Lake Naivasha has never been famous for its amazing culinary offerings. Sure, if you stay in a nice hotel, you are bound to eat well or even better if you are being catered for in one of their exclusive country houses, however for the rest of us common mortals, it hasn’t always been easy to escape the ubiquitous boring chips and sausage campsite fare. Recently, however, some new players have been getting in on the game and given that after a morning driving, hiking, cycling or horse riding there is nothing better than a delicious lunch, we thought we’d compile for you the top eateries, old and new, to indulge in a long a delicious lunch at South Lake Naivasha.
Best for Vegetarians: Sanctuary Farm
With a buffet that changes daily featuring salads such as wild rice, Romaine lettuce and poached egg; or cauliflower, chickpea and mango; or a surprisingly delicious sliced turnip coleslaw, this is foodie heaven for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Even if you happen not to be staying on the conservancy, call ahead a day before to let them know you are coming, it really is worth the effort, especially if you drove down from Nairobi in the morning and are dying for something special to elevate your road trip. Meat lovers can indulge in tasty bitings, like a pulled lamb meatball whipped up from the remains of yesterday’s nyama choma and kick back on the first floor veranda, glass of wine in hand, as the afternoon stretches into evening and herds of zebras saunter around the extensive polo grounds that extend out all the way to the waterlogged Acacia trees and beyond to the lake.
Best for Foodies: Hubei
Prepare to have all your preconceptions about a Chinese restaurant completely challenged. Situated adjacent to Camp Carnelleys, Hubei (named after the city from which the Chef hails) is an unassuming yet bustling kitchen set up in a log cabin metres away from the lake shore. Buckets of crayfish are lined up as they marinate, and if you arrive much after one, chances are this delicacy – which is currently extremely popular throughout China, is sourced straight from the lake and sold by the kg – will have already run out (by the looks of it the Chinese eat both lunch and dinner earlier than we are used to). The cuisine here is simple, none of that sugar and corn starch that is so ubiquitous in diaspora Chinese restaurants across the world. Heavy on garlic and ginger, order the vegetables, the aubergine, the tofu, and whatever you get, expect your tastebuds to be tickled if not outright excited at this unique eatery which will probably not remain secret for too long.
Sulmac Village, South Lake Naivasha. Take the road before the entrance to Camp Carnelleys down to the lake.
Best for Ambiance: Ranch House Bistro
With its beautiful manicured gardens, acacia tree-shaded drive and a delightful meandering stone path that leads to a breathtaking view of tiny lake Oloiden, Ranch House Bistro really takes the concept of farm to fork dining to a whole new level. Staff at this quaint and charming little restaurant will greet you with a cool pink lemonade which hits the spot after a long a dusty drive and as you sit back and decide on what to eat you might e regaled with sites of warthogs bumbling by. The Bistro’s international menu promises fresh, colourful dishes accompanied by all the trappings of modern trendy dining ware. Try their wood oven slow-cooked pork shoulder, you won’t be disappointed or, if you are just up for something light to leave you energised for an afternoon hiking in Hell’s Gate make sure to try the Thai Fish cakes which come complete with coconut rice and a spicy cashew nut and cucumber salad.
Best for Chilling: Camp Carnelley
This tried and tested campsite restaurant never fails to disappoint. Maybe it’s the super comfortable sofas with their kanga-clad mattresses that make the lounging while you wait for your pizza so effortless, or maybe it’s the quirky open plan design that makes the whole place feel so airy; sit back on the wooden platform that juts out from the side of the restaurant and gaze up at the acacia canopy, if you’re lucky you mare but just spot a colobus monkey. Popular for their pizzas, their spicy fish and tilapia curry is also firm favourite amongst new and returning customers. Wile away your evening after a long horseback ride sipping in Dawa cocktails before heading down to the fire pit for some evening fun.
Best for Italian: Matteo’s Italian Restaurant and Bar
New player on the scene Da Matteo may not have the best location on the lake but its food hits the spot and even Italians (who are an incredibly difficult lot to please) are known to sing the praises of its ravioli with mushrooms and their incredibly delicious and cheesy Sicilian-style deep fried arancini balls. Without having eaten there ourselves we are still waiting to go and try it out, but will report back fully as soon as we have!
For reservations call: 0791371607 (closed Mondays)