We recently had the pleasure of welcoming chef extraordinaire, Tjaart Walraven – host on various foodie road shows and judge on The Great South African Bake-Off to Ilala Lodge Hotel.
While inspiring The Palm Restaurant – one of the top rated restaurant in Victoria Falls, according to TripAdvisor – Chef Tjaart took some time out to share his culinary expertise and answer a few questions about his experience of Ilala Lodge Hotel and visiting one of the seven wonders of the world.
Q&A with Tjaart Walraven
They say home is where the heart is, what brings you back to Victoria Falls/Zimbabwe, and what makes it stand out to you?
I guess a winning combination of the two, a holiday and a little work brings me back to the falls. Victoria Falls reminds me of Cape Town, a destination in its own world, an isolated piece of paradise. No matter how many times you experience “the Smoke that Thunders” and whatever the water level, it is a sight and force to behold.
What are your fondest childhood memories of Victoria Falls, having grown up in Zimbabwe?
As a child I never really remembered visiting the falls (although we did), we always headed more frequently to the Eastern Highlands, but like the rest of Zimbabwe, ‘the freedom to be’ is my fondest memory.
What are you enjoying the most about your stay at Ilala Lodge Hotel?
While I’ve never stayed at the Ilala Lodge Hotel before I have dined at the Palm Restaurant on previous occasions. What I love most about the hotel is simply opening the sliding doors from your room, you get to glance through the speckled green bush as it starts to show signs of a new season, the slight mist from the falls in the background and the imagination from the roar of the cascading water as its crescendos back to your balcony.
You experienced a Ra-Ikane River Cruise while staying with us. If you could influence the river cruise menu for a day, what would your ultimate snack board comprise of?
My ultimate snack board onboard the Ra-Ikane would consist of local produce; biltong (as you cannot get more African) then Tilapia bream mousse on a blinis, grilled crocodile ceviche-style and then maybe a little sweet treat, something that includes cream of tartar from the baobab tree!
How adventurous are you, have you taken part in any other wild activities available in Vic Falls? What was your most favourite and would you do it again?
I had this debate with my group of friends on this trip on how adventurous we all would be. I would probably rate myself a 7 now but 10 years ago, definitely a 9! Not sure if we get wiser as we get older or our need for adrenalin filled-needs diminish. I did not partake in anything this trip as the need to find suitable refreshments in the form of a G and the associated T, along with a scoop of food took preference.
What is your favourite local meat and/or delicacy and how what might you pair this with if serving to guests for dinner?
I am a big fan or warthog and I was excited to see this grace the Ilala Lodge Hotel menu and on my first night, I chose it for my main course. Hats off to the chefs, they prepared this in a fabulous manner with great execution and flare! I would pair the warthog with a chilled Pinot Noir, a wine with subtle character; yet bold enough to stand up to the earthy flavours with a chill factor to take off the nights heat.
And of course, as the expert in this area, we’d love your honest opinion…what did you really think of The Palm Restaurant menu?
I feel that the menu really celebrates African game meats – including the likes of Kudu, Tilapia bream, ostrich, crocodile – that are prepared so well! It certainly doesn’t lack anything in particular but if I could make one suggestion; perhaps the crocodile could feature more as a hero – due to the business synergies!
To view more or download dinner, lunch and drinks menu at The Palm Restaurant, visit www.ilalalodge.com/the-palm-restaurant/.
With special thanks to Chef Tjaart.