Where to eat in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo?

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The menu at downtown restaurant New Relax.

The last time I was in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, must have been in 2006. I disembarked on the shores of the Congo River just north of Kinshasa after a nine day journey downstream from Mbandaka to check out the country ahead of the landmark first democratic elections since the fall of Mobutu. I loved the city back then. Although completely dilapidated it had a charm and vitality that grabs your heart.

Much has changed since then. Already on the way into the city from the airport you can tell that things are different. The road used to be totally congested, and sometimes so flooded you couldn’t pass. Now the driver took swerves around the construction sites of one bridge after another, contentedly pointing to each of them and saying: “pont, bridge.” Oui, oui, I nodded. Impressive.

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Grilled capitaine with lemon sauce and fried plantains at the Corleone restaurant at Hotel Fleuve Congo.

The roads in the city centre are even more impressive. The main boulevard used to be a loosely connected network of patches of tar around potholes, now it’s a smooth six lane autostrada running through the centre with traffic lights that count down the seconds until they change color. There are new, modern luxury hotels, upmarket shops and hip nightclubs, and branchless banking services to the poor using biometric identification.

And the food is fabulous. I had some delicious grilled capitaine at the Corleone restaurant at the hotel Fleuve Congo, traditional pondu for lunch at the Panoramique close to the market area, a perfect beef brochette with chips at a sports bar, and an interesting Brazilian buffet of grilled meat, ranging from antelope to quail, at the hip Tucanos.

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A Brazialian feast of meat at Tucanos.

My favourite was the grilled chicken with fried plantains at the backyard New Relax restaurant downtown, which also offers crocodile on the menu. My only disappointment was the Fleur de Sel, a French restaurant that had been recommended to me. Though the garden is very pretty and the background tones of La vie en rose makes you smile, the food was not as good as in any of the other places. Maybe we were just unlucky.

It’s a different Kinshasa, even more charming and lively than before.  A city to love.

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A plate of traditional Congolese food at Villa Kamiah. The oven baked fish with pili pili pepper and lemon was outstanding.
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Outdoor photo exhibition in city centre.
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The hot pili pili sauce is served at every Congolese table, with every meal. Here’s the coarse version….
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…and here is a smooth version of pili pili sauce.
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Congolese food television with the inspiring Patience – formerly a TV host, now a bank director.
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Ovenbaked capitaine with pili pili peppers and lemon at Villa Kamiah.
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I love these plastic beer cases, used by waitresses for serving and clearing the tables.
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I didn’t dare to order the crocodile at New Relax – the grilled chicken turned out to be an excellent choice though.
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The wall of a seafood restaurant in downtown in Kinshasa.
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Steamed cassava bread.
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Beef brochette at O’Cafe.
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Freshly squeezed pineapple juice at the Fleur de Sel.
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A lunch plate at Panoramique, with the green pondu cassava stew at the top. Pondu is basically the Congolese national dish.
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The Congo River.

7 thoughts on “Where to eat in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo?

  1. great post, Anna. Keep building ponts – bridges – to other cultures. I never made it to DRC and this has put it right back in my sights.

  2. This is great! I will definitely be following you for advice on places to eat. I aim to travel throughout the continent soon cooking and eating. This is a great source for me

    1. Been there in 2012. The Nina River Hotel in Mbandaka is the newest hotel in town. But still no running water and about 3 hours electricity per day.
      The best restaurant in my opinion is the Bralima Restaurant, located directly at the Congo River. The La Pirogue is also a nice Bar Restaurant.

      Frank

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