Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Rakotoson Herintsoa Dany, Directeur, at Tsiky Restaurant
Generally, one can eat exceptionally well in Antananarivo, at very, very reasonable prices. When it comes to wine, you definitely find a very good selection of mainly French and South African wines in virtually all restaurants. Regrettably, many of these restaurants do not serve Malagasy wine, although Madagascar produces its own wine. Of course, the Malagasy wines are no grand cru wines, but wines which I think can compete with the vin de maison you would get in a typical Bistro in France.
However, there are exceptions – restaurants in Antanananariov, where you can eat well and enjoy Malagasy wine. Following a short summary of food and wine in Madagascar, you will find my 11 recommendations.
Food and Wine in Madagascar
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.
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.
Christian G.E.Schiller’s Private List of Restaurants in Antananarivo That Serve Malagasy Wine
All these restaurants also appear on my comprehensive list of Antananarivo’s restaurants, which I released on November 3, 2010 on Schiller Wine. I rated the Antananarivo restaurants from 1 to 5 stars. Generally, you have to go below the 4 and 5 stars level in order to be served Malagasy wine with your French and/or Malagasy food.
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.
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. Just one Malagasy wine, but in a nice setting.
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, Ambalavao, 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
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.
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.
Avenue de l’Independence, 22 202 60
La Brasserie (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 (just one) 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. The Grand Cru d”Antsirabe is currently the best Malagasy wine on the market.
Besarety, 22 222 66.
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 France 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 Malaza (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
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 Ariary 32.000.
Faravohitra, 22 605 60
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.
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, the best wine Madagascar currently makes.
Ampasamadinika, 22 358 09
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.
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 (for 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
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