Malawi’s cities offer a good choice of dining options, many of which are found in the big hotels and resorts. Haute cuisine, Chinese, Korean, and European restaurants can be enjoyed, all of which utilize fresh poultry, fruit, vegetables, and dairy products of this agricultural land. Malawi’s local specialty is the tilapia from Lake Malawi, and the basic culinary staple is maize. Beer and gin are locally produced making them flavorful and inexpensive. In regards to nightlife, there’s very little available in the Western-style, and what's there is linked to restaurants in the upscale hotels and a smattering of bars in Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Bars and Pubbing in Malawi
Lilongwe’s Old Town is a limited nightlife haunt for the city’s locals, expats and visitors, with the area around the large street market home to bottle stores selling alcohol and playing loud music until late at night. Harry’s Bar (Mandala Road, Lilongwe Old Town) is open all day and half the night, and is a good stop for a burger and beer or energetic evening.
Another lively watering hole is the Africana Hotel (off Independence Drive, Lilongwe), with its large outdoor patio crammed with government officials and office workers. Younger expats and upscale Malawians mix and mingle at Legends (Onions Road, Lilongwe), a bar/ club with a good selection of African and Western music. The expat haven of Goodfellows Pub (Armitage Road, Old Town, Lilongwe), has a huge wooden bar, pool table and good selection of local beers.
Nightlife in Blantyre is similar to that of Lilongwe, with the expat community’s favorite spots welcoming visitors to the city. Chimwewe (Mount Soche Hotel, Blantyre), advertises itself as a restaurant, but is more a bar serving reasonably priced food against a backdrop of slot machines and loud music. In the same hotel is the Sportsman’s Bar, a favorite with the business crowd and other movers and shakers. The Garden Terrace (Mount Soche Hotel, Blantyre) is prettier and quieter if you're looking to unwind. Just to prove there’s life beyond a certain hotel, the Blue Elephant, (city center, Blantyre) is the city’s most popular pub and features live music Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Dining and Cuisine in Malawi
Lilongwe has the best selection of food in Malawi, with fine dining attracting the diplomatic set and high-rollers. As with the city’s bars and pubs, the most popular foodie stops are in the Old Town area, with Don Brioni’s Bistro (Mandala Road, Lilongwe) known for its quality cuisine and attentive hosts. Pasta-lovers flock to Mamma Mia’s (Old Town Mall, Lilongwe), run by an Italian family that serves the best Mediterranean in town. For authentic Indian curries, Blue Ginger (Old Town, Lilongwe) offers the best of Indian cuisine at upscale prices.
For an intriguing mix of Chinese food and karaoke in supposedly soundproofed private rooms, Green Bamboo Garden (across from the Lilongwe Hotel), is well worth a visit. For fast food with a unique difference, Café Delight (Old Town area 4, Lilongwe), serves Lebanese and Indian dishes including samosas, shawarma and curries at great prices in a basic atmosphere, while the Golden Peacock Restaurant (Lister Ave, Lilongwe) offers huge, tender beefsteaks for a ridiculously low price.
Blantyre is Malawi’s commercial hub, with all the usual upscale chain hotels. A hidden gem is Alem Ethiopian Restaurant (Victoria Avenue, Blantyre) serving authentically tasty Ethiopian cuisine and great coffee, while 21 Grill on Hanover (Protea Hotel, Blantyre) is a swanky joint offering seafood and steaks to a background of piano music. The best Indian curries originate at Bombay Palace, (Hanover Ave, Blantyre), and combine fresh, lightly-spiced dishes with a stylish décor.