Whichever part of the coastal strip you’re heading down to for a getaway, check out suggestions of some of our favourite places to eat.
With its 536 kms of coastline stretching from Lamu in the North to Lunga Lunga in the South, Kenya has a long and straight forward fishing tradition – a seafood lover’s paradise. From the Swahili people who began fishing the shallow blue reefs with dhows, traditional sailing vessels with long thin hulls made of wood and coconut fibre rope in the 13th century, to the modern artisanal wavuvi- fishermen in Kiswahili- who can still be seen sailing up and down the coast, fishing in Kenya is still mostly done from small fishing boats referred to by the locals as dhows. Shallow-water fish from snapper, parrot fish and surgeon fish, as well as deep-water fish like mackerels, barracudas, and crustaceans such as lobsters, prawns and crabs make most of the local fishermen’s catch.
Protected by coral reef, the Kenyan coast’s lavish sea fauna is a snorkeler’s, sports fisherman enthusiast and seafood gastronome’s paradise. Any attempt to catalogue the plethora of marine life is best left to a chapter in Jules Vernes’ “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” For those heading down to the coast this season, whether for business or pleasure, here are a few of our favourite restaurants that are definitely worth checking out:
Here, slow food is the key word. Located in Old Town Lamu, Subira House is an eco-friendly hotel hidden behind the walls of a Swahili house. Karkadeh offers a 3-course dinner using locally caught seafood and locally grown organic vegetables. Guests can choose to hook their own dinner during a sailing trip and enjoy it in the courtyard while sitting legs crossed on a carpet on the ground under the stars.
If you fancy a dip in the ocean after your Spaghetti alle vongole, La Rosada is the perfect spot for you. Rosada means pink in Italian, and perhaps this explains why you’ll spot that colour in the decor. Relaxing on a comfortable beach bed nestled amidst palm trees looking out onto the white sand sharply contrasting the blues and greens of the ocean…it’s like a little paradise in itself. The food is undeniably great and Sundays are particularly popular for the excellent and extensive buffet. Head there every Monday evening as there is often a private beach party going down, and there’s nothing quite like letting loose on a beach with music in the background and a gentle breeze tugging away gently at your shirt.
In case the name seems a tad familiar, there is a book of the same name by American author Ernest Hemingway, but this instance is a reference to one of the oldest restaurants in Malindi. Much larger restaurants have since come up beside it and it may be easy to give in to hunger pangs and waltz into one of the other more conspicuous places. If you do find this little gem, however, you’re in for a treat. The restaurant has moorish architecure akin to that prevalent in North Africa, and the ambiance is very intimate and romantic. You can actually see the Vasco dagama pillar if you look out across the windows. They specializes in seafood on the barbecue with various rich sauces made in house. The Malindi smoked sailfish is used in several of the starters and your palate will surely thank you afterwards.
Inspired by the proximity of the ruins of the ancient city of Gede, the food at Amandina is Mediterranean, Moroccan and North African. The slow-cooked, earthy stews incorporate delicate flavourings using the finest fresh local seafood and vegetables. Warm spices and tasty sauces accompany the dishes. After dinner, guests can delight in alfresco evenings on the terrace, try the shisha in the star lounge or enjoy creative cocktails under the equatorial sky.
This spot with touches of blue in the decor has a lovely outdoor ambiance overlooking Mida creek. The menu offers a fantastic selection of fresh fish and seafood with heavy Asian and Swahili influences, and also has great options catering to vegetarians. Pick from an array of sashimi, ginger-chilli calamari, crab bruschetta, chilli paneer, salt and pepper shrimp and much more. Head out for happy hour from 5:00pm to 7:00pm every Friday and Saturday, and note that the bar is quite popular and can get a little noisy.
Boko Boko Porini is known for its delicious menu that combines traditional Seychellois cuisine with swahili delicacies. Try their boko boko chicken, creole fish soup or prawns, and don’t miss out on their succulent char-grilled steaks. While the service can be a bit slow, your meal coupled with the lush garden setting and friendly service will surely make for a memorable experience.
Famous for its fresh seafood and barbeque, the menu at La Marina is designed to satisfy all tastes: seafood, oriental, grilled dishes, Italian dishes and more. Located on the North Mombasa Coast and blessed with a picturesque tranquil setting, right on the edge of Mtwapa Creek, La Marina Restaurant has all the right ingredients to become a favourite with discerning diners. Excellent location, outstanding cuisine and attentive service.
Located on the scenic Mtwapa creek on the North coast of Mombasa, The Moorings is one of the few floating restaurants in East Africa. The extensive seafood menu includes a mouth-watering variety of fresh lobster, crab, prawns, calamari and fish.
The prices here are pocket friendly. One does not head out to Tarboush for the ambiance but for the very popular chicken or beef shawarmas. Clean environment, generous portions, can cater to larger groups, other amazing menu items like the chicken tikka, chicken biryani, pilau and other Indian influenced comfort food, what’s not to love?
Believed to be between 120,000 and 180,000 years old, Ali Barbour’s Cave is as unique as its setting. Made from the finest, freshest seasonal ingredients, cooked to perfection, well presented and tasting just out of this world, the seafood menu includes Ali Drunken prawns, Fresh Kilifi oysters, a seafood platter complete with fresh calamari, crab of the mangrove, lobster, king prawns, red snapper and oysters. Situated about 30km south of Mombasa, it offers quite the unique dining experience.
At Sails, each top class dish that leaves the kitchen window does so under the watchful eye of Luke Doig – Almanara’s General Manager & Executive Chef at Sails. A third generation Kenyan, Luke’s extensive experience has propelled Sails to the top of the exclusive restaurants’ list in Kenya. Sails’ sweeping sails and curving beams offer a stunning and unique piece of architecture on the beach front within Almanara.
Dar Es Salaam
Cape Town Fish Market, South Africa’s premier seafood restaurant, brings a fresh taste of South Africa to Tanzania. The menu offers a wonderful combination of both South African and Japanese dishes including fish and chips, grilled prawns, salmon teriyaki and a wide variety of sushi. It is an ultimate feast of flavours.
As its name implies, The Rock restaurant sits on a rock close to the shore of the beautiful Michanwi Pingwe beach. Crab, calamari, prawns, lobster and octopus are all prominently featured on the menu. At The rock, the food, the light, colours, and the staff’s passion for cooking all conspire to create a one-of-a-kind magic. Breathtaking!
Settle in for a fantastic 5 course menu and breathtaking view of the city at this popular rooftop restaurant. You might need to make a reservation during the high season to avoid disappointment. The sundowner here is perhaps the best in Stone Town, best washed down with a drink from their extensive wine list.