A fabulous new restaurant in Lusaka has opened up, offering traditional Zambian foods prepared with modern fine dining techniques. Led by Chef Sungani, Botanica showcases the best of Zambian cuisine in ways never witnessed before.
The restaurant’s ethos is built on four flavours, four colours and four textures, which combine to create a thrilling culinary experience that honours Zambia’s rich culinary heritage.
In keeping with its commitment to only serve the best of Zambian food and drink, Botanica only uses ingredients sourced within a 100-kilometre radius of its premises.
You are greeted with a gin and tonic infused with fresh rosemary, cinnamon and hibiscus to commence the 10-course winter menu (June – September).
The appetiser was the showstopping smoked duck cured with kapenta transformed into salt. The smoked duck is presented on a wooden board topped with a glass jar, with smoke dramatically escaping it as the jar is lifted to reveal the tender duck. To my utter shock, Chef Sungani revealed that the dish had taken 20 days to prepare. It was accompanied by a mushroom macaron, potato leek soup in a shot glass and a potato doughnut made from cassava.
Next up, I had the tobwa ice lolly made with tamarind, whisky and millet. It had a hint of warming chilli and was served in a wooden box, reminiscent of a jewellery box.
After the refreshing tobwa lolly it was time for the breaking of bread course, which consisted of steamed buns stuffed with kablangeti (local beans) paste andserved in a bamboo steamer. This course also included an Asian-inspired flatbread infused with herbs and charcoal bread, which was unbelievably tasty.
The Luangwa dried fish tom yum course was served next, and this was one of the most aesthetically pleasing dishes I had all night. A black coral web lay on the dry fish broth, garnished with lemon grass and ginger gel.
Thereafter, I was served a guinea fowl and village chicken terrine, garnished with nuts, pickled red cabbage and kumquats, a zesty addition to the dish. This meal is cured, baked and compressed over three days.
The poached Zambezi bream was presented to me in a bubbling broth, tantalising my tastebuds. The fish was placed on top of caviar prepared three ways – infused with charcoal, topped with tomato and orange, topped with an edible 24-carat gold leaf – making my plate look like a piece of art.
Mundambi jelly was served as my eighth course; a wild hibiscus turned into a jelly and sorbet. The plate was garnished with mundambi candy shots and cheese crumble. The bittersweet taste awakened my senses in a way I had never experienced.
The beef fillet encrusted with vinkubala (edible caterpillars) was accompanied by nshima, served in a cheese ball. The plate was enhanced with tomato chutney and butternut sauce, carefully spread across the dish. The fillet was tender and juicy, and I was particularly impressed by the precision with which the bone marrow was skilfully cut and stuffed.
The last course was vitumbuwa ‘fat cake’ sour milk cheesecake. The vitumbuwa made from cassava was adorned with a white chocolate sheet—the milk ice cream placed on white chocolate snow and fermented strawberries. Vitumbuwa is a common street food in Zambia, but I had never had it like this. And that is the thing about Botanica’s tasting menu; it brings you the familiar, but in unique and delightfully different ways that you would have never imagined.
With its sophisticated ambience, Botanica takes you on an elegant journey to experience refreshing yet distinctive tastes that have been meticulously designed and well thought out, requiring you to savour every moment and appreciate a dining experience. Botanica serves traditional foods but gives it a refined dining flair, using only the best local ingredients sourced within a 100-kilometre radius of the location.
Botanica is located 20 kilometres from Arcades Shopping Mall and about 11 kilometres from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on Ngwerere Road, situated at Ciêla Resort and Spa, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Lusaka city.
The restaurant is open six days of the week, excluding Mondays. Its doors open from 6 pm until the last guest leaves. Reservations are encouraged. Visit www.cielaresort.com to make a reservation for the most memorable meal of your life.
The Botanica tasting menu also offers food and wine pairing with South African wines on request.