- suzi May 7, 2006 04:33 PM
Requesting recommendations for great eats in Nairobi
There are plenty of good international restaurants in Nairobi, many of which are incredibly expensive by local standards, but just moderately overpriced for Westerners. If you are looking for a particular type of cuisine, it might make this reply easier, so for now I'll point out some of my favourite spots.
Meat is kind of the local specialty here, with "nyama choma" —no-frills, roast goat and beef, served with a pile of salt, and a tomato/onion salad—being the most popular variety.
If you don't mind sitting in a tin shack with cement floors, Njuguna's on Waiyaki Way is a good choice. They really focus on the meat, to the exclusion of any decor or ambiance.
Olepolo's is a bit further outside the city, but is meant to give the real experience of a traditional rural nyama choma feast.
For slightly more upscale carnivory, try the Cellar in Hurlingham. Not actually a cellar at all, it's a pleasantly rustic place with a large balcony and glowing coal stoves at each table. The emphasis here is on steaks, mixed grills, and they even do decent fajitas.
If you are really interested in gourmet dining, you should head for the Tamarind (downtown, just off of Haile Selassie Blvd.) or the Fairview Hotel (across from the Israeli embassy). The Tamarind is probably better rated by pure foodie snobs, but the Fairview has about five restaurants, including a sushi bar, and an underground wine cellar where you can peruse the collection while sipping pre-prandial bevvies.
For more ethnic fare, again the choice is wide. Meditteraneo, at Nakumatt Junction on Ngong Rd., is one of the best bets for Italian, while Hurlingham's Osterian and Acapulco in Westlands (yes, they also do some mexican) aren't too shabby either. Most of my Italian friends find the pizza's at Acapulco to be the only acceptable facsimile in Nairobi.
For Indian, there are literally hundreds of choices, especially in the ethnic-Asian enclaves of Westlands and Parklands. In the former, try Open House for very authentic flavours. Or if your into a slightly more decor-heavy, and somewhat westernized tastes try Nandi's in the Westland's mall.
If your on a budget, but still craving curries, chapatis and the like, brave the jostling touts of the kiosks at Diamond Plaza in Parklands. Choose a menu from the ten being thrust in your face and hope for the best!
I have yet to have a really great Chinese meal in Nairobi, an despite a growing number of Chinese business-people in town, don't know if I ever will! Not bad was Panda, on Mama Ngina street, downtown.
For Japanese there are some well-appointed, Korean-owned options like Misono (in Hurlingham) and Furusato (behind the Sarit Centre, Westlands). Both focus on flashy teppanyaki, but do decent sushi and a smattering of Korean dishes like bibimbap.
The only authentically Japanese-owned spot is the slightly shabby and overpriced Nihonjin Club, also in Hurlingham. They do have the widest selection by far though, and you can sit in the lounge watching Japanese NHK TV and browsing manga comics.
For middle-eastern fare, the only one I've tried—and loved—was the Cedars restaurant on Lenana Road. The Lebanese-owned place does a great variety of those small dishes and salads that go wonderfully with pita: babaghanouj, foul, hommous, dolmades and the like.
Decent pub-fare has been somewhat lacking in Nairobi until very recently. Most people will suggest the swanky Mecury (ABC Plaza in Westlands). Owned by the guys who brought us the life-saving Java Houses that are all over the city now, this place has great decor and DJs, but the food (they call it Tapas) is slightly hit-and-miss. Taste all the sauces before you slather them on anything!
A more recent, and to me better, addition is Sierra, a microbrewery/pub/restaurant in a converted warehouse on Mombasa Road. This is the only place in Nairobi where you can get home-brewed blondes, ales and ambers, but the pub snacks and most of the meals are well worth the trip out towards the airport. Prices are not unreasonable either.