Sunday, May 17, 2009

Avoid Nairobbery, enjoy the Green City in the Sun

Over the years, Nairobi has been referred to by different nicknames. Once hailed as the '(Green) City in the Sun', our Kenyan capital has increasingly been depicted over the past decade or so as reeling under violent crime where crooks with weapons - some only toys but frighteningly realistic - roam with impunity. But I have the impression Nairobi may be regaining the lost image of the 'Green City in the Sun'. And there are a few simple things we can all do and a few tips and tricks we can follow to avoid Nairobbery, and to enjoy the Green City in the Sun. The first part of my post is focused on avoiding Nairobbery, the second part deals with taking full advantage of the Green City in the Sun.

Part I: Avoid Nairobbery

Nairobi is sometimes regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in Africa. Carjackings, snatchings, muggings and violent robberies seem to be happening on a daily basis. Based on several sources, your favorite blog Rafiki Kenya has now identified some of the most dangerous spots in Nairobi where organized crime (especially mugging and robbery) is rampant. Most criminals target unsuspecting pedestrians. Please fasten your wallets and enjoy your flight:
  • Haile Selassie Avenue - Moi Avenue roundabout: mostly from 6 pm.
  • Globe Cinema roundabout (especially near Kirinyaga Road junction): anytime of the day/night.
  • River Road junction with Accra and Ronald Ngala street: anytime of the day/night.
  • Area around Latema Road and River Road: mainly petty theft during the day, no-go area at night.
  • Tom Mboya Street at Ambassador Hotel and junction of Accra and Ronald Ngala Street: mostly from 4.30 pm.
  • Most parts of Mfangano Street: anytime of the day/night.
  • Area between Serena Hotel to Kenyatta Avenue roundabout: Mostly early in the morning and from 5 pm.
  • Uhuru park: to be avoided after 5 pm (on working days), tends to accumulate all kinds of dodgy characters.
  • Mbagathi Way footbridge: from 6 pm.
  • Museum Hill and Casino: don't walk there at night.
In general, the Central Business District (CBD) is trouble-free as long as you use a bit of common sense.

Part II: Enjoy the Green City in the Sun

Get out, catch the breeze or the sun, read a book, grab a coffee or a beer, or even a meal, at these nice places to eat and drink with outside terraces or gardens (in random order):

Nyama choma (roast meat)
  • There are several good places to have nyama choma including Kariakor Market, Dagoretti Corner, City Hawkers Market, and Olepolos Country Club on Magadi Rd with excellent views.
Coffee shops
Nairobi CBD (Central Business District)
  • Thorn Tree Cafe (Stanley): Great outdoor terrace; very pleasant place to sit; nice fruit juices; food not extraordinary. A complete review by Biche is available here
  • Pool Deck (Stanley): Varied buffets; rooftop restaurant.
  • Simmers: Lively open air bar; good meat; live music.
Gigiri, Muthaiga, Runda
  • Food court (Village Market): Outdoor food court; average food, but excellent ice-cream at Arlecchino.
  • Epic (Tribe, Village Market): Innovative continental cuisine with African fusion; paved outdoor area.
  • La Dolce Vita (Muthaiga Mini Market): Quiet terrace; good selection of Italian wines; excellent pizza oven.
  • Cafe des Arts (UN Avenue): Includes a green garden with three banda's and a few tables on the lawn for a sunny afternoon lunch or a romantic outside dinner.
  • Tamambo Tapas Bar (Village Market): Delicious and original cocktails and bitings; nice outdoor terrace; good live performances. 
Parklands / Westlands / Spring Valley / Loresho
  • Oasis Restaurant (Holiday Inn): By the pool; snacks and international and African buffet.
  • Gazebo Banda (Jacaranda): Always good for a bite or a drink; beautiful gardens around.
  • Pizza Garden (Jacaranda): Better-than-average pizzas; small playground.
  • Pool Bar (Jacaranda): Snacks and drinks in the open air.
  • Amani Garden Café: Lovely café offering light lunches and cakes, outside seating, play area for the kids. The garden offers customers a haven of peace where they can enjoy a calm and tranquil setting. Added advantage of supporting a good cause.
  • Le Rustique: Outdoor tables under large umbrellas; beautiful garden; open air creperie; mediterranean cuisine; playground.
  • Gypsy's: Bar with good burgers; always popular; paved terrace with streetview.
  • Zen Garden (Lower Kabete Rd): Asian restaurant with Chinese, Thai and Japanese food.
  • About Thyme: Excellent menu which changes weekly; plenty of tables outside.
Karen / Langata
  • Jolly Roger Theme Park and Restaurant: Adults can relax outside in the shady comfort of the Jolly Roger Restaurant while the kids have a great time in the playground.
  • Simba Saloon: Nice coffees; big playground for the kids; Carnivore food.
  • Rusty Nail: Beautiful terrace/garden; huge steaks; charming, romantic ambience according to some.
  • Karen Blixen Coffee Garden: Lovely setting; spacious outdoor garden full of birds; international menu.
  • Talisman: Lovely garden and patio to sit outside, with heaters when cold; varied menu; food is great. Full review by Biche here.
  • Rangers (Nairobi National Park main gate): Nice Twiga and Oryx terraces; wooden viewing deck; international cuisine.  
Lavington / Hurlingham
  • Mediterraneo (Junction): Italian cuisine; cozy ambience; nice terrace upstairs. Full review by Biche available here and a more recent review by pourkygourmand here.
  • For You: Excellent Chinese restaurant with nice Chinese lanterns on the outside; huge garden.
  • Osteria del Chianto: Excellent Italian food served in a lovely garden with bonfires and small lamps everywhere.
  • Hong's Bakery (next to Yaya): Outside terrace, grass; swing for kids; cake, bread and goodies for sale; nice snacks. The Chicken Teriyaki comes recommended by Peperuka.
  • Chez l'Ami: Odd combination of French and Japanese cuisine; good sushi; garden.
  • Sippers (Argwings Kodek Rd): Nice outdoor patio and tables; good music; nightlife venue; the roast goat comes highly recommended.
Milimani / Upper Hill
  • Flame Tree (Panafric): Has an outdoor section; decent coffee and juices.
  • Pool Garden (Panafric): Mainly barbeque and buffet lunches.
  • Mandhari (Serena): Al-fresco dining on the terrace; excellent international and fusion cuisine. 
  • Pool Bar (Serena): Good snacks; relaxed atmosphere.
  • Cafe Maghreb (Serena): Original moroccan cuisine; possibility of al-fresco dining.
  • Mukutan Garden Café (Fairview): good coffees and cakes as well as light meals such as gourmet sandwiches, pizzas and quesadillas; tranquil green setting; wireless Internet available. 
  • Pwani Pool Restaurant (Fairview): International cuisine in a casual environment by the pool.
A bit out of town
  • Cafe Kigwa (Safari Park): Mostly buffet-style; always busy on Sundays for brunch/lunch.
  • Olepolos Country Club (Magadi Rd): good nyama choma; excellent views.

The above list is by no means complete or exhaustive. But these places have all been checked out by your dear Rafiki and can be recommended (although some more than others). Most of them have websites nowadays, so please click through for more info. Please feel free to add you own and comment, and I'll update the list. Let's enjoy the Green City in the Sun!


Porky Gourmand said...

Great post... great food guide, i'll eat my way through it.

jke said...

Great summary, bookmarked it!

overalatte said...

Nice summary Rafiki. Never been to one of the places you've mentioned so looking forward to something new. Thanks!

misswretched said...

I agree, great post! Yet to visit some of the spots but will definitely be doing so soon :)

Tamaku said...

We sometimes forget what rich and varied choices Nairobi has to offer. On this list I personally found Epic to be outstanding. Thanks for the guide!

Tamtam said...

Great post, lots of places you mentioned that I haven't eaten at yet. Definitely will visit them on my next trip home.

My diet will go out the window, thanks to you,lol.

Mama said...

Rafiki, thanks for this list.

I'll be lurking around here for sometime to see people's recommendations.

kachwanya said...

Definitely i will avoid the Nairobbery and enjoy. Good to read something nice about our great city

Our Kid said...

Nice one.

Anonymous said...

Nice post,

I'll add another:
Check out Zen Garden on Lower Kabete Road every Friday Nights!


Peperuka said...

Nice post Rafiki !

Next to Yaya Center, you could always try Hong's Bakery. Outside terrasse, grass, swing for kids, cake, bread and goodies for sale and nice snack. I recommend the Chicken Teriyaki

Biche said...

Hi Rafiki,

Great extensive list! Thanks for compiling this. If I were in Nairobi today, I would just systematically start going through this from beginning to end. There a couple of places on the list that I have never been to nor heard of. I am looking forward to trying those out as soon as I get back to Nai.

I agree with Peperuka, Hong's Bakery is a great place to catch some sun and enjoy some green. Also, you reminded me of Mukutan Garden Café, which I LOVE but hadn't thought of in a while.

Thanks for sharing!


nuttycow said...

Great list! said...

great stuff! i love this post. i hereby declare you the authoritative guide to nairobi.

i didnt spot it on the list - i'd like to add blanco's restaurant in timau plaza for fabulous african food in trendy afro-chic ambience.

Rafiki said...

Thank you all for your very positive reactions here and on Twitter, your links, and your RT's. Much appreciated.

@ Porky Gourmand: You are welcome, it's my pleasure. Looking forward to read more about your experiences.

@ jke: Good idea, I'll do that myself as well.

@ overalatte: I am also looking forward to something new, so please surprise me.

@ misswretched: Super, please tell us your experiences.

@ Tamaku: We are very lucky indeed, and Epic is a nice addition to the scene.

@ Tamtam: Another reason to visit home rather sooner than later.

@ Mama: Keep on lurking!

@ kachwanya: Yes, let's be optimistic.

@ Our Kid: Thanks my friend.

@ anonymous: Good tip. Added.

@ peperuka: Added Hong's Bakery.

@ Biche: Please come back soon.

@ nuttycow: Asante.

@ Blanco's is extraordinary indeed, but I didn't put it on this list since I think it has no outdoor space, which was a minimum requirement to make it to this list. Correct me if I am wrong on this.

Ben Byerly said...

Thanks for compiling this list.

I've pasted a copy into my laptop for when I have guests or am trying to brainstorm about a family outing.

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