Onsea House & Machweo Retreat

near Arusha, Tanzania


It is Axel's cuisine that lifts Onsea House into the first division of boutique hotels. Classically trained in the French tradition, and the former owner of an award-winning restaurant in Belgium, his first point of reference is Arusha's colourful fruit and veg market where he shops every morning. Herbs are brought in from a farm at the foot of Mount Meru, fish from the Indian Ocean, and the best cuts of meat from as far afield as New Zealand. Not to mention that Axel is a trained sommelier and chooses superb wines to accompany each of his courses.

The open-air terrace dining room at Machweo is the stage for his culinary art. It looks magical at night when oil lamps are lit and tables are dressed in crisp white linen. In colder weather a brazier of coals as well as Maasai blankets are brought to your table. Music is always present: our meal was accompanied by fado, Carla Bruni love songs and, in keeping with the flavour of Belgique, Jacques Brel.

Snacks of guacamole and hummus are served before Axel's 4-course extravaganza. Our first night's dinner began with watercress soup followed by a spicy grilled calamari salad, duck in an orange blossom sauce accompanied by gratin dauphinois, and an amazing dessert of iced Spanish melon foam with homemade ice cream. On the second night - we couldn't bear to eat elsewhere - our entrée was pumpkin soup followed by grilled langoustines, then trout from the local fish farm in a scrummy lemon, almond and butter sauce: we knew it could be no fresher having watched it being netted that same afternoon. A wicked concoction of chocolate ice cream and fresh mint ended the meal on just the right, self-indulgent note.

The same level of culinary care is lavished upon breakfast, served in the lodge's small dining room at a single square table. The food follows a continental model with hot French bread, homemade jams, a selection of cheeses, cold meats, biltong (dried meat) and a plate of seasonal fruits sculpturally prepared by Axel. It's accompanied by prize-winning Blackburn coffee. A cooked breakfast is also on offer but if you ate at Onsea the night before this could be de trop. At lunchtime, light fruit and leaf salads along with a small choice of snacks are on offer, or you can ask for a picnic box to take on day trips.

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Features include:

  • Restaurant
  • Room Service
  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar
  • Coffee/tea making
Save to favouritesPrintMailOnsea House & Machweo RetreatEast of Arusha, a line of hills covered in lush, subtropical vegetation run up towards the towering cone of Mount Meru. Onsea House, and its sister property Machweo Retreat, perch on the first of these green ridges, with soaring views out to the town and to the distant flank of the Rift Valley: sunsets seen from here are simply phenomenal. Dirk and Axel Janssens, 2 polyglot cousins from Belgium, founded Onsea House in 2006 and added Machweo Retreat 6 years later. Their brief was to create a boutique hotel providing top-notch accommodation and first-class food. They've succeeded brilliantly on both counts. Onsea House bills itself as a 'home from home', and from the moment that you're greeted by Axel's easy smile it feels good to be here. The relaxed mood flows throughout: deeply cushioned sofas, bright Tinga Tinga artwork, angular lamps and light slanting in from high, valley-facing windows impart a feel that's bright and uplifting. [r:TA015:Bedrooms] have the same cared-for feel and spread across the original house and Machweo (meaning sunset), where the restaurant's gourmet cuisine further gilds this remarkable African lily.

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