Published by Angie. Last Updated on October 3, 2022.
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The Rock restaurant in Zanzibar, Tanzania, provides a unique dining experience like no other. Situated on top of a rocky outcropping adjacent to Pingwe beach, during high tide the restaurant appears to float in the water. During our recent visit to Zanzibar we knew we had to experience a meal at this restaurant.
While the experience itself was hit-or-miss due to small portions for the price and average service, we're still really glad to have visited this unique restaurant in Zanzibar!
The Rock is a Dining Experience from Start to Finish
We made a reservation for lunch prior to our vacation, which is recommended as the spots can fill up. We were staying on nearby Jambiani beach so we had our hotel arrange a taxi for us to the restaurant. The driver waited for us while we dined, which was nice but also added to the cost of the taxi.
We arrived about 30 minutes prior to our reservation so that we could walk the beach and take lots of photos. It was low tide when we arrived, so the water was out past the rock and the restaurant. This meant we could walk right up to the steps that lead to the restaurant without getting our feet wet.
The restaurant has both inside and outside seating. The outside seating includes tables that are perpendicular to the beach so you can see both the beach and the ocean, as well as lounge-style seating that is parallel to the beach but on the opposite side of the restaurant (so that you see more of the ocean rather than the beach). We were seated at a prime table perpendicular to the beach with expansive 180-degree views of the beach and the water.
We started with a few cocktails – a passionfruit mojito (which was tart and refreshing) and a pina colada (which was kind of watery and not boozy but still with strong flavors). We mulled over the seafood-focused appetizer menu and settled on the fish carpaccio and the You Spin Me Round octopus dish.
The fish carpaccio was served with coconut milk, lime juice, pili pili (local chili pepper), and olive oil. The thinly sliced fish had a very light coconut and lime flavor, allowing the fish flavor to come through.
The octopus was one of our favorite dishes of the meal- the octopus was grilled but still amazingly tender, served on top of creamy grits and topped with polenta triangles and a pesto-like sauce. If there was any downside, it would be that for its price the serving size was somewhat small.
Entrees at the Rock Were Hit or Miss
For our entrees, we tried the Butter Kisses dish which was super soft and fluffy gnocchi smothered in a vanilla butter sauce with a whole vanilla bean on top. The sauce wasn't sweet but floral, rich, and creamy. The whole dish was lovely and elegant, but much like the octopus do not expect a terribly large portion, either.
Our second entree, the Back in Black was a slight letdown by comparison- if only because Butter Kisses was so unique and delightful. This one had black rice with a basil cream sauce (or so the menu said, it was hard to detect any of this), chopped and sauteed prawn and squid, and blistered cherry tomatoes. The dish was severely underseasoned and needed more salt and aromatics all around, but apart from that still had rather unique flavor combinations.
We shared a dessert of passionfruit cheesecake which had a layer of sweet jelled passionfruit on top of a creamy layer that was more like a mousse than a cheesecake, on top of a crumbled graham layer. This one, much like everything else at The Rock, was also quite small but everyone in our party had a bite or two to enjoy the passionfruit layer above all others.
Throughout the meal, the service was also a bit slow and lacking. We found ourselves getting up to talk to our waiter several times, and when we ordered a round of beers with our entrees they simply never showed up at all. We likely would've stayed longer to enjoy a final round of drinks if service was better, but we opted to leave once we finished our dessert instead.
By the time we finished our meal, the tide was still coming in but quite high. The waves were somewhat intense so we decided against swimming or wading back and opted for the complimentary boat that picked us up from the bottom of the stairs and took us the short distance to the beach.
Probably the coolest thing about our whole experience at The Rock was seeing the change in tide. Although the beach wasn't as picturesque at low tide when we arrived, it was fun to walk right up to the restaurant while getting close-up photos. It was even more fascinating at high tide to get the iconic pictures of the restaurant “floating” as we were leaving lunch. While it would take a bit of luck to time your visit with the tides to get this same experience (we didn't plan for this one), it certainly was a highlight to see the tidal swing all the same.
Overall, although we were somewhat underwhelmed by the food and service at The Rock for the price, the atmosphere and views balanced out the experience such that we are still glad that we visited. This is a truly one-of-a-kind restaurant and certainly was a highlight of our visit to Zanzibar!
The Rock is located on Pingwe Beach in Zanzibar. It is recommended to make reservations significantly in advance as the restaurant is not terribly large.
About the Author: Angie is a contributing author. She has been to nearly 60 countries and seeks out the best restaurants, bars, bakeries, and other unique food items wherever she goes- often with her husband, Jeremy.