Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Nothing in Nairobi



The warm Saturday sunlight is certainly doing a poor job of motivating me to run later in the day. Hanging out in one of my favourite cafes with friends and sangria, I stop and marvel at just how awesome my life is. Stepping back from my thoughts, I tune back into what one of my friends is saying. 

"Yeah, I've been living in Kenya about two months, but I really haven't done much or visited many places!" 

The rest of us all nod in agreement as we chime in with talk of how fast time is passing, how little there is to do, how difficult it is to find (and motivate ourselves to participate in) things to do outside of dancing/drinking/eating/working. Blah blah blah... you know the drill. 

Slowly, we trail off as we realise our friend is still speaking about how much she hasn't been able to do since she got to Kenya. 

"I mean, one weekend we travelled to Uganda, and did some rafting there. Another weekend, I went camping to Naivasha, and then we did skydiving in Diani the week after. Went biking in Hells Gate last weekend... but yeah, other than that, really haven't been anywhere!"

She pauses expectantly, waiting for us to agree. It takes us a while to articulate the fact that the "little" she has done in two months is more than many Kenyans do in a year!

Does this sound familiar to any of you? 

While the above situation may be a little embellished, it's definitely got elements of conversations that I've had with friends and coworkers, and I'm pretty sure that my situation is not unique.

Is it true that there is 'nothing to do' if you live in Nairobi? Not at all, as is shown to us time and again by foreigners living here. Rather, we tend to take all that this city (/country/region) has to offer for granted, and we settle in to our comfort zones. Laziness definitely adds to the equation.

However, I don't think that this is a uniquely Kenyan thing. Many people I know who live in other cities/ countries don't fully take advantage of them until they really get to see things from the perspective of tourists.

What am I getting at? Personally, I'm trying to stop being lazy and take advantage of all that Kenya has to offer: from little things like weekly Zumba to going to fun events within the city skydiving in Diani. And of course, I'll write about them!

What do I want from you? Let me know about activities you've tried out or would love to try out in Nairobi (or in Kenya), places you've visited or are planning to, and I'll do my best to get them on here!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

About Thyme Review: Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017

How could Nairobi Restaurant Week have come and gone without my traditional About Thyme visit? Thankfully, my current team also loves the place, and we decided to grab dinner there on Wednesday night. 

I was a little surprised (and some coworkers a little disappointed) the restaurant didn't do their regular menu during NRW - don't quite remember how it happened last year - but I think at the end we all agreed it was worth it! 

I will apologise in advance for the pictures, as it was a little dark and I'm a little hesitant using flash photography at dinner time. I also forgot to take a picture of the menu, so this screenshot will have to do. 


All the restaurants who did dinner for NRW2017 had the same complimentary cocktails, so this time around, I decided to go for the Absolut Mule - and it was great!! I wish I'd chosen this earlier too. With vodka, ginger beer and fresh lime juice, it was perfectly light and refreshing - exactly the drink that the summer night inspired. 

My choices this dinner shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone - for starters, I chose the sweet potato, butternut and ginger soup. And yes, it was even more delicious than it sounds! The only thing I didn't like about this was that the salt was on the lower side. What may come as a surprise to those of you who know me is that I tried a bite of the tuna tartar that my coworker ordered - and I really liked it!! I like sushi, but for some reason the thought of tartar (and especially tuna) has always terrified me. However, the avocado, lime and soy sauce made it seem more bearable, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste. It was smooth and creamy and a perfect, melt in your mouth blend of flavours. 

Tuna tartar with avocado

Next up? The pepper steak, of course. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting the amaretti tortellini, but after some deliberation (coughpeerpressurecough), decided to go for some steak instead - and it was an excellent choice. 

As I've undoubtedly mentioned before, I'm a steak heathen. When asked how I like my steak, my answer will always be something along the lines of "so well done it's almost burnt. Make sure it's all the way dead, please." And yes, it's always a source of disappointment to those around me. When most people envision steak well-done, they think of tough, chewy leather. Absolutely not the case here. About Thyme's pepper steak, even well done, was perfectly soft and juicy, and all the flavours blended together really well! The dish didn't even need the potatoes on the side. The onion rings on top and the vegetables on the side (which were fresh and crispy and perfect) complemented it beautifully. The pepper sauce was rich and creamy, with the subtlety of thyme really hitting it home. Definitely a ten out of ten on this one - even better than steak I've had in some of Nairobi's famous restaurants who're famed for it! My coworker, who was initially apprehensive about ordering the steak, pretty much had love hearts erupting out of his eyes every time he took a bite of his.  

 What I also liked is that this portion of steak was a LOT more manageable than their regular portions, which I quite appreciated.


The picture absolutely doesn't do the steak justice!
The sticky date pudding sounded too good to pass up, so despite how full I already was by this stage, I managed to do a good job with it. It was really good, and the toffee sauce/ ice cream mixture was DIVINE. The pudding was a little sweeter than I expected, but not sickeningly so. 

My coworkers tried the peanut butter ice cream pie (verdict? GOOD!) and the crème brûlée. From what they told me, the latter could have been a little more brûlée and a little less crème. Perhaps a shallower dish would've helped!

Peanut butter ice cream pie


Sticky date pudding


Crème brûlée

Overall verdict? I think About Thyme was my favourite out of the restaurants I visited this NRW! Which one did you like best?


Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Arbor Review: Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017

Yes, I know, I did just review the Arbor in December. However, I find that it's always helpful to revisit a restaurant and see how the standards are across time - and I also think that sometimes it's a good idea to review the restaurant without warning them in advance!

As the Young Women Social Entrepreneurs (Nairobi) board, we decided to grab a Saturday lunch at the Arbor. Two birds, one stone and all that. Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017's lunches went for 950 Ksh. for two courses.


Those of you who read my previous review will remember how much I loved their mulled wine. This time around, I ordered sangria (regular menu) - but not before I begged them to add mulled wine to their regular menu. Valentine's Day specials, anyone? I did like the sangria - it was fresh and fruity, but I think it could've done better with a spicier red wine. (Or maybe I was pining over the mulled wine... #notsosubtlehint)


The next time I go, I'd love to try the chilli mango juice. Doesn't it look (and sound) amazing? On another note, I feel incredibly fortunate to live in Kenya where amazing fruit is in season pretty much the whole year. I remember speaking to someone back in Sewanee who mentioned that they'd never had a real mango before. I was flabbergasted!! 


For my two courses, I decided to do the crispy herbed wedges with a chicken Arbor wrap. Others around the table chose other items, like the pie tee and chicken pad thai, the Arbor salad and lamb Arbor wrap, the Arbor salad and siciliana pasta, and the Arbor salad with teriyaki pasta. 


Can we take a moment to appreciate the beauty of those wedges? They were delicious!! The seasoning was perfect, they were fresh and crisp, and went perfectly with the dipping sauce they came with. Definitely something I'll order again, and it also reinforces something I learnt back in December - the Arbor is one of those rare Nairobi restaurants that actually makes potatoes exciting. 




The chicken wrap was also really good - fresh, and I loved how well it went with the aioli! Personally I'd have preferred less onions, but I was able to yank them out as I wished. My friend who ordered the lamb wrap really liked it too. The lamb was soft, and the sauce, gherkins, cheese and olives complemented it well. I didn't try the side salad, but she did, and didn't like it too much. 

Pie tee - nice and crunchy, and went very well with the sauces.

The Arbor salad (huge portion for an appetiser!!) with garlic bread. I gave the salad a miss but tried the garlic bread and it was to DIE for. Can they have that as a standalone item on the menu please?

Teriyaki pasta with chicken. I definitely need to order this the next time I go! It had a nice sesame ginger flavour, with soy and honey in the background. 
Overall verdict: Great job by the Arbor! I'm already in love with the space, and their food is proving to be amazing every time I go, so that's a plus. Only two things to complain about this time - the service was a little bit slow (there was a significant wait between appetisers and the main meal), and when we ordered the sorbet for dessert, the raspberry was significantly less than the vanilla ice cream - not the case when I visited in December. 

For those of you who haven't been to the Arbor yet - take advantage of this lovely weather and head over for a weekend lunch!! 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ventana Review: Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017

The first Friday of Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017 found my mum, my sister and I at Ventana on Lower Kabete Road, celebrating a "Dhawan women's night out". I'd been there before early last year, and I'd enjoyed my experience, so I was eager to try it again. The NRW 2017 three course menu for dinner and a cocktail was 1,950 Ksh. per person, which was a pretty good deal. 



For my cocktail, I chose to have a Chivas Collins - Chivas, lemonade and soda water with apple slices. To be honest, I wasn't the hugest fan of this one. The Chivas taste came through almost harshly, but it did have a pleasant aftertaste. Apple gummy bears, if I'm being honest! The presentation could've been better too - the regular supermarket straw slightly dampened my enthusiasm for the drink.



For my first course, I chose the chicken tortilla soup. Given the name, I was expecting some sort of creamy, Tex-Mex goodness. I was definitely surprised when I got something reminiscent of an Indian curry! There was fenugreek, tomatoes, green onions, corn, avocado and tortilla chips. I quite liked it, although I would have made a slight change - add the tortilla chips later on so that they remained crunchy. 

Yes, all three of us started with the soup. Runs in the family, some might say!
For the main meal, my sister and I settled on the sesame chicken, while our mum went for the tikka chicken. The presentation of both of these was quite lovely. The only weird thing was that the restaurant forgot to give a spoon for the tikka until prompted. 

The sesame chicken had a lovely flavour, although I detected more honey, soy and pepper than sesame. The spice level was perfect too! Unfortunately, I think the chicken was a wee bit overcooked, as it was a little bit tough - as was the rice. 

The tikka chicken was a pleasant surprise. It had a creamy tomato base, and was not overpoweringly spicy. Different than tikka chicken in most Nairobi restaurants, but different in a nice way. 

Tikka chicken with naan and rice

Sesame chicken with rice

For the dessert, we decided to get one of each and share - a sticky toffee pudding, the molten chocolate cake and a sorbet. 

This was EASILY my favourite course of the meal!! The sticky toffee pudding was amazing, and I need to return for it. While the molten chocolate cake wasn't exactly... well, molten... it was still good, and not sickeningly sweet. Perhaps a different name would have served the dish better? The sorbet was delightfully refreshing on the warm January night, and unless I'm very much mistaken, was a mix of strawberry and tree tomato. 




Overall experience? The service was fast and friendly, and the ambience was nice too. The food could've been better overall, though. I'm willing to give it another shot for the food - as I said earlier, I've been to Ventana once before, and loved what I ordered then.

Have any of you been to Ventana yet? If so, what was your experience?

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