Under a canopy of statuesque jackal berry trees, enter through the carved Rajasthani doors, framed by grand mokoros overhead and wooden grain stompers planted with ferns, palms and other lush greens. A flock of friendly African birds welcome you to Zim’s newest stroke of genius: Zambezi House. The eatery is Victoria Falls’ newest addition – a long overdue hideaway on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River.
Built from scratch with containers, Zambezi House offers an authentically African outside-in feeling – no surprise to find a family of warthogs dining alongside you as you savour your delicious chicken burger and slaw. The interiors were designed by Amatuli's business partners and the exterior conceptualised by Zambezi House partner Beks Ndlovu. Furnished with Amatuli favourites, curated on travels throughout the continent, the final look and feel was a collaborative effort – a straightforward process thanks to the fact that Elize van der Merwe and Mark Valentine have been creating, travelling and working together for many years at Amatuli. Looking for inspiration on how to combine rustic antiques, age-old African crafts, and sleek, modern furnishings in one cohesive, beautiful whole? Look right here.
Right from the ground (black and white vinyl tiles with Nguni hides, raw painted surfaces, wooden decking…) up, every detail has been carefully considered. Here, in one corner, two of David Ballam’s striking Turkana portraits hang – the stark black and white framed with wood, and contrasted with bright touches of turquoise (lampshades, metal chairs from Indonesia) and bursts of foliage planted in metal buckets, grain stompers and woven baskets. Among the other artworks throughout the vibrant space are portraits from Ballam’s Zanzibar series. One hangs above a beautiful leather Hausa sofa, with a lanky carving standing watch: a brightly painted colonial figure, in his hat and blue tie.
The handsome pressed ceiling bar counter was custom made by Amatuli for Zambezi House – as was the graphic, eye-catching coffee counter and another with a unique green patterning. “Amatuli now does tailor-made bar counters for any of our customers,” says Elize. “Customers can send through a picture of the design they’d like on the tiles and we’ll have the counter made up here at Amatuli!”
The bar counter is accompanied by sleek burnished metal bar stools; and there’s a touch of retro style behind the coffee counter with cotton-candy pink walls and a turquoise retro dresser. Centre stage is Amatuli’s beautiful pink Hausa sofa, decked out with Malian Bogolanfini (mud cloth) cushions. And dotted throughout are carefully chosen artefacts which fill the space with life and character: a mounted skull gazes out from atop a rustic old refrigerator; on a shelf with wooden, woven and glass vessels, rests a Cameroonian Fang mask; tables are decked with carved wooden fish and crocs and warthogs – a handy reminder of the magnificent setting in which the restaurant finds itself.
Bringing together the beauty of African objects, Zambezi House is a showcase of our love for this extraordinary continent; it’s an ode to explorers and adventurers, in a setting famous for just that: discovering the wonders of the African wild.