigue despite being served so far from the sea! My unusual choice of the vegetarian option (caused by overindulgence in the many carnivore dishes on offer at The Boma the night before!) of “baked mushrooms stuffed with leeks and spinach set on a baby marrow rosti with a thyme infused brown gravy” proved excellent and might well convert me to future part-time vegetarianism!
Thankfully the portion size was just right for we modest eaters and so we could continue with desserts, lemon pudding which was topped with cherries and the “out of Africa” cheese board.
The lemon pudding was delightfully tangy but despite promising South African cheeses, the cheeseboard was a disappointing offering of cheeses of very common Zimbabwean lineage and though served with fruit and vegetable preserves, it did not have my hoped for glass of port! However, my spirits rose when our coffee arrived accompanied by delicious petits fours. A lovely interlude near the beginning of our meal was the arrival of the resident a cappella group who sang beautifully and unobtrusively for about 15 minutes.
Expect to spend US$50 to US$75 per head
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
These areas could have been improved
To eat such a fine meal in these spectacular surroundings is indeed a privilege and worth the expense. Regretfully however, the service we experienced did not live up to the rest of the evening.
Our reception was casual, our bottle of red wine was unceremoniously left on the table with no effort made to refill our glasses, our only interaction with our waiter was on a “need to know” basis, and so, the luxury dining experience was lacking that important element of making us feel “special.” No senior staff checked on our satisfaction, and as we ate dessert, waiters were busily setting empty tables for breakfast.
Our bill was incorrect, as it didn’t include our desserts, and when we were honest enough patrons to point this out, the replacement bill was presented without apology. Although because of the service our particular evening was not perfect, I would love to return again, and experience the total perfection for which this restaurant is renowned.