Everyone has to eat! Like accommodation, food is an integral part of any vacation and is an important part to understand local cultures. As such, restaurants are major contributors to the local tourism industry and its economic impact through the food they serve.
They say the best way to understand people and their culture is by trying local food. The manner in which food is prepared, presented and served by local restaurants is fundamental to this process. Zimbabwe has an exquisite array of restaurants and eateries, some tucked away in unexpected little nooks and crannies where authentic local and international dishes will tempt even the most discerning of palates.
From local dishes to internationally recognized cuisine, Zimbabwe restaurants are known for their culinary creativity which they have in loads. Dishes served are influenced by local as well as continental and international flavours. Sadza is the local staple food and popular dish made from mealie-meal (corn meal) often served with different types of relish. This is a dish that every visitor should sample to experience the true taste of Zimbabwe and the meaning of Zimbabwean hospitality.
A fusion of local and international
The true diversity of Zimbabwe is reflected in restaurants scattered throughout the country and food they serve. Most hotels and different accommodation establishments have in-house restaurants, eateries, bars and live entertainment. To cater to various types of clientele, major hotels offer fine dining, classic à la carte menus and other international cuisine. They also offer authentic local African dishes made with local produce to satisfy the tastes of all their guests, local and international.
As a major tourist destination, Zimbabwe has different types of restaurants and eateries ranging from fast food outlets to fine dining that cater to different types of clients. These include fast food joints or take-outs, fine dining, casual dining or family restaurants, café or bistro, buffet or self-serve, clubs, steakhouses, pub & grills, diners and more. These all differ in prices, service, atmosphere, clientele, menu, décor and overall culinary experience.
For those with a taste for finer things in life including culinary experience, Zimbabwe has just the right restaurants. These establishments are the best in terms of fine dining as their service is unparalleled to none. What they offer is quality, premium service, ambiance atmosphere and unparalleled culinary experience at a premium rate. These restaurants are found mainly in major cities like Harare and Bulawayo, including Victoria Falls, one of Africa’s major tourist hubs. Restaurants such as The Palm Restaurant in Harare, The Inglenook at Bulawayo’s Cresta Churchill, the highly acclaimed La Fontaine and The Pavillion at Harare’s Meikles hotel as well as The Livingstone Room at Victoria Falls hotel are examples of Zimbabwe ‘s reputable fine dining restaurants, that is, in terms of quality food and artistic presentation.
Because of premium service and quality, these restaurants have a professional chef or sous chefs including well-trained, fully experienced servers and sommeliers who attend to their guests and provide excellent information on wine, food and menu. Reservation is a prerequisite, a strict dress code is in effect including table etiquette. The décor is often unique and of impeccable taste. Clients tend to be business executives, reputable clients, professionals, dignitaries or anyone who can afford the bill.
Casual dining restaurants are the typical full service eateries that offer dining in a relaxed atmosphere at reasonable prices. These are common in Zimbabwe and are the dominant in the Food and Beverage industry. Full table service is a staple signature in these establishments and they cater to different types of customers including families. Tinkabells and Butlers in Harare, New Orleans in Bulawayo, Loziba at the Bulawayo Rainbow and The Boma at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge are all examples that fall within this category.
Price, service style and atmosphere differentiate casual dining from other eateries. Price is also contingent on location. Most have hosts and hostesses who usher in guests as well as servers who take orders and explain the menu. Despite the casual atmosphere, guests expect a certain level of professionalism, great food and service. Casual eateries have advantage over others because they appeal to a broader spectrum of customers than their costly fine dining counterparts.
Fast Food & Take-Out
Fast food restaurants and Take-Outs are known for their convenience and speed of service. These establishments found almost in every major city and towns across Zimbabwe offer quick service meals at affordable prices. Unlike traditional take-out outlets, these modern day fast food joints offer meals and combos, with an option for add-on extras such as drinks, salads or whatever is on offer. Royal Sunflower in Bulawayo, Chicken Inn and Nandos are examples.
Fast food outlets offer customers the option to either eat in-store or take-out. In addition to affordable prices, their service style and clientele are also different. Fast Food joints and Take-Outs cater to ‘walk-in’ customers who place orders over the counter with a cashier. Orders appear on a menu board on the wall. The atmosphere is also different. Their décor has a unique, specific “feel and look” which separates them from other fast food outlets.
Café or Bistro
A café or bistro is a type of restaurant that traditionally does not offer service. Customers are supposed to order their own food from the counter and then take it to their table. However, in Zimbabwe, most of these establishments do offer some service, albeit limited. Café menus are limited. Most tend to offer pastries, sandwiches and refreshments as well as hot beverages such as tea, coffee and espresso. Some also offer light meals in the form of soup, salad, snacks, desserts and other confectionery. Café Baku, Indaba Book Café and River Café in Bulawayo; The Rainforest Café in Victoria Falls and Harare’s The Shop Café are examples.
Both cafés and bistros serve simple, light meals in casual settings. However, what differentiates the two is that bistros serve full meals albeit at a cheaper rate than in normal restaurant settings. Harare’s The Bistro, Allegro and Bojangles Bistros fall within this category.
Bar/Pub & Grill
Bars or Pubs & Grills are very popular and common features in Zimbabwe because they are great places to hang out. These establishments also have timeless appeal due to their laid back atmosphere and great food. In addition to a high selection of beers and ales, Bars or Pubs have full in-house menus and a variety of appetizers, which often do not come cheap. These particular establishments have a loyal customer base and often appeal to a certain kind of clientele who love the overall atmosphere and menus. Walkers Pub & Restaurant as well as Roosters Pub & Grill both in Bulawayo are part of this trend among others nationwide.
Buffets have become a popular thing in Zimbabwe as they are convenient and fit the changing societal trends by offering a more relaxed atmosphere. Local establishments offer a more eclectic cuisine style, a deliberate move offering different dishes and categories of food to diverse patrons. Self-serve is the signature feature of Buffets where patrons serve themselves. Both style and price are different as customers are charged a fixed rate regardless of how much they eat. Waiters in these environments are there to refill and replenish depleted food and to clean after patrons by removing empty plates. Buffets are available in most accommodation establishments as well as in certain restaurants and eateries.
Explorers Club at The Meikles Hotel in Harare. Picture: Meikles
Private, professional and sports Clubs are familiar features in Zimbabwe that contribute to the country’s Food and Beverage industry. Depending on the Club, most have in-house bars and diners/or restaurants that serve a wide array of dishes, local and international. These establishments cater exclusively to a niche market including life members and associates. They are also great places to socialize and hang-out. Some accommodations have in-house clubs albeit accessible only to their guests. While this might not be applicable to all, entry into prestigious clubs is strictly by membership or referral, unless otherwise stated. Clubs are also available for rentals to functions contingent to meeting certain requirements and criteria.
Country Clubs and other similar establishments are found throughout major cities, towns and districts in Zimbabwe. Price, service, atmosphere and patronage are determined by the nature of the establishment, with price often location contingent. Unlike restaurants, prestigious clubs have certain rules pertaining to etiquette and dressing, including restrictions on membership. Governors Restaurant at the Bulawayo Club, Explorers Clubs at Meikles hotel and Borrowdale Country Club in Harare are few examples.
Steakhouses are common features in Zimbabwe, although they also serve chicken, seafood and other meat dishes. Unlike in North America and Europe where steakhouses strictly serve beef steak and other portions of chops, this is not the case in Zimbabwe. Some restaurants also double as steakhouses with Nesbitt Castle’s Coach House Restaurant a good example. What separates these establishments is the manner in which they cut, prepare and serve their steak portions, particularly how it is grilled, pan-seared or stir-fried to retain juice and flavour. Price, service, style and atmosphere also differ depending on establishment type, location and clientele. The Cattleman Steakhouse, Roosters and Bon Journee Restaurant in Bulawayo including The Butcher’s Kitchen, Steak Out and Spur Steak in Harare fall within this category.
Whatever one’s choice of eatery or restaurant, Zimbabwe has loads of them. There is no doubt food is an integral part of any vacation and is the important way to experience and understand local cultures. This is where restaurants become major contributors to the local tourism industry and its economic impact through the food they serve.
Ready to explore? Unleash the wanderlust in you! Explore. Experience. Discover Zimbabwe’s exquisite restaurants and sample the country’s local cuisine!