Mid range (average main course US$5–8)
Shangani Rd; tel 024 2233666; e_walzl2yahoo.it.
Rated by many as the best Italian eatery on the island, this unfussy new 'Cafeteria Italiano' also has an attractively breezy waterfront location and offers the alternatives of eating in or outdoors. Pasta dishes and pizzas cost around US$5, sandwiches are in the US$3–4 range, and it serves a good strong coffee as well as a range of ice creams.
Shangani Rd; 0777 411868; email@example.com.
Very near the seafront in the Shangani area, close to the Africa House Hotel, this is a smart new place with a big open courtyard, serving Italian and Swahili food. As well as the restaurant, it's a cocktail bar and ice-cream parlour. It's not cheap but you get excellent food and a warm welcome here. Starters are US$3–4, and main courses (such as lobster risotto) are US$4–7.
Mercury's Bar & Rest
Mizingani Rd; 024 2233076; 0777 416666; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Named after Zanzibar's most famous son Freddie Mercury
, this place has a fine setting on the seafront, overlooking a small beach, the bay, and part of the new port. It's popular, and has a good atmosphere. Wooden tables, director's chairs, and big sunshades are set out on the large wooden deck, and you can enjoy choosing from the menu which unashamedly cashes in on the former Queen singer's apparent dietary preferences – Freddie's Favourite Salad (US$3.50), Mercury's Special Pizza (US$5.20) etc; but despite this corniness the food is very good. Other options include pizzas (margaritas from US$5 up to prawn, beef, tuna and mushroom for US$7), a mixed plate of grilled seafood (US$10), smaller dishes of octopus, grilled fish, pastas (all for around US$5) and a huge range of cocktails around US$2.50–3. It's open daily (with happy hour 17.00–20.00) and there's live traditional music or other entertainment 3 evenings a week.
Forodhani Gardens; 0777 411362; e email@example.com.
Near the Fort and the seafront, this is a smart French-run place serving a good and interesting selection of Mediterranean and Zanzibari food, accompanied by live taraab music on Wednesday and Saturday nights. There are two parts to Monsoon: one is a bar, while the other is a massive open space covered in rugs and cushions. You leave your shoes at the door and lounge around kasbah-style. Thick walls and good ventilation mean it's always cool, and so are most of the clients. If you want to relax even more, you can enjoy a hubble-bubble pipe with your Arabic coffee or cocktail. There is also a very pleasant and shady terrace with about 10 tables facing Forodhani Gardens. Main courses cost US$4 upwards, while 4-course dinners cost US$8–10.
Mtoni Marine Restaurant
At Mtoni Marine Centre, just a few kilometres north of Zanzibar Town, this restaurant is too far to reach by foot (and not a pleasant walk anyway) but worth the taxi ride. The food is an imaginative mix of European and Swahili techniques and ingredients, with sushi being something of a speciality. It gets many good reports for being good value. More details are given in the hotel listings in Chapter 7.
Pagoda Chinese Restaurant
Off Kenyatta Rd; 024 2234688; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pagoda, just off Kenyatta Rd near the Africa House Hotel, is run by Mr Chung, who has lived on Zanzibar for many years and used to run a diving outfit with his son George and other members of the family. They proudly and justifiably claim to serve the only genuine Chinese food in Zanzibar. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and is highly rated, with good service, immaculate tables, nice surrounds, generous servings and excellent food. Chinese agricultural technicians from projects around the island often come here – so it must be good! Starters range from 5 spring rolls for US$1 to crispy deep fried squid for US$1.50, and main courses include sweet and sour fish, prawns piripiri, chicken in oyster sauce and satay beef, all around US$5. Roast duck is US$9, and the menu also includes a few specialities, such as Chinese curried crab, for US$6. There are also a lot of vegetarian options, and meals inc crisp, fresh vegetables specially flown in from Kenya. Rice and noodles are around US$2.
Open daily 11.30–14.30 and 18.00–11.00.
Rendezvous Les Spices
Kenyatta Rd; 0777 410707.
This French-owned restaurant, formerly known as the Maharaja, still serves what is arguably the best Indian food on the island. It's reasonably priced too, with starters around US$2–3, and main courses such as crab masala, chicken tikka, lamb biriyani or various tandooris for US$5–6. Vegetarian dishes are available, and specials, such as prawn curry, are US$7–8. Credit cards are accepted.
Sambusa Two Tables Restaurant
Victoria St; 024 231979/0777 416601.
Usually called Two Tables, this place is particularly worthy of mention, because it's good and because for a long time there was nothing else quite like it on Zanzibar. This is a small place (it really does have only 2 tables – although one seats about 8 people), on the balcony of a private house. It's set back off Victoria St, near the junction with Kaunda Rd, but is clearly signposted. The entrance is round the back. Food is cooked by husband-and-wife team Salim and Hidaya, with help from the rest of the family. It's best to phone or call in the afternoon to tell Salim you'll be coming in the evening. A full meal with a variety of local dishes costs US$7. It's highly rated by all who go here, although we heard from some travellers who said pacing themselves was tricky – not knowing how many courses to expect, they filled up on snacks and starters and couldn't do justice to the main course when it arrived!
Sea View Indian Restaurant
Mzingani Rd; 024 2232132.
On the seafront near the People's Palace, this is one of the oldest tourist-orientated restaurants in Zanzibar Town, founded back in the 1980s and still going strong. With tables on an upstairs balcony and a beautiful view across the bay, it's ideal for b/fasts, lunches and evening meals. During the day (until 18.00) you can enjoy spicy
snacks with your drinks – a plate of spring rolls, samosas and bhajis is about US$2 – plus toasted sandwiches for US$2.50, and omelette and chips from US$4. For larger lunches or evening meals the choice is very small, but the quality consistently
good. Vegetarian thalis (a mixture of dishes) cost US$7.50, and fish, chicken, squid or octopus in coconut sauce with popadums, plus snacks for starter, a fruit dessert and tea or coffee costs US$7.
Open all day from 07.00 until 22.00 or later.
Sweet Eazy Restaurant & Lounge
Shangani Rd; 0777 416736; e email@example.com.
At the east end of Shangani Rd, between the Tembo Hotel and Forodhani Gardens, this is a cool, relaxed and trendy retreat. There are 2 big rooms with roughhewn walls, electric-blue floor, tinga-tinga decorations, copious pot plants and wooden chairs with painted covers. One of these rooms is a bar, with a pool table: a very popular hang-out. The other room is the main restaurant, and there's also a small palmfilled garden outside. The bar has a good range of drinks, inc cocktails for US$2–3. In the restaurant,
the food is mostly Thai (thanks to the specialist chef from Dar) but there is also an imaginative pan- African menu featuring dishes from Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and elsewhere, and there are some good veggie options. Starters cost US$3–3.50, main courses are US$5–7.50. The waiters are friendly, and though a fun place to chill out, the food here is variable in flavour. However, on Fri there's live music or a disco, and on Sun the all-you-can-eat buffets (US$8) are very good indeed. Later in the evening this is where it's at for locals and visitors alike, and in the relaxed atmosphere, single men need not be lonely.
Open 11.00 to midnight at least.