“Two fabulously friendly retreats sharing a restaurant with top gourmet cuisine, just a short drive from Arusha”
Together, Onsea House and Machweo offer 14 guest bedrooms. Machweo is newer; its 6 Cottage Suites (double or twin beds) have sitting areas, small kitchenettes and showers, the 3 Honeymoon Suites have the most luxurious bathrooms on site - each with a freestanding bathtub and a rain shower. All have private balconies positioned to make the most of the Mount Meru views.
Onsea House has just 5 ensuite Standard Double Rooms. There are 2 doubles giving onto the main dining terrace (Giraffe and Guineafowl), a larger room (Elephant) on the second floor which can also take a third bed, and 2 more doubles (Zebra and Rhino) in a garden cottage beyond the road which divides the property. The latter have a shaded terrace looking out to the pool and the beguiling sub-tropical garden - ideal for a larger group or anyone planning a longer stay - and the cottage has a fully equipped kitchen and a sitting room with twin sofas which can be made up as beds for kids. All ensuites have bathtubs with overhead showers.
Rooms have immaculately crafted wooden doors, writing desks and butler-style bedside tables, and are equipped with safety boxes, minibars and hairdryers. Floors are screed or tiled, a mostly-white colour scheme is jazzed up by brightly coloured walls and Tinga Tinga paintings, and the beds have mosquito nets, Egyptian cotton sheets and duvet covers. Expect little extras like Onsea postcards and stationery, a list of 100 birds frequently seen in the gardens and an extensive drinks menu. Machweo rooms and the garden cottage rooms have flatscreen TVs, and the garden cottage rooms also have DVD players.
Big and functional bathrooms display the same attention to detail: snowy white cotton dressing gowns and fluffy towels, cut flowers, and soap, body cream and gel courtesy of Gilchrist & Soames, London.
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.
Children are welcome and would love the pools and garden. Even so, the place has a very grown-up feel to it and the minor concessions made on prices for kids (0-2 free of charge) means that families would probably get a better deal, and more kiddie facilities, at one of Arusha's larger lodges.
Babies (0-1 years)
Two of the Cottage Suites can interconnect, as can the 3 Honeymoon Suites. The Elephant room in Onsea House can take an extra bed
Baby cots are available on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking