Restaurants & Bars

Dining in Nairobi - An Overview

AmarV | Jun 13, 200702:19 PM     52


I just posted this in reply to another thread and though it might be useful to repost as a seperate topic for anyone who might interested in the future.

I was born and brought up in Nairobi and while I've been away at school for a year or so now the list below should be pretty up to date. I am terrible at remembering addresses so you may have to use some initiative to find these places - most will be listed in the local edition of the Yellow Pages, or just ask a good taxi driver.

One point worth making is that the list below is by no means comprehensive as Nairobi is chock full of restaurants with new ones opening (and old ones closing) every week.

Finally, I'll give fair warning that many of my favourite places are more upscale and expensive by Kenyan standards - but in US money they'll be pretty cheap.

Happy Eating!!

Java House
This is a local chain of coffee shop / cafes very popular with both locals and members of the ex-pat community. They have a number of different locations and serve an excellent selection of coffees, teas, sandwiches, burgers etc. My personal favourite there is the fish and chips.

Another coffee shop chain with a good menu which is slightly less cafe-ish than Java House. Again they have a number of locations through out the city.

A restaurant / bar chain owned by a white Kenyan called Bell (Kengele in kiswahili) which is slightly more down market and is very popular with locals. The food is pretty standard but it's a good standby for cheap eats and a cold one or two.

Probably the best Indian food in town (Kenya has a relatively large population of people from the sub-continent). Located in a shopping mall called 'The Mall' in Westlands, which is restaurant and bar central. I haven't eaten here much as, being of Indian descent myself, we tend to cook this kind of food at home.

Open House
Again located in Westlands. This is a relative new comer to the scene serving very authentic Indian food and is very popular with the Asian African (as we call ourselves) community.

Hashmi Pan House
Located in a mall known as UK Centre also in Westlands. Excellent tandoori food that tasty and cheap! Try the ice-cream too and, if you're adventurous, pan - betel nut, spices and various other tasty things wrapped in a betel nut leaf (a traditional digestif on the sub-continent)

Diamond Plaza
This mall in Highridge is a little slice of India in Africa. As well as various stores selling everything from saris to incense there are a number of little restaurants serving Indian food and street snacks - try dropping by one afternoon for a cold glass of passion juice and some maru bhajia (potato slices deep-fried in spice gram (garbanzo) flour).

There are a number of chinese restaurants in Nairobi but most (if not all of them) cater to the local palette and aren't as authentic as places here in the US or in the UK.

Hong Kong
Located downtown near the Nairobi Safari Club (aka Lillian Towers) this is probably Nairobi's oldest Chinese restaurant and one my parents used to take me to when I was a kid. Still popular with businessmen and women as a venue for a working lunch.

China Jiang-Hsu
Probably the most authentic Chinese in town and one which was popular with our family when it first opened although I haven't been there in a while. Located in Westlands in Soin Arcade.

Also, there's a new Chinese trade centre that's opened in an area called Hurlimgham which I haven't been too but which apparently has a good food court.

Siam Thai
The best of Nairobi's two Thai restaurants is located in Rank Xerox House in Westlands. A bit pricey by local standards but I love the food here - especially the spicy fried prawns (shrimp) and the date pancake with vanilla ice-cream for desert.

My favourite of Nairobi's numerous sushi joints. Conveniently located in Westlands a little behind the Sarit Centre (Nairobi's biggest mall). Try the 'dynamite roll'.

Again this can be found in Westlands (on Raphta Rd). My friends like it but I tend to stick with Furusato. They also have a small outpost at "The Village Market" a mall out near the US Embassy and UN HQ in Gigiri which also has an excellent food court that's great over the weekend as a place to hang out and people watch.

Located downtown at the Six-Eighty hotel (I think) this is another strong Japanese venue which is popular with businessmen for lunch - they're bento box is pretty good value.

There are a number of excellent Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi all of which are fairly hole-in-the-wall-y and cheap, cheap, cheap. My favourite is located on Arwhings-Kodhek Rd in Hurlingham just after the junction of Elgeyo-Marakwet (if you're coming from Lavington). I can;t remember the name but it's located in a converted house and has a big sign outside the gate - if you have local guide, or a decent taxi driver they should be able to find it.

There are a number of good italian restaurants around the city - but I can't remember any of their names! There's one in Westlands next to a place called China Plate (in a strip mall) that I like going to. Look out also for Mediterraneo another old favourite in Westlands.

Alan Bobbe's Bistro
Sadly Alan Bobbe passed away recently but the restaurant has been taken over by his long-term partner Christian who pretty much ran it for the last few years anyway and who is doing a great job of keeping the flag flying at one of Nairobi's best, oldest, and well-known restuarants. Located downtown on Koinange St.

Ibis Grill
The restuarant at the Norfolk hotel has a an excellent reputation and on the one or two occassions I've been there I've always enjoyed the food though the atmosphere can be a bit lacking at times as it isn't always busy - more about the price than the food

Kenya's best seafood. Ideally you want to go to the Tamarind in Mombasa, which sits on a small cliff overlooking the ocean (or even spend a night on the Tamarind dhow enjoying your meal as you sail down the Mtwapa creek) but if you can't get there then make sure you make it to the Nairobi branch. It's great!

There are a number of other fine restaurants you could try many of them located at the finer hotels but these are my favourites.

NYAMA CHOMA (Roast Meat)
Nyama choma (NC) is Kenya's answer to BBQ. This could truly be called the national cuisine. There are hundreds of places to try this out ranging from special NC nights at fancy hotels to any number of little dives and shacks across the country. You go in order meat (normally goat or beef by the kilo) and wait for it to be served with a number of local side dishes; sukuma wiki (sauteed greens), ugali (maize-flour cooked into a stiff and sticky porridge), irio (mashed pumkins, potatoes, and corn), and kachumbari (a local salsa of onions, tomatoes, lime, and chilli).

I like to go to a place in the Kariakor Market which my dad first took me to (he's been going there for 40 years!) but I wouldn't be able to explain to you how to get there. Your best bet is to ask somebody local and get them to go with you - if you offer to buy them lunch they're bound to take you somewhere good! :-)

The Carnivore
Without a doubt Kenya's most famous restaurant. Located on the outskirts of town this is essentially (although don't try telling Kenyan's this) an African take of a Brazilian churasciria complete with a local cocktail based on caiphirinias- 'The Dawa' (medicine in kiswahili). Popular with tourist and locals alike it's an all you can eat affair with meat taking centre stage (I think they have some veggie options but then again maybe not!). If you want to check this out I suggest either going at lunch-time or, if you're up for making a night of it, a Saturday night after which you can head into the adjacent disco and try to dance off the calories!

The Village Market Food Court
Located in Gigiri and a great place to grab a bite to eat. This is where my friends and I go on a Sunday afternoon to sit in the sun, eat, and drink.

Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens
Located in the old neighbourhood of Karen (named after the late author Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen of "Out of Africa' fame) this is a lovely little place to grab afternoon tea or a simple lunch.

The Rusty Nail
Another Karen stalwart this is popular with many of the locals in the area (mostly of European descent) and while I haven't eaten there the bar is a great place to throw down a few and the food is meant to be good too.

A very popular bar/restaurant in Westlands which served surprisingly good food. The fish piri-piri here is a particular favourite of mine (grilled fish in a hot sauce). A good place for a working lunch in Westlands but also for dinner before drinking the night away downstairs.

A popular nightspot in Hurlingham (though I can't remember the address) that does fabulous cocktails (or at least used too)

Mercury Lounge
Located in ABC Plaza in Lavington this is probably the best cocktail bar in Nairobi and serves excellent tapas style small plates. It's expensive by local standards but packed with a young and hip crowd of locals and ex-pats.

The Outside Inn
Located in Karen this pub is a great place for Sunday brunch over a few beers especially if there's a rugby/soccer game being shown on TV.

I'm sure I could think of more given time but I'm sure this will keep you busy and full!!


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