Picture: The Rova of Antananarivo
The food in Madagascar is mainly French-Malagasy. French food ranges from basic Bistro food to high-end Restaurant food. If you like French food, you are just right in Madagascar. You can eat in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, just as well as in Paris, but at considerably lower prices.
The traditional Malagasy food is rice 3 times a day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a bit of meat or fish, and Analamao (bok choy-type greens). The Malagasy eat this with a spoon and a fork - no knife.
Turning to wine, Madagascar produces wine. This is not well known outside the country. The vineyards are in the Betsileo area in the highlands and total about 800 hectares. This compares with 100.000 hectares in Germany or South Africa. I always try to drink Malagasy wine. The wine tends to be of good quality, but does not reach a level that it could be marketed internationally.
Picture: Selection of Malagasy Wine in an Antananarivo Supermarket
For imported wines, practically nothing was available in the 1980s, when I first set foot on the red island. That changed in the following years and French wine became readily available in supermarkets and restaurants. The most recent development is the influx of South African wine, which began perhaps a decade ago.
I lived in Antananarivo from 1989 to 1992 and have visited Antananarivo since then on average every other year. My last visit was in 2010. Since the days of my first visit, the restaurant scene in Antananarivo has changed dramatically. As the country has opened up to the rest of the world and has become more flexible vis a vis foreign capital and know-how, a sizable number of new restaurants has emerged in Antananario. At the same time, many of the old-style restaurants are still around.
Generally, one can eat exceptionally well in Antananarivo, at very, very reasonable prices. At the time of my last visit, in September 2010, the exchange rates were Euro 1 = Ariary 2750 and US$ 1 = Ariary 2000.
Here is my current list of Antanananarivo's restaurants, rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars. I would like to thank Cornelia Schiller for her helpful comments.
Note: For a more up to date list see: A Comprehensive Guide - in Alphabetical Order - to the Restaurants of Antananarivo, the Capital of Madagascar
Located in Ivandry, Akoa is an oasis of tranquility in this buzzing third world city; it consists of a small hotel and an excellent restaurant.
The menu is strictly French brasserie and restaurant food with French standards like Tartare de Crevette and Terrine de Canard; among the main courses I like in particular the Camarons Epices, the Pave de Zebu Poele and the Filets de Sole. All main courses are in the Ariary 15.000 to 17.000 range.
Pictures: Terrine de Canard at Akoa and Christian G.E.Schiller with Martine Pless, co-owner of Akoa
Reflecting the relatively large share of English-speaking clients of Akoa – the American School of Antanananarivo is just next door - the wine list is more international than in other Tana restaurants, where you sometimes find only French wines. It consists of one page of French and other imported wines in the Ariary 30.000 to 100.000 range and one page with a good selection of Bordeaux wines, from Ariary 30.000 up to Ariary 165.000. Overall, excellent wine selection.
Ivandry, 22 437 11
Alt Muenchen *
The meeting point for the German expatriate community.
On the road to Ambohimanga on the left side after Analamahitsy.
Au Triporteur ***
A table d’hote and tapas bar, owned and run by a French. I like in particular the very nice garden terrace with a gorgeous view of the Palais de la Reine. Lunch and dinner sur reservation only.
We had a wonderful Sunday four-course lunch with friends. For 10 people, the bill came to Ariary 480.000, including 2 bottles of French wine. I liked the cheese plate, which comprised only Malagasy cheeses, including a Bleu.
The wine list is good, with reasonably priced French wines. We had an excellent 2004 Riesling from Alsace and a delicious 2005 Medoc.
Andrianarivo, 22 414 49
Café de la Gare ***
One of the new-wave additions to the Tana restaurant scene, in the renovated Railways Station Building. Piano music very evening. A very lively place, where you always can meet interesting people. Very fast internet free of charge.
Picture: Antananarivo's newly renovated Railway Station
The food is good French brasserie food, with a limited choice for lunch and a more elaborate choice for dinner. I like the Tartare de Beuf for Ariary 13.000. Most main courses are around Ariary 15.000.
The wine list contains about 40 bottles, including a Blanc, a Rouge and a Rose NV Clos Malaza for Ariary 28.000. Among the other wines, one finds a lot of decent wines from Bordeaux, for Ariary 50.000 to 140.000, wines from other French regions and a good selection of wines from South Africa.
Train Station, 22 611 12
Chalet des Roses ***
A typical Italian trattoria and pizzeria, with pizza, pasta and other Italian dishes on the menu, all in the Ariary 7.000 to 12.000 range. You have a choice of 20 pizza toppings. I had a disappointing Filet de Zebu au Poivre Vert avec Frites for Ariary 13.000.
In addition to a dozen or so French wines, the Chalet des Roses carries a list of red, white, gray and rose wines from 4 Malagasy producers: Lovasoa, Ambalavoa, Clos Malaza and Grand Cru d’Antsirabe. All in the 12.000 to 14.000 range. This is clearly one of the best Malagasy wine lists in town; and for that reason, it deserves 3 stars.
Antsahavola, 22 642 33
Chez Mariette ***
The place to go for a high-class Malagasy dinner. Renowned Chef Mariette Andrianjaka has cooked for notables during her long career and now runs a table d’hote in her 19th-century villa. She prepares six-course set meals based on haifi cuisine, the traditional banquets once served to Merina royalty. These might include anything from carp to eel or goose, accompanied by myriad vegetable and rice dishes.
Faravohitra, 22 216 02
Chez Lorenzo Pizza **
Pizza place owned and run by the entertaining and charming Italian expatriate, Lorenzo.
Ivandry, 22 427 76
Chez Rodrigue **
Small French Bistro that is regularly open for lunch and for dinner for large groups only (sur reservation). One of my favorites.
Picture: Chez Rodrigue's Menu
Isoraka, 31 Rue Russie, 26 300 69
Glacier (Hotel Glacier) **
Exists since 1933 and has been very popular with the French expatriate community since then. Now owned by a Chinese, a large complex with a café, which turns into a bar with live music during the weekend, a brasserie and a restaurant as well as a casino. Glacier is always packed with ladies of the night waiting for clients. From the balcony restaurant in the first floor, you have a very nice view of the Avenue de l’ Independence.
Picture: A Clos de Malaza in the Glacier
The restaurant has recently been renovated and offers good quality French restaurant food, an impressive menu with Malagasy dishes and a long list with Chinese dishes as well as pizza and pasta. It includes such standards as Carpaccio de Zebu, Entrecote and Filet de Zebu with 7 different sauces (au pauvres verts is the best), Steak Tartare and Lapin a la Moutarde. I had Cuisse de Nymphe a la Provencale (a bit dry), Crevettes a la Creole and Ananas Flambee, all for Ariary 30.000.
One of best place in Antananarivo for Malagasy wine. Their wine list includes a relatively large share of Malagasy wines: Lavasoa, Lazan ‘IBetsileo, Clos Malaza and Cote de Fianar. Glacier also has a decent selection of French wines.
Avenue de l’Independence, 22 202 60
A very elegant and classy new-wave restaurant, opposite to the French Embassy. This is the place where the French Ambassador takes his guests, I suppose. As a specialty, and in addition to traditional, classy French restaurant food, Hediard also serves Sushi. A French restaurant that could be in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The French wine list is impressive.
Every Thursday, they have tea time for Ariary 25.000 with a variety of teas and delicious, sophisticated sweets.
Across from French Embassy, 22 283 70
A traditional Chinese restaurant that has been around for several decades. Good, delicate Chinese food in the upper range. No courses below 10.000.
Behind BNI in Analakely
Superbly stylish bar-restaurant, fancy modern place with a Malagasy touch – you could think to be in New York. The menu makes imaginative use of local ingredients. I like the Fois Gras Poelle for 15.000 (one o the best in town) and Fois Gras Pate, Crevettes and Cuissse de Nymphes (very juicy), all in the Ariary 12.000 to 18.000 range. Excellent presentation.
The wine list is dominated by French wine, in particular Bordeaux. On the first page of the wine list, they list 4 Bordeauxs at the Cru Bourgeois level for Ariary 300.000 to 400.000. The next page has about 25 mainly Bordeaux AC wines, starting at Ariary 45.000. Finally, the page vins du monde is dominated by South African wines, in the Ariary 40.000 to 70.000 range.
Isoraka, 22 611 40
L’Avenue in the Hotel Tana Plaza **
Unpretentious and good hotel restaurant. Not as chic and trendy as the Café de la Gare, which is just opposite.
Avenue de l’Independence, 22 218 65
La Boussole ***
The Compass - an attractive, lively bar-restaurant that could be in the South of France. Nice little patio allows for al-fresco lunch and dinner. A hang out place for young expatriates.
The restaurant serves mainly French brasserie-style dishes, while the bar whips out more prosaic snacks such as burgers and the like. Thus, a broad selection of dishes, from Hamburgers to Romazava to Zebu Steak and Foie Gras.
About 20 wines by the bottle, from Ariary 45.000 to 140.000. About half of the wines are from Bordeaux.
Isoraka, 22 358 10
La Brasserie in the Hotel de France **
A delightful brasserie in the Hôtel de France, serving good, traditional brasserie food. I like very much the Salade Niçoise there and the Steak frites. Nothing fancy, just good. Good wine list, dominated by French wine, but La Brasserie also has a Malagasy wine on the list.
Avenue de l’Independence, 22 213 04
La Rotonde (Hotel Gregoire) ***
Undoubtedly, the best place to eat fish in Tana. An institution, which has a bit of a problem to survive in light of the many new-wave restaurants. Paul Gregoire founded the bar Poker d’as in 1942, when Madagascar was still a French colony. Over time the place was enlarged with the addition of a hotel and 2 restaurants. It is now managed by the 3. generation of the Gregoire family.
I like the Ocean en Plateau for two people for Ariary 70.000 – Camaron, Crabe, Langouste, Crevettes, Calmares, Poisson fume, Huitres. They also serve fresh oysters from Mahajanga and Fort Dauphin.
The wine list includes French standards, but also 2 Malagasy wines – the Grand Cru d’Antsirabe and the Clos Malaza, both for Ariary 17.000 and as vins rouge, blanc, gris.
Besarety, 22 222 66.
La Tavern Colbert *****
Traditional French, classy restaurant with a lot of cloud and a long history. I have dined there with Ministers and Prime Ministers. When I arrived in 1989 in Antanarivo, it was the only place where you could eat in style. It has not changed much and still is one of the top spots.
Classy good traditional French food. This time I had Mi-cuit de fois gras frais maision for Ariary 22.500, Marmite de langoustine for Ariary 30.000 and an Tarte de la banana au rhum de Nosy Be for 14.500
Exceptional wine list. Grand selection of Bourgogne and Cote du Rhone wines, but also of Bordeauxs. Most wines are in the 6 digit level, with many wines costing more than Ariary 200.000. Wines start at Ariary 60.000.
Antananimena, 22 202 02
La Varangue *****
Currently the best address in Antananarivo. A true dining experience thanks to chef Lalaina Ravelomanana, but also to the elegant dining room and the lovely terrace, which overlooks the hotel’s charming garden. Nice, cosy separate bar with perhaps 20 perfumed rhums.
To get the full experience, choose the 7-courses menu Parfums et Saveurs for Ariary 125.000. Alternatively, the Medaillon de filet de zebu for 95.000 are exceptional. But most courses are in the Ariary 20.000 to 30.000 range. Last time, I started with risotto epice, then had the duo de filet d’agneau et faux filet and finished with banana, all for Ariary 69.000.
Two pages of wine. The wine list starts at Ariary 40.000 for Alsatian, South African and Bordeax wines and goes up to Ariary 500.000 for a Vosne Romanee. Most wines in the Ariary 70.000 to 170.000 range.
Antananimena, 22 2273 97
Le 313 (Hotel du Louvre) ***
A new hotel in Antananarivo for international business traveler. With the Colbert, Carlton, one of the three top business hotels in Antananarivo. French/international food for the clients of the hotel. Most courses are in the Ariary 9.000 to 15.000 range. For lunch, you can choose for Ariary 10.000 a burger, salad, or pizza plus un dessert and a soft drink. Limited, but good selection of mainly French and South African wines, mostly around Ariary 50.000.
Antananimena, 22 390 00
Le B’ ****
B stands for Buddha: A Balinese inspired restaurant with bar, lounge, dining room and a nice porch overlooking the city. A brand-new restaurant in Tana, clearly playing in the top league.
The menu is written on a blackboard and changes seasonally. Overall, a high quality French restaurant food with individual courses in the Ariary 13.000 to 20.000 range. Innovative and very stylish presentation of the food. The Chef used to work at the Pallisandre, one of Antananarivo’s 5 star restaurants.
Exceptionally large wine list with only French wines. Bordeaux as well as other regions are well represented. Wines start at around Ariary 60.000 and most bottles go for 6 digit prices, up to Ariary 400.000. We had a Bergerac for Ariary 60.000.
Isoraka, 26 340 49
Le Buffet du Jardin**
A simple indoor and outdoor brasserie, very popular with French expatriates, with reasonably priced brasserie food and ladies of the night waiting for clients. Centrally located, next to the Colbert and Louvre. One of the regulars there was former Prime Minster Guy Razanamasia, for after or pre-dinner Whiskey.
I never had dinner there, but like it for a quick lunch in the garden brasserie or an afternoon coffee.
Le Grand Orient **
Currently closed. A Chinese Malagasy restaurant that has been there for ages. Le Grand Orient could have been in Shangai in the 1930s. The time appears to have stood still. With piano music in the eving. The menu combines Chinese and Malagasy cooking. I have spent there many evenings with my Malagasy friends. Hope it will reopen and keep it therefore on the list.
Close to Railway station, 22 202 88
Le Grill du Rova ***
A charming restaurant on the hillside just below the Rova with a strong Malagay touch. The Sunday brunches with a traditional Malagasy band are very popular. Very nice setting with a terrace overlooking the city.
Limited, but interesting menu featuring French and Malagasy dishes. French starters are all for Ariary 10.000 and Main Courses are all for Ariary 12.000; the latter include brochettes de filet du zebu and magret de canard. I can recommend the Degustation de Plats Malgache for Ariary 25.000. Regular Malagasy courses are offered for Ariary 12.000.
The wine list is minuscule and not worth mentioning it.
Haute Ville below Rova, 22 017 17
Le Jean Laborde **
Cosy and small brasserie in the Hotel Jean Laborde with an extensive and basic brasserie menu. Nice bar area. Very limited selection of wines.
Isoraka, 22 330 45
Le Montparnasse ***
Very cosy, new French restaurant with a nice bar area. A small place with low ceilings right off the busy route circulaire in the Ampandrana Quartier of Tana.
Main courses in the 12000 to 15.000 range, mostly classic French cuisine, as the name of the restaurant already suggests. But they also have 5 Malagasy dishes, as the owner is married to a Malagasy.
The wine list is very limited, but not bad. About half a dozen wines are listed on a blackboard, with the list changing frequently as the owner indicated. The wines were in the 35.000 to 60.000 range. My daughter was impressed by the extensive spirit selection at the bar.
Across from the German Embassy, 32 07 848 03
Le Petit Verdot ***
The favorite of many French expatriates in Antananarivo, because of the very typical French bistro ambiance, the good food, the outstanding selection of French wines and the good price/quality ratio.
Typical French Bistro food with courses in the Ariary 9000 to 14.000 range. They also have a formule du midi for Ariary 9.000: Steak frites, dessert du jour, ballon de vin.
An exceptionally long wine list with about 100 wines by the bottle. Many of the wines are from the Bordeaux, ranging from simple AC wines up to the 2004 Brane-Cantenac for 220.000 and other wines in this category. But the rest of franc is also well represented, including the South West. 14 wines are served “en pot” – mainly from South Africa and France. 8 Malagasy wines by the bottle – Lazan I Betsilio and Cru de Malaz (white, red, grey, rose) – for Ariary 20.000 complete the impressive list. Overall, the wines seem to be very reasonably priced. Most wines are around Ariary 50.000.
Ambohijatova, 22 392 34
Le Relais Normand **
One of Antananarivo’s old-timers. Was over years one of my favorite places, but has been clearly crowded out by the new-wave restaurants. The new owner, a Chinese, has added a Chinese accent to the otherwise large brasserie menu.
Decent wine list, including the Clos Malaza as Rouge, Blanc, Gris for Ariary 17.000.
Tsaralalana, 22 207 88
Le Rossini ****
A top,fancy new-wave restaurant with a nice lounge and bar area. Live (pop) music every Friday and Saturday. Has a nice terrace on the second floor for lunch and dinner (in the summer).
Large selection of traditional French restaurant food, with most courses in the Ariary 12.000 to 17.000 range. I started with the Cuisses de nypmphes au provencal for Ariary 14.000 and had the Tornedos Rossini for Ariary 17.000 as main course. My daughter Cornelia believes it should even get 5 stars. What do you think?
Good selection of mostly French wines, ranging from a Corbiere for Ariary 50.000 to a Mondot St. Emilion for Ariary 450.000.
Isoraka, 22 342 44
Specializing on Tex Mex food and therefore popular with Americans. But the Algerian owner also serves excellent Couscous and other international dishes as well as pizza. The L’Indigo comprises bistro style indoor restaurant as well as a lovely garden restaurant. The wine list is very limited. Efficient WiFi in the garden restaurant. Will unfortunately close I understand. A big loss for the Americans in Tana!
Isoraka, 24 220 52
Lounge Art **
A nice place in the center of town with a patio for lunch.
Antsahavola, 22 612 42
Advertises itself as “un petit bout de l’Italie au Coeur de Tana – gourmandizes de la cuisine italienne”. Indeed, a typical Italian trattoria with an extensive Italian menu. A very high-quality restaurant in the Haute-Ville, with authentic specials, exquisite pasta, good wine and mock-Roman décor. It's probably the best Italian experience you'll have in Madagascar. Most courses are in the Ariary 20.000 range. Complemented by a list of about a dozen Italian wines. A large place for an Italian feast.
Ambatonakanga, 22 23118
O! Poivre in the Hotel de France ***
Hotel de France has a brasserie (Le Brasserie), see above, and a restaurant (O!Poivre), conveniently located on the Avenue de l’Independence. O!Poivre is a small restaurant serving typical French restaurant food. I like the crevettes au poivre vert. Very reliable cooking. I was a regular there, when I used to live in Tana.
34 Avenue de l’Independence, 22 213 04
O Sushi ***
Great Sushi place. The 2 South African Sushi chefs serve a range of popular sushis, like California Roll for Ariary 70000. Very stylish with red fabric, glass and metal.
The owner is French and this explains why O Sushi is a Sushi restaurant where very good French wines are served, in the Ariary 120.000 to 150.000 range. The wine list comprises 16 good wines.
Ambatonakanga, 034 31 890 34
Thai restaurant and music bar offering about 200 Thai courses in the Ariary 10.000 range. Typical Thai restaurant. You feel like in Bankog. I had the spicy seafood noddles. With Music bar. If you are up for Thai food in Antananariovo, this is the place to go.
The wine list is limited. No French wines, but Malagasy and South African wines.
Next to Le B’, 24 749 73
A new, classy, elegant hotel with a lot of Malagasy soul and tradition, overlooking the center of the city. One has a wonderful view from the terasse of the hotel. An oasis of peace, above the buzzing traffic of the Avenue d’Independence. A bit off the beaten track.
Excellent and great presentation. Filet de Zebu costs 20.000, as do most main courses. Traditional French cuisine and a number of Malagasy dishes. The Menu is in French and English.
A good selection of French wines and a few South African Wines – 28 in total, including the Clos Malaza as gris, rouge, rose et blanc, for 32.000. The red Bordeaux AC cost 80.000 and the Muscadet 70.000, again a bit higher priced than other four star restaurants.
Faravohitra, 22 605 60
Quatre 5 ***
A fancy, modern bar-restaurant with excellent French food and French wines. Very stylish. Presentation of the food is very sophisticated. Menu and wine list are handwritten on a blackboard. Most courses are in the 12.000 to 15.000 range. Wines are Ariary 60.000 and up. Has about 2 dozens of good and very good French wines on the list.
Ambatonakanga, 034 42 666 66
A rather new restaurant focusing on Malagasy cuisine only. I like the formule plat du jour for Ariary 4.000.
Isoraka, 22 319 27
I have seen the hotel growing from a small, intimate place to quite a large complex. The owner has acquired over the years various houses and has created a labyrinth and extremely charming patchwork hotel that doubles as a museum. In the evening, the restaurant is unusually smoky, reflecting the unconventional clientele; the Serge Gainsbourghs of the Malagasy tourists like to hang out there.
Picture: Sakamanga's Selection of Rums
Very good and reasonably priced food. I like the Brochette de Zebu for Ariary 10.000 and the Camerons Grilless du Canal de Mozambique for Ariary 37.000, the most expensive dish. In addition to good French and South African wines, the wine list carries a Malagasy wine, a Grand Cru d’Antsirabe.
Ampasamadinika, 22 358 09
A very basic place that has been there for many decades, where you can eat Chinese food for lunch or dinner in the Ariary 6000 to 9.000 range. A large selection of Chinese dishes.
Quiet place that serves good French Bistro amd creole food. Just around the corner of the KUDETA. From the outside, the red glow give Sucett's the air of a slightly seedy cabaret, but there's little of ill repute here: you'll find plenty of budget-conscious travellers and keen eaters tucking into the French and creole cuisine.
Isoraka, 22 322 27
A restaurant that you find in no guide. Few tourists or expatriates go there. I am one of the few. French and Malagasy food at budget prices in an environment that has in my view some class. Excellent wine list for Malagasy wines.
It has a two pages menu with one page Malagasy food and one page classical French bistro food. As for the former, I can recommend the Romazava for Ariary 7000. Most Malagasy dishes are in this price range. Last time, I had gambas grilles for Ariary 10.000 and my wife a pave de Zebu a la Sauce Roquefort, also for Ariary 10.000. We finished with Banane flambee for Ariary 3.500.
Picture: Gambas Grilles at Tsiky
The wine list is straightforward. No imported wine. Only local wine – Coteaux d’ Ambalavao and Cote de Fianar, red, white, gray and rose, in 0.75 and 0.375 bottles. The Coteaux d’Ambalavao is Ariary 11.000 in the 0.75 liter bottle and the Cote de Fianar Ariary 7.000. Both are produced by the Chinese Chan Fui et Fils.
My long-time Antananarivo favorite.
Analakely, 22 283 87
Villa Vanille ***
A classy establishment outside the centre in an old colonial villa, with a strong Malagasy component. There is nightly music performed by Malagasy bands and it has the best Malagasy wine list in town.
The cooking is somewhat eclectic, though as you'd expect from the name, the region's most famous and flavorsome orchid features heavily. Amazingly, a full page with different pizzas and a full page with couscous variations are accompanying a traditional French restaurant menu with such delicacies as Camerons a la Vanille (Ariary 50.000) and Langouste rouge grille (Ariary 50.000).
Importantly, is the only top restaurant in Antanarivo which features a good selction of Malagasy wine. Villa vanilla currently offers the Clos Malaza, the Lazan ‘I Betsilio and the Grand Cru de Antsirabe as Rouge, Blanc and Gris, by the glass and by the bottle (fro Ariary 22.000 the former two and Ariary 27.000 the latter). In addition, you can choose among a decent collection of French, Argentine and South African wines in the Ariary 40.000 to 90.000 range.
Antanimena, 22 205 15
Zebu Original Bistro ***
The restaurant is in the first floor of traditional Malagasy house, with a nice, small garden. As the name indicates, its speciality is Zebu steaks. Once every week, the offer the “formule”, which is a plat with Zebu steak a volonte, i.e. as much as you want, for Ariary 25.000. Otherwise, you can choose from a wide variety of typical Bistro dishes, in the 10.000 to 15.000 range. I finished the dinner with banana flambé for Ariary 5.000.
The crowd is tilted a bit more to non-French, English speaking visitors and residents than in other restaurants of this class.
The wine list is short and international; no Malagasy wines. Last time,we had an Argentinean wine for Ariary 35.000, which was appropriate as we ate with a long-timer Argentinian friend there.
Isoraka, 033 14 683 95