Posts tagged nairobi
5 Restaurants You MUST Visit in Nairobi

We spent a week in Nairobi and we were absolutely blown away by how extensive and diverse the culinary scene is. From the sausages on the streets to the fancier garden restaurants, Nairobi might be the most popping African city for for gastrophiles outside Johannesburg. Combine that with the weather and endless greenery, we're really suffering in Lagos


Dim Sum Burger

Dim Sum Burger

Perfect for late night eats, Brew Bistro is heaven if you love your beer. The Dim Sum burger, in particular, is excellent. The pulled pork on it is outrageous and it's easily the greediest thing you'll ever order in your life. Oh, if you're down to party, the DJ is pretty elite. 

thebigfivebreweries.com

 

Carnivore

Carnivore Menu

Carnivore Menu

Langata Rd, Nairobi, Kenya

+254 733 611608

Move over Fogo de Chao. If you're ready to "finish" yourself with all manner of meat, Carnivore is the move. It's on every Nairobi to-do list for good reason.

From safe choices like beef sausages to more exotic options like crocodile and ox balls, the odds of you tapping out after the second round of meat are very high. 

tamarind.co.ke/carnivore

 

 

 
Thai Red Curry with Pork Shank

Thai Red Curry with Pork Shank

As far as dining in Nairobi in concerned, Talisman is at the topmost of the top tier. They serve a combination of African, Asian, and European fare. The feta and coriander samosas are to die for while the Talisman Burger is probably the best burger you'll find at any upscale restaurant. 

thetalismanrestaurant.com

 
Pork Belly Ribs 

Pork Belly Ribs 

Marula Mercantile is one that slips under most radars, but it was one of our favorite spots in Nairobi. The space is super cozy and the menu is pretty "edgy". Perfect for brunch.

marulamercantile.com

 
Finga Lickin' Harissa Chicken Wings

Finga Lickin' Harissa Chicken Wings

Mama Rocks Gourmet Burgers

Argwings Kodhek Rd, Nairobi, Kenya

+254 705 155155

If you're going to only one place on this list, it should be Mama Rocks. And if you do, visit the location at the The Alchemist.

The African-inspired burgers are absolutely glorious. The burgers you MUST try:

  • Ushago.at
  • Sweet Mother
  • Mango Masai Mama

mamarocksburgers.com

 

 

 
Eat.Drink.Travel: Mama Rocks (Nairobi, Kenya)
 
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FOLLY: I alluded to the Mama Rocks over eating incident in our Talisman review on Monday but we really went overboard with this one. 

NOSA: Pureeeeee  gluttony. Mama Rocks is HIGHLY recommended if you're in Nairobi. It's on every list you're going to come across.

FOLLY: Between the 8 of us that went to Mama Rocks, we had 13 burgers. I believe that will tell you everything you need to know about the “over eating incident”. In addition to the 13 burgers, we also had sides - sweet potato fries, regular fries, and multiple portions of chicken wings. 

Oh, and the Alchemist Bar is in the same premises as Mama Rocks had a happy hour deal so naturally we helped ourselves.

Mama Rocks 3.jpg

FOLLY: Let’s just say that we were deprived after coming back from Diani Beach and so we went HAM. 

NOSA: The less said about Diani Beach, the better. The place is like a commercialized Zanzibar and that's not a good thing. It has none of village charm of Zanzibar and all of the goats. There's tons of alcohol, but the seafood is not as good. I'm getting stressed just thinking about Diani Beach again. 

Sigh. 

FOLLY: Between Nosa and I, we ordered:

  • Nollywood Suya: beef patty + red onions + nutty mayo + rocket
  • Mango Masi Mama: beef patty + chili mango mayo + orange cheddar + pickles 
  • Desmond Tutu: pulled pork + cheddar + rich mayo slaw
  • Ushoago.at:  goat patty + mint sauce + feta. 
L-R: Nollywood Suya, Mango Masai Mama, Flaming Desmond Tutu

L-R: Nollywood Suya, Mango Masai Mama, Flaming Desmond Tutu

NOLLYWOOD SUYA SAGA (W.Africa)
A prime cut paprika spiced beef patty, sautéed red onions, mama’s special honeyed-nutty mayo, rocket lettuce and homemade Only The Brave Hot Sauce.
Fries

Fries

FOLLY: If a Nigerian picked N50 from the road and was transformed into a burger (not yam this time), urban legend style, the Nollywood Suya Saga burger is what he/she would taste like. You know how Nigerians love stew? This was a stewy and peppery burger. The stew was so deep that it was like the patty had a thin red line through it like it was mixed with stew when it was formed.

NOSA: The Nollywood Suya burger tastes like what other Africans think Nigerian food tastes like. 

They're not wrong. 

FOLLY: I was disappointed that I had a very small helping of the nutty mayo because it only came through in one little section of the burger but my friend's burger had a more generous serving.

How cool are this shave down Ciroc bottles?   

How cool are this shave down Ciroc bottles?

 

NOSA: Before we get into the other burgers, do you know what was really great? The wings. 

FINGA LICKIN’ HARISSA CHICKEN (N.Africa)
Fall of the bone chicken wings smothered in Harissa – a unique blend of roast peppers, chilies, garlic, coriander and warm spices.

NOSA: Maybe it's because a lot of the stuff had been eating didn't have any "pepper" and it affected our taste buds, but EVERYONE in our group loved these wings. Absolutely delicious. 

FOLLY: A couple of my favorite food bloggers hype up Harissa as a spice blend and it's LIT.

Finga Lickin' Harissa Chicken

Finga Lickin' Harissa Chicken

NOSA: There are two types of burgers at Mama Rocks: African Style Gourmet Burgers and Sapeur Boutique Burgers. The gourmet burgers are their regular run-of-the-mill burgers (if you can even call them run-of-the-mill), while the boutique burgers are their burgers with a little more oomph. Because they have a little extra to them, you can get the boutique burgers as either full burgers or sliders. 

FOLLY: Also the burgers also represent different regions in Africa.

MANGO MASAI MAMA (E.Africa)
Prime cut beef patty, chili mango mayonnaise, orange cheddar cheese, mixed salad, homemade gherkins and a slice of sweet roasted red bell pepper.

NOSA: One burger you must try at Mama Rocks is the Mango Masai Mama. You're might not find mango flavored mayo anywhere else on earth so you might as well try it at Mama Rocks. On a serious note, I'm massive hater of fruits. Like, I absolutely detest them, but I loved this burger. It's messy as hell, but it's so so yum. The saltiness of the bacon and the sweet kick from the mango mayo form the most perfect union. 

DESMOND FLAMING TUTU (S.Africa)
Braai style pulled pork, beef patty, cheddar cheese, summery apple-sauce, and a rich mayo slaw. Add extra cheddar to turn this spark into a flame!

NOSA: Of all the burgers we tried, the Desmond Flaming Tutu was the one we could've probably skipped out on. Not saying it wasn't any good, because it was, but it wasn't worth being a glutton for. On its own, it's a solid burger, but compared to the others, it lacked a little something. 

FOLLY: So the summery apple-sauce had a tinge of pepper and ended up tasting like sweet fried stew - it was so tasty and I made everyone use it as a dipping sauce for their fries.

The GOAT

The GOAT

Now for the Ushago.at, a boutique burger, as always mint and feta is a VIBE, you can never go wrong with that. The goat patty also vibed well with the fillings to match the alte burger vibes. 

NOSA: Putting feta a burger, to me, represents a commitment to excellence. Like, you aren't here to play with anyone. Putting all your competitors on notice LOL. 

Jokes aside, the Ushago.at tastes like pure sex. After a tedious flight from Mombasa, this burger was the perfect welcome. 

USHAGO.AT (Kenya)
A homey mouth-watering goat patty, Maziwa Lala and mint sauce, refreshing kachumbari, skuma (Mama Style), crumbled feta cheese (and optional Mama Jane’s Green Chilli sauce).

FOLLY: The real shame that this was the last burger we tucked in to because I was already so full that I had to let Nosa eat most of it.

USHAGO.AT

USHAGO.AT

NOSA: Whatever your itinerary is, if you find yourself in Nairobi, you MUST stop by Mama Rocks. You'd be a fool not to. You can skip on the other places like Talisman and Thai Chi. Just do Mama Rocks. 


VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Ushago.AT - $11

Mango Masai Mama - $9.50

Nollywood Suya Saga - $8.50

Flaming Desmond Tutu - $11

Finga Lickin' Harissa Chicken - $6.50

 

RECOMMENDED DISH

Mango Masai Mama

Sweet Mother

Ushago.AT

Eat.Drink.Travel: Marula Mercantile (Nairobi, Kenya)
 

NOSA: This might be me jumping to hasty conclusions, but I think garden restaurants are a thing in Nairobi. Or maybe it's a thing with restaurants in the Karen area. The vibe at Marula Mercantile is so so similar to Talisman, which is in Karen also. I wonder why garden restaurants are not a thing in Lagos. It's the perfect setting for a Sunday brunch. 

Oh, wait. Nvm. I remember why. We have no greenery in a Lagos. 

FOLLY: Nairobi has really lovely greenery. I'm no expert but I believe it contributes to their cooler weather. In Lagos, we don't like nice (or green) things so we suffer.

Marula Mercantile wasn't in our original plan or radar. We spent the morning at the Giraffe Centre with friends and a friend's friend made the reservation for us to have lunch here. 

Marula Mercantile Nairobi-2.jpg

FOLLY: The service at Marula Mercantile pales in comparison to Talisman. The wait time was over 50 minutes and we were the only table in the restaurant - granted we were a party of 11 but with very similar.

NOSA: The wait staff were a bit distracted throughout our lunch.  

FOLLY: My drink of choice and the first cocktail I had in Nairobi was a simple Pimm's Cup. Pimms, Cucumber, ginger garnished with orange slices. Th drink was terribly fruity as one would expect, and I enjoyed it so much that I ended up ordering a second. 

NOSA: To start, we got the Nachos

Nachos

Nachos

FOLLY: It was like the nachos that we received had been sitting out for quite a while before being served. The tortilla chips, although good quality and homemade, tasted quite stale. The chili as you can likely tell from the pictures was dry, and the texture on the cheese was like it had melted a long time ago and had enough time on a countertop to thicken and cool down. 

NOSA: Cliff's Notes version - avoid the nachos. 

Loaded with 3-bean chili, cheese, guacamole, salsa and jalapenos

Loaded with 3-bean chili, cheese, guacamole, salsa and jalapenos

FOLLY: The tomato salsa did not make a bold enough appearance to give the nachos some moisture that it was desperately lacking. My friend who ordered the same thing shared all the same grievances as I had. Her assessment might be even harsher than mine. 

NOSA: For our main, we got the Pork Belly Ribs.

Pork Belly Ribs

Pork Belly Ribs

FOLLY: The ribs were the star of the show. The meat slid cleanly off the bone with the swipe of the back of a fork. I was certain that we all suffered so that the ribs would come out perfect. 

NOSA: The ribs were soooo righteous. We were told Kenyans take pride in their pork and we were definitely told no lies.

Up close

Up close

NOSA: The ribs were unbelievably tender and the serving was utterly ginormous. The portion wouldn't look out of place in a Flinstones episode. These might be the best ribs I've had all year, I kid you not. 

At $15, the ribs were definitely great value. That's about N5400 if you use N360 as your exchange rate. There's no way in hell you're getting ribs this good and portion this massive at that price in Lagos. NO WAY.

We're really suffering in Lagos, my God. 


Damage

Nachos - $7

Pork Belly Ribs - $15

 

 

Recommended Dish:

Pork Belly Ribs

Eat.Drink.Travel: The Talisman Restaurant (Nairobi, Kenya)
 
Thai is my ultimate favourite cuisine in THE world and if you’re a devoted EDL reader, you should know that.
— Folly

FOLLY: Before our trip to Nairobi, Nosa did a lot of research and compiled a list of restaurants that we were going to visit.

NOSA: Failure to plan is planning to fail... or something like that.

FOLLY: Two of my faves from his shortlist were Talisman and Thai Chi. Due to over eating at Mama Rocks, we didn't get to visit Thai Chi on this trip but there was no way I was letting Talisman slip out of my hands so I made it happen on our last night. 

NOSA: Talisman was definitely the one I was most looking forward to. I'd done a lot of reading on it so I was sufficiently pumped for it. 

FOLLY: Talisman is desribed as an "elegant Gastrolounge with an eclectic twist".

If you're like me that really doesn't meet anything to you.

Talisman Restaurant Karen Nairobi-4.jpg

However, from studying the menu, I gathered that Talisman weaves together African, Pan-Asian, Middle Eastern with a splash of Italian. Sounds all over the place but the Pan-Asian influences were the strongest. I really wanted to go all out and order a lot of things on the starter menu but I was trying to be conservative. 

Feta & Coriander Samosa .

Feta & Coriander Samosa.

FOLLY: The service at Talisman wasn't over the top but a lot better than anything you'd find in Lagos and the food preparation time was speedy. To start, we shared the Twice Cooked Pork Belly and Feta & Coriander Samosa.

NOSA: The samosas are definitely a "must order" item. They kept popping up in all the reviews I read and the whole thing was sealed for me when a local recommended we order it too. 

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

FOLLY: A running theme you'll see from the rest of our Nairobi reviews is that samosas are really popular in these parts and they do an amazing job making them. The bold and contrasting flavors of feta and coriander made a perfect pair.

Deep in the samosa

Deep in the samosa

NOSA: It absolutely didn't disappoint. Normally, I'd never go close to any vegetarian samosa, but this one is definitely worth the exception. I'm convinced when chefs add feta to anything, it's a serious declaration of intent. Like, they aren't trying to muck about at all. You're not finding this samosa in any small chops pack.

FOLLY: Throw the entire small chops pack away. 

NOSA: As impressive as the samosa was, the pork belly was even better. The thing was so goddamn spectacular. The marinade blew my mind completely. 

Thai Red Curry

Thai Red Curry

FOLLY: Choosing one main to try at Talisman was like choosing between children. I was dead set on the risotto before I arrived but I was swayed into ordering from the seasonal menu instead on arrival. My eventual choice was the Thai Red Curry with a pork shank (Aside: pork is very common on Nairobi).

NOSA: I went with the Talisman Burger as a phillistine. I really, really wanted the ostrich fillet, but the waiter told us that the ostrich farm had been shut down so it was taken off the menu. What a sad. 

Thai ed Curry  with a pork shank

Thai ed Curry with a pork shank

Pork shank

Pork shank

The Talisman Burger

The Talisman Burger

FOLLY: I wasn't expecting a measly portion but the sheer size of the shank(s) I received overwhelmed me. I didn't want a repeat of the Mama Rocks over eating incident, and I also wanted to leave room for dessert so I stopped myself after one piece. 

The way the potatoes were presented also surprised me. I was expecting potato chunks in the curry but the "noodles" contraption are actually the potatoes and soften when steeped in the curry.

NOSA: The pork shank was perfectly tender. I've never had pork in a curry so this was a pretty interesting experience too.

FOLLY: A warning on the portion size i.e serves two for the curry would most certainly have come in handy.

NOSA: If the burger looks overwhelming in the pictures, it was even overwhelming-er in person. 

Just look at it...

Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onion Rings, Gherkins, & Slaw

Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onion Rings, Gherkins, & Slaw

NOSA: The bun on the burger was a bit weak. No structural integrity and the thing kept falling over the place. Talisman more than made up for it with the patty though. I ordered mine medium and it came just as ordered. Burgers at up scale restaurants can be a bit boring because they shoot for the top ingredients at the expense of flavor. 

...sophistication can, at some level, cause degradation, what economists call “negative utility”.
— Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game. Allen Lane, 2018.

I won't lie, I fall for the jig at many an expensive restaurant. They charge a premium for the ingredients and the experience, but they forget the burger should actually taste like something the diner should want to eat again. The Talisman Burger, though, is unlike those. It ACTUALLY tastes really delicious and that is the only metric that really matters. 

Talisman Creme Brûlée

Talisman Creme Brûlée

FOLLY: I rounded things up with my favorite dessert of all time: Creme Brûlée. I wasn't too keen on Talisman's style of serving creme brûlée from the refrigerator because the sugar top was no longer crispy and crunchy (my favourite part) and was completely malleable to my spoon just like the custard. 


VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Feta & Coriander Samosa - $1.50 per piece

Twice Cooked Pork Belly - $10.50 

Talisman Beef Burger - $15.50

Thai Red Curry - $18.50

Creme Brûlée - $9.50

(You pay in Kenyan Shilling though)

 

RECOMMENDED DISHES

Feta & Coriander Samosa

Talisman Beef Burger

Eat.Drink.Nairobi: Welcome to Nairobi Week

Earlier in the year, at the Eat.Drink.Lagos staff retreat (i.e. Folly & Nosa’s vacation), we agreed that 2018 would be the year we expand our horizons a bit. Specifically, we wanted to do more travel posts because food and travel are so intertwined.

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We’ve done travel posts in the past, but not quite at the themed-week level. All week, we’ll be sharing the more popular spots in Nairobi, as well as Diani Beach, and giving them the “EDL Treatment”. Across all our platforms, it’ll be Nairobi’d out.

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Karibu! Welcome to Nairobi Week! Follow all Nairobi Week coverage HERE