HomeStandard StyleFine dining in the wild at Pamuzinda

Fine dining in the wild at Pamuzinda

It was good food, good company and a great breakaway when The Epicurean took to the countryside around Selous last weekend, enjoying a stay at the popular Pamuzinda Safari Lodge, an hour or so by road from Harare.

Restaurant Review with Epicurean

Saturday braai above the river
Saturday braai above the river

The lodge is one of the operational units of the Dunhu Ramambo group, which also operates Chengeta Safari Lodge, Sumba Guest Lodge and the Umbozha selection of houseboats. Chengeta and Shumba are not far from Pamuzinda, close to the mining centre of Selous, while the Umbozha boats are up at Kariba. Plans are afoot, too, for the group to expand activities in and around Kariba town and to start something at Binga, on the western side of Lake Kariba.

Pamuzinda opened its doors about 30 years ago, a venture of tourism and wildlife personality Ossie Bristow and Cresta Hotels, then under the managements of Roy Meiring. Together they created a wonderful destination in the bush of the Selous farming area, and it soon became a popular destination for a bush experience close to Harare. It is also a sought-after, upmarket venue for small conferences, especially corporate boardroom gatherings.

Pamuzinda is an upmarket venue situated alongside a subsidiary rivulet of the Serui River. A central area hosts lounges, dining rooms, a braai deck, a swimming pool terrace and a dining deck stretching out over the river, while the accommodation lodges are spread out on both sides of this central area. We were accommodated in the Royal Lodge, a large and comfortable set of suites and facilities that included two bedrooms, both with en-suite bathrooms, a lounge and terrace, as well as private gardens for each bedroom – each featuring an outdoors shower and one of them hosting a Jacuzzi. A private swimming pool is positioned just in front of the lodge and has its own secluded garden and braai area.

We enjoyed meals in the main dining area, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the time, the kitchen was undergoing as major refurbishment, so we had buffet meals served in the principal dining room. Whenever we could, we took our food to the riverside deck, enjoying the food while looking out over the river and well-forested surrounds; the clever design of the venue means that from the main public area one cannot see any of the accommodation lodges, which are discreetly hidden by bush and trees. Saturday lunch was a lovely braai, with service in a braai terrace area just above the river and with a plentiful supply of meat, salads, starches and, for afters, dessert.

General manager Byran Rocher — formerly at Leopard Rock Hotel in the Bvumba — took us to nearby Chengeta, which is a simpler venue but equally attractive and proving very popular as a conference venue and a venue for weddings. We also looked at Shumba guest lodge, being used a lot by school groups going out for a wildlife and conservation experience, something very big within the Dunhu Ramambo portfolio.

The Saturday night was a highlight of our stay, and we were able to enjoy an a la carte meal despite the refurb work going on in the kitchen; we also managed to meet Chef ‘Donkey’ who declined to reveal if this was a nickname (which it must be!) or a given name. Starters were a choice of mushroom ravioli or vegetable quiche; I chose the former and was very pleased, as were the folk who chose the quiche. Mains were either beef fillet (served with an onion and butter sauce) or steamed bream; I chose the latter and enjoyed the white wine sauce accompanying the fish. We had a choice of coconut pudding or apple crumble for dessert. Accompanying the food was a delightful sparkling wine which Pamuzinda owner Phil Dobinson is importing from Spain. The Spanish sparkling is done in the champagne method, and is known as a Cava — for the stone cellars in which they are stored. Ours was a Vega Medien, highly rated at a recent series of international wine shows and made up 90% of the viura or macabeo grape varietal and 10% chardonnay. Served really chilled, this has a darker hue than usual sparkling wine and has an equally unusual taste, delightful and refreshing.

Pamuzinda Safari Lodge is a superb venue for local and foreign visitors, with special rates on offer at the present time. It’s a venue for a genuine wildlife-based getaway without having to travel long distances from Harare. There’s a strong emphasis on quality and affordability and the great cuisine matched the wonderful accommodation and wildlife experiences we enjoyed. More information from travel agents and from www.dunhuramambo.com

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