Kenyan Dining: Amaica Restaurant, Nairobi

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When visiting Kenya, a lot of people are bound to ask where to find the finest Kenyan cuisine. And other than directing them to Ranalo’s, Mama Oliech’s or to my local kibanda, I often point them to Amaica Restaurant.

The restaurant is famous for making some of the best Kenyan cuisine as traditionally prepared.

Thursday the 12th of January was my birthday, and so we all trooped out to lunch to the new Amaica Restaurant on Peponi road, Westlands.

Driving there is always a pleasure, with the road lined with leafy green trees, and a calm ambience around. Once you get there, the parking lot and main outdoor seating overlooks a great view full of trees and greenery. The skies couldn’t have been bluer on that day, and it was a visual delight. The manager was pleasant as he ushered us in to our outdoor seating.

The restaurant itself is also well designed, with beautiful hand-crafted furniture varnished in a beautiful wood stain. The décor consists of simple traditional items such as calabashes, as well as some iron sculptures. Even the hand washbasins are well tucked into convenient corners. The indoors décor is a delight too, with the lampshade fashioned out of mwikos (cooking sticks) and a traditional xylophone sitting by the fireplace. Along the walls, the lampshades are made out of calabashes. A bar sits tucked into one corner across from an inviting lounge.

We got our drinks order, and some refreshing beer and juice was served, going down well on such a hot day. I was happy to have made the choice to go there, since I was dying to eat some authentic Kenyan cuisine. And so my disappointments started.

The menu was well listed with delightful foods. However, as we went down each item to order, we found out that most of the foods listed were not ready for serving that day. Our waitress had to keep going back and forth to the kitchen to see what was available. At the end of it all, we ended up with a beef dish, a chicken dish and a fish stew, served with rice, brown ugali and chapati.

 

The spinach soup that we wanted for a starter was unavailable, while the pork chops were tasty but tough to chew on – though I was so hungry, I chewed them if just to quiet my stomach. While the main course dishes looked pleasing to the eye, I found the chicken a tad bitter (maybe from the herbs used to prepare it?). The beef was served in a peanut stew (I did not recall that listed on the menu, so what about those allergic to nuts? Shouldn’t there be a warning/indication?), while the fish was bland to the taste. The rice and chapati weren’t so bad.

In the end, we ended up paying over Kes. 5,000/- for three meals that we didn’t eat. Did I mention that the promised 15 minutes of service ended up into 45 minutes?

The manager couldn’t do much to salvage the situation – maybe from the rules of his job. But we had to go down to his office to complain, he didn’t come out to meet us. In the end, we ended up learning that the kitchen was understaffed on that day. Maybe he should have warned us at the beginning, and that might have helped us understand before we ordered. Before we left though, we did run into the owner, a pleasant lady, who promised us better service next time. If we will be back, that is.

My recommendation:
Wait until the restaurant has established it’s routine. Compared to their city center branch, the Peponi road branch comes off as hastily opened before they were ready to cater to every request. In addition, maybe they should only serve the buffet only (which had been laid out early and looked good to eat) until they’re fully functional. I might be back in a few months.