Instant Nescafé and road-side café Touba still dominate the meaning of coffee in Dakar, but with the emergence of boutique coffee shops and specialised breakfast cafés, that’s beginning to change.
Words like ‘brunch’ are popping up on menus, delicatessens are diversifying their offer and beachside restaurants are making more of an effort with their pre-midday offerings. They say it’s the most important meal of the day, so here are 10 places in Dakar that do breakfast really well.
For breakfast with a view look no further than Chez Fatou. One of the more upmarket restaurants stacked on Almadies’ Petite Corniche, Chez Fatou sits above the Atlantic waves with a vista of the surfers at Secret Spot, the Mamelles Lighthouse and the infamous Monument de Renaissance. In the foreground, Chez Fatou is tastefully decorated with carved wooden chairs, white parasols and light-panelled decking, while it also hosts an adjacent sunbathing area with steps down to the water’s edge. An all-day restaurant and relaxation spot, it opens daily at 8.30am to offer an All-American breakfast, freshly-brewed French presses (with free refills) and bagels, before moving on to a lunch menu at noon.
Recently refurbished, Le Cocotier occupies a more secluded section of the Petite Corniche and therefore competition for its prime tables is never normally a concern. Like Chez Fatou, Le Cocotier offers an American-style breakfast (although at nearly half the price) and Atlantic views, but its real selling point is its interior. Le Cocotier boasts a long, high work bench with high chairs and unobstructed views, making it ideal for the laptop-bringing breakfast set-up. It’s usually a quiet spot, making it a great place to work, eat and enjoy a sea view.
Situated off the Corniche road in Mermoz, Lulu describes itself as “an urban oasis to the multiples influences where serenity reigns and art lives”. Its walls are bedecked with African art, its home interior store with design furniture and its café with local photography. In particular, the latter is the closest to a New York-style co-working café that Dakar has to offer. During the week, its carved wooden tables prop up laptops and espressos. Its light and airy interior provides multiple sockets and decent wifi, while its courtyard makes for an al fresco dining area. When it comes to breakfast, Lulu takes from the freshly-squeezed orange juice, croissants, granola, berries and yoghurts school of thought, but unfortunately it’s not open on Sundays.
Ever walked into a delicatessen and thought ‘I want to eat everything in here’? Well, Le Comptoir (‘the counter’) is one such place. Although it’s one of the newest delis in Dakar, it has already made a name for itself as one of the best. Shelves are stacked with top-of-the-range Mediterranean produce (think olive oil bottles that are works of art) and its counters are laden with fine Italian cheeses, charcuterie and antipasti, which can be turned into the breakfast of your dreams. Fancy some mortadella and mozzarella on a toasted bagel? No problem. How about a truffle cheese and spiniata panini? Coming right up. Already a favourite with those working in nearby offices, it’s less than a two-minute walk from Virage beach – one of the two sand-break surfing spots in Dakar – and makes for a perfect pre- or post-surf spot.
Guests of the Djoloff Hotel are not the only ones able to take advantage of its rooftop breakfast. Rising high above Soumbedioune’s crescent bay – where the colourful pirogues of Dakar’s fisherman line up before plundering the Atlantic – the rooftop terrace of the Djoloff hotel offers magnificent views both outside and in. That’s because the Djoloff is worth visiting for the building alone. With its clay arches and interconnected wooden staircases, its planted-dotted walkways and art-lined mezzanines, its jazz cave and Victorian Orangery-topped roof terrace, the Djoloff architecture is certainly a sight to behold. Breakfast is a full buffet offering both hot and cold options for 6,500 West African CFA Franc (£8.50) and is open 7am-10am midweek, and 8am-11am on the weekend.
Café de Rome is a Dakar institution. A landmark in itself, it is nestled just off the Rue de la République between the imposing Cathedral and the even more imposing Presidential Palace. A hotel, casino and brasserie, Café de Rome describes itself as French with a Senegalese touch. The white table-clothed bistro, with its folded napkins, glass roof and wrought iron columns, could have been airlifted from 1920s Paris. The breakfast is of the French press, croissants, cheese and charcuterie kind.
Stepping foot into Café Melo is like walking into a Salvador Dali painting. Nestled in the dip between the Monument de Renaissance and the Mamelles Lighthouse and fitted with velvet armchairs, chandeliers, 1920s telephones and obscure oil paintings, its recent makeover has transformed Melo from a small pastry café to a luxurious patisserie-gelateria. Freshly-baked pastries, cakes or cookies are joined by the choice of an English, American or continental breakfast. If the thought of missing smashed avo and scrambled eggs while in Dakar fills you with dread, then fear no more. On Sundays, they serve brunch on a three-tier cake stand stacked with watermelon, charcuterie, cheese and croissants.
L’Epicerie comes in many guises: a wine bar, a boutique delicatessen, a gallery and top-of-the-range restaurant. It also offers the best take on a ‘Salon du Thé’ in Dakar. Taking the lift from the ground-floor shop, you emerge onto an idyllic, shaded rooftop terrace; a peaceful escape from the hustle of downtown offers deli-quality produce, prompt service and fancy teas. It exclusively serves teas from the 19th century Parisian tea company, Marriage Frères. Open during the week and on weekends from 9.30am, L’Epicerie serves both breakfast and brunch, but sharing boards, salads and sandwiches are also on offer.
Putting a fancy hotel chain on this list might seem like cheating – of course, the breakfast is going to be fantastic – but the Radisson Blu’s setting more than warrants its place on this list. Occupying its own private jut out from the Cap Vert Peninsula, the Radisson offers unblemished views of the Atlantic ocean and of the most extensive (and expensive) Sunday brunch buffets in the city. However, simply enjoy the view with a more reasonably-priced coffee and croissant, then come midweek and sit alongside the hotel’s infinity pool with Dakar’s suited and booted.
The clue is in the name. Mawa’s does diner breakfast like no other place in Dakar. From all star pancakes with a beef sausage patty to sunrise French toast with bacon strips, it’s very American. It even offers a Philly cheesesteak omelette, ‘blackened fish and grits’ and a ‘sausage gravy biscuit’. Having moved around Dakar, the latest incarnation of Mawa’s is set in a spacious, tree-filled courtyard in the backstreets of Ngor with the size of restaurant reflective of the size of the portions: when heading to Mawa’s, go on an empty stomach.
For those who like a less fancy approach to their first meal of the day, look out for local women in shacks with an array of large metal dishes. Normally found in more congested areas – think bus terminals and street markets – they offer plenty of sauces, dishes and fillings to spread into a baguette, such as niébé (lentil spiced beans), for as little as 200CFA (£0.27). Swish it down with some kinkeliba tea or sweet mint attaya. Alternatively, the typical Dakarois’ working breakfast involves a visit to the local street-corner boutique, where a baguette with mayonnaise, mashed hard-boiled egg and chilli sauce costs only 150CFA (£0.19).