Courtyard Restaurant in Botswana is a Unique Experience in Cuisine and Culture
Next time you’re in Gaborone, Botswana, stop by the charming Courtyard Restaurant, which features delicious traditional Setswana cuisine. Aptly named, the restaurant is indeed in an open courtyard, right next to shopper’s delight Botswanacraft.
While one can find traditional food on the streets, Courtyard Restaurant is a classy open-air restaurant, ideal for an exotic family vacation meal, fun date, or a casual business meeting. This place is, of course, a must-see for tourists, but local regulars frequent the restaurant as well. Breakfast is served until 12 p.m., then the main menu from 12 p.m. until closing, so I recommend coming in the afternoon for the most variety of traditional food. Food is served quickly, with excellent service by staff, and you can watch them cook outside in the courtyard kitchen. The ambience is full of charm, from the colorful patterned tablecloths to the rhino statue in the gardens. I was quite unfamiliar with the Setswana dish names, but the staff was more than happy to explain each dish.
As there are more cattle than humans in Botswana, it’s no surprise that beef is the main featured item and most popular dish ordered. Don’t miss the seswaa (the Botswana national dish made of beef stews for hours before being shredded and pounded) or the delicious fried beef. Both meat dishes are served in petite potjies, a traditional cast-iron three-legged pot.
For the sides accompanying the main dishes, try rape vegetables with peanut butter and peanuts (Mma D’s morogo) or wild African spinach with tomato paste base (morogo wa Setswana). No African meal is complete without starch; out of the many places I’ve tried throughout Botswana, Courtyard Restaurant’s maize (sampu setampa) is the best I’ve had, with the perfect texture and amount of salt. The ground maize porridge (pap), maize meal (phaletšhe) or sorghum porridge (bogobe jwa lerotse borjibe jwa) are other great options.
Other dishes include oxtail with steamed bread, guinea fowl pot (ka stew kana e apeilwe Setswana) and goat (seswaa sa pudi). Alas, I did not have the stomach space it try them all, but it just means Courtyard Restaurant requires a return visit!
Courtyard Restaurant offers a wide variety of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. One local told me tea is more popular than coffee in Botswana, so try their famous five roses tea or rooibos (bush) tea, an herbal tea found throughout Southern Africa. One can’t leave Botswana without tasting the ever-popular Savannah cider, which comes in light, dry, and dark – with the medium dry being my favorite. They have plenty of fruit juices – I particularly enjoyed the freshly squeezed apple and carrot – and they also serve Liqui Fruit juice, a popular brand based in South Africa.
Finally, after the restaurant’s generous portions, take a stroll through Botswanacraft next door, which features fair-trade African crafts like baskets, pottery, woven items, and jewelry. This is by far the best place to buy elegant, quality souvenirs for home.
If you’re in Gaborone for only one meal, make sure you reserve a few hours for Courtyard Restaurant and Botswanacraft to get a true culinary and cultural experience.
For more on Natalie's time in Africa, check out her blog.