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.
- Room Service
- Coffee/tea making