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Dine Online visits The Gambia
Living it up at The Coconut Residence!

Editor's note: Dine Online visited the Gambia with The Gambia Experience. We were based at a package hotel called the Kombo Beach, but we also stayed at the more exciting Ngala Lodge, as well as visiting the Coconut Residence where we had dinner and were given a tour of the hotel.

New found acquaintances at the Kombo Beach, on hearing our enthusiastic comments about our stay at Ngala Lodge, were quick to recommend us to the Coconut Residence. This small but luxurious hotel is sometimes overlooked on account of its being a little removed from the beach, but what it lacks by way of waterfront it gains in so many other ways. In fact it has its own beach club for those who must have sand and sea, which is only a few minutes away.

The Hotel is set in gardens which are spectacularly lush and grand. Immediately you enter the main building there is an air of timeless elegance, tinged with eloquent hints of former colonial grandeur that British and American visitors particularly seem to find captivating. The dining area is gracious, and the terrace overlooking the pool was a delightful place in which to dine. There's also a rather tent-like library and sitting room.

Dining Room

After dinner we strolled around the grounds and the late evening air was heavy with night scented flowers. Some of the suites are in the form of garden villas, where you can be pavilioned in splendour with your own private pool as well as the services of a butler and maid. At the Coconut Residence such gracious living comes at an affordable price: a week's half board in January (one of the best times of the year to visit the Gambia) starts from £848 and this includes your flight.

Half board entitles the guest to the full a la carte menu, the only supplement being 200 Delasis (about £7) for the lobster. The cooking here is unquestionably the most refined in the Gambia, so if an eclectic modern style with attractive presentation is what grabs you gastronomically, then you'll love the Coconut Residence. The French chef is David Echasseriau, and in a varied career he has been chef at the Royal Pavilion in Barbados and at Midsummer House in Cambridge. The hotel is owned and operated by a charming Anglo Moroccan family whose sophisticated sense of style is reflected in every detail. We were looked after most attentively by their English educated son; his pride and joy is the cellar whose glass wall forms an attractive feature in the main dining room.

After an amuse  of a delicately flavoured espresso of vegetable bouillon, we were brought a pair of artfully arranged starters.  I don't know if I'd ever get tired of those amazing Gambian prawns - big in both size and flavour. These were large and succulent, and were presented on a bed of mushrooms with delicious little quenelles of butternut squash. A crunchy squid salad was piled high on a julienne of carrots with plenty of good hot rocket. Dressings were citrus infused and enhanced the appearance of each dish as much as its flavour. As the plates were cleared away I remarked on the intensity of the rocket leaves and was delighted to be told that all the principal herbs and many of the vegetables and fruits are grown in the hotel's own kitchen garden.

We continued with fish - it seems the obvious choice here in the Gambia - although if I had been staying longer I'd have tried the meat dishes which sounded pretty interesting. I wasn't too sure about "Beef Liver" - I forgot to ask if this was a mistranslation and if it really meant calves' liver! A generous wedge of Barracuda had been marinated with spice infused Soy and was roasted so that the texture was fine but still moist and flaky. There was a timbale of perfectly cooked rice. I had seared tuna, a huge portion arranged like a starfish. Although well cooked on the outside and softly pink inside, the sheer quantity of cracked pepper it had been coated with tended to overpower the delicate flavour of such beautifully fresh fish. 

The selection of desserts truly revealed the classic French origins of the chef! A banana parfait with banana ice cream was a contrast of textures, enhanced by some tangy orange confit that set it off perfectly. I thought the assiette de citron was very special. The tarte au citron had fabulous crunchy pate sucre base with a really eggy filling and the variations on lemon ice added a refreshing note. these were desserts that would pass muster anywhere. There is an interesting selection of wines at reasonable prices unless you insist on the Margaux of course!

The cost of your meal - prices given in Delassis, (34 to the £ in February 2003, but mostly going down in value relative to hard currencies)
Starters 80 - 120 D, Mains 130 - 150D, (filet of beef 185D, lobster 350D) puds all 60D

Clifford Mould  - March 2003

The Coconut Residence, Kerr Serign, 
PO BOX 3160 Serrekunda, The Gambia, W.Africa
Tel: 00220 - 463377/99 email:

Complete tours can be booked via the Gambia Experience  
email:  Tel: 023 8073 0888

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