Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe: The ultimate sensory experience
Seven years ago, the Directors of Wild Horizons, were doing a site inspection of one of their most thrilling and popular adrenaline activities - the highwire adventure package. After watching people free fall and fly between the cavernous lips of the Batoka Gorge, they started thinking about where to go for lunch, when Clive Bradford said, “Imagine we had a bistro here”. They looked across the sprawling gorge front, the sheer drop and the untamed wilderness, wondering where and how that would work. Finally, Clive pointed to a section on the natural balcony, patterned with shifting clouds shadows and cloaked in gravity-defying trees – “There”, he said.
And so the Wild Horizons Lookout Café developed from an idea to a vision and finally to an iconic location in Victoria Falls. This moment remains a foundational part of the Café’s story. The spontaneous idea became a town treasure where friends can enjoy a meal, rocked in the cradle of nature while all around them adventure unfolds. When the Café was destroyed in a devastating fire, Victoria Falls felt incomplete. But the team at Wild Horizons turned the tragedy into an opportunity for innovation. When the new and improved café opened in December 2019, it was more popular, beautiful and unique than ever before.
All restaurants, from Michelin star fine dining establishment to quirky fast food trucks, are chasing the same thing. A certain reaction. The look on customers faces when the flavours of a dish hit, taking them from momentary elation to a ripple of pure pleasure that derails conversations and makes eyelids flutter in culinary ecstasy. In most places, this moment is reserved for the first mouthful of a meal. At the Wild Horizons Lookout Café, it occurs in a perpetual continuum. You can see it in the subtle jaw drop as guests peer down the staggering drop of the Gorge. You feel it vibrate through awed whispers as people walk past the local art and sculptures. You hear it in the crisp click of a camera as guests try to capture a hard copy of the memories they are making. The Wild Horizons Lookout Café is a feast for all the senses.
The Lookout is not a carbon copy café that could be recreated or franchised anywhere else in the world quite simply because there is nowhere else that could rival the location. The view of the 114-year-old bridge connecting two countries hangs precariously in the chasm of the Gorge, the spray from the waterfall curls like curious clouds through the black basalt channel, accentuated by the low rumble of rapids that froth below. Everything about it is unfamiliar, but there is an underlying affinity that connects guests to the restaurant. The restaurant was built to inspire this affinity, weaving a golden thread between humans and the nature we are often detached from in the modern age. It creates a sense of connection that brings to mind some half-lost memory of old-world ease and simplicity.
The intoxicating medley of features that define the Lookout Café experience evokes untold volumes of feeling and meaning. Head Chef France Moyo used the bold and dramatic landscape as a springboard for the style of the menu. Though called the Lookout Cafe, the meals are certainly more refined than everyday eats. Enjoying dishes like the grilled lemon and garlic Zambezi bream, with the gentle rumble of the river drifting over the rim of the Gorge, makes the ‘place on a plate’ sentiment a reality. Classic dishes like a Caprese salad have been subtly upgraded with thoughtful additions, such as a shot of gazpacho. Simple proteins like beef mignon are elevated with a sophisticated thyme and rosemary glaze. Every dish gains both place and style when paired with imported wine from South African vineyards. Casual dining has never been more decadent than at the Wild Horizons Lookout Café.
The staggering scenery forms a backdrop against which cherished memories are made by locals and tourists alike. It is the perfect place to share a bottle of wine with friends, savour bold Zimbabwean flavours and connect with the adventurous essence of the town. Your eyes will keep drifting back to the view. It is the sun around which all else orbits, and it is what makes the Wild Horizons Lookout Café an unmissable experience if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Victoria Falls.