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The Elephant Café

Five-star cuisine on the banks of the Zambezi.

So here we are, pretty much in the middle of culinary nowhere, sipping perfectly chilled 2008 Pecan Stream Pebble Hill and dining on a lunch menu that includes Mongu rice and nzembwe with peppery leaves, mixed nuts and cranberries. It is the work of a ‘journalist-activist’ chef, Annabel Hughes, who has made Zambia her home, bringing with her the kind of imaginative and beautifully plated cuisine you’d expect from an award-winning Cape Town restaurant – except that she’s 2 500km from all mainstream organic vegetable farms and charcuterie suppliers that have popped up conveniently for the urban super-chef. What could have been an African bundu supply challenge has ended up as a presentation of sophisticated dishes with arguably the lowest carbon footprint in Africa.

Jolly easy to impress your guests with exotic imports but Annabel can boast that most of her ingredients come from markets and farms in a 20km radius. Expect menus to feature deliciously unfamiliar items like marula ice cream with a mongongo nut florentine, or chilled roasted red pepper and masawa soup. And the setting is unrivalled; under a canvas sky on the banks of the Zambezi, just metres from the elephants who give the camp and restaurant its name. They are rehabilitated orphans this herd, but have found ‘family’ here and allow guests to interact as closely as one could ever wish. There’s no tourist elephant-back riding here, just a respectful interaction watched over carefully by minders.

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