I eat out a lot. After sampling a reasonable share of restaurants in Nairobi, I believe I know my way around some of Nairobi’s best eating joints. Here’s my list you can try out after COVID. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
The Library Lounge
The Library Lounge is on the second floor of the new wing at Sarit Center in Westlands. It is literally fashioned like a library. From the décor, menu, bill box and yes, real books, it is not your typical Nairobi eating place. Where else can you have a meal in Nairobi surrounded by books!
The space constraint did not limit a creative mind somewhere from conjuring up a masterpiece here. The yellow hexagonal cubicles shaped like honeycombs placed side by side are the highlight of the place. They can sit two.
Every effort has been made to stir up your reading culture at The Library. Even going through the food and drinks menu feels like flipping through the pages of an ancient book. When your bill arrives, it comes inside a flip box fashioned like a book! If you do not have a reading culture, this place might do a number on you. While you can get the usual food items, be adventurous and explore things like The Novel, a concoction of cucumber, mint, and orange juice.
Price Guide: [KES 170-1,090PP]
The Collective Restaurant
The Collective Restaurant, on the ground floor of View Park Towers along Utalii Street in the CBD, provides Nairobians with an experience beyond food. While most modern restaurants in Nairobi nowadays integrate art in their interior decor, The Collective has taken the concept a notch higher. Every art piece hanging on this restaurant’s walls is on sale! So you can quickly finish your food and go home with your purchased treasure.
With its post-COVID-19 reopening, a lot has changed. The live band is gone, social distancing has shrunk its space, but quality and class remain – only significantly cheaper! You now get to enjoy the same unequalled experience at much-reduced rates (apparently, they shall stay that way!). Try their Hydrabad Mutton Biryani with a massive serving of Vanilla shake. You will find it quite an unusual journey for your taste buds!
Price Guide: [KES 70-900PP]
Few restaurants in Nairobi do Italian. Attibassi Coffee on the ground floor of the stylish 195M Britam Tower along Hospital Road in UpperHill is the brainchild of two Italian confectioners, Agostino Atti and Marco Bassi (hence the name Attibassi).
Founded in 1918 in the historically rich city of Bologna, in northern Italy, Attibassi has grown from a coffee roaster, roasting coffee for the world’s biggest coffee brands, to a restaurant chain serving a wide range of Italian cuisine from pasta to intricate meals.
With its touch of black and brown broken by traces of white here and there, the ambience makes it an ideal place to spend an afternoon or evening surrounded by one of the highest concentrations of skyscrapers in Kenya.
On the day of my visit, a serving of fish curry with mashed potatoes and an accompaniment of spinach and Dawa sounded like an excellent way to spend a Thursday afternoon. By the way, make sure you have a QR Code reading app installed on your phone. You will need it to scan the QR code on your table to access the restaurant menu!
Price Guide: [KES 250-1,290PP]
The Mayura Restaurant
Overlooking an artificial lakeside on the ground floor of The Hub Karen is The Mayura Restaurant. This eatery, which is themed after the Peacock, the Indian national bird, serves a traditional classic Indian menu with a modern fusion.
Its website says it is the first theme-based restaurant in Kenya, which means its idea prioritises food. In other words, the experience rests in the architecture, music, and overall restaurant “feel”. The food takes a back seat.
That does not mean anything is left to chance when it comes to conjuring up those colourful, fiery Indian cuisines that raise your body temperature well above COVID-19 thresholds and then leaves you gasping for more. Take the fish tikka masala, which is served with a generous portion of butter naan, for instance.
It is a delectable journey of flavours as each herbal ingredient registers a hint of its presence in your taste buds. If you are into Dawa (which you should, notably since it is rumoured to keep the COVID-19 demons at bay), your Indian trip comes to a spectacular hot finale.
Price Guide: [KES 100-2,000PP]
The DJC Kitchen sits on the ground floor of Emperor Plaza along Koinange Street. A Chinese restaurant with a rustic and comfy feel, its name, a little bird divulges, is derived from a particular mysterious Chinese food. The food is so secret that that is all the bird can say!
Serving Pan-Asian cuisine, which means a blend of African and Asian, DJC brings the eastern fast-food concept to Nairobi. It then weaves the Kenyan touch into it. The end result is a unique and fresh food perspective Nairobi has not known for a while.
DJC’s founder Zhao Jian has thrown in an extra twist with his build-your-own-bowl approach. This means you can craft your meal with your choice of proteins, greens and a sauce. Your protein can come from chicken, beef, fish, shrimp. You have five varieties of greens drawn from Chinese cabbage, baby corn, oyster mushroom, and Daikon, among others. Your choice of sauce can either be teriyaki, sweet and sour, Asian BBQ or yellow curry. Add a topping of your choice from the provided selection, and you have your very own masterpiece.
The DJC can easily catch on if they can consider slightly increasing the portions. On the day I visited, the lamb play looked sparingly too little.
Price Guide: [KES 170-1,050PP]
Shop 504 at the new wing of the Village Market along Limuru Road belongs to RocoMamas. This South African franchise launched in Kenya in 2017. It has quickly become a household name because of its smash burgers, wings and shakes.
But RocoMamas does not only serve burgers and shakes. On the menu is an assortment of meaty options, including arguably the softest pork and beef ribs in town. These can be served with fries which come in small, medium and large sizes. The cheese fries with bacon take your taste buds on a culinary roller coaster thrill ride – truly amazing!
The shakes come in a variety of flavours, so you are spoilt for choice. They are a bit too icy for comfort. The paper straws, while understandably eco-friendly, tend to crash and disintegrate in your mouth halfway through the creamy journey.
Overall, the place provides a great family option to build up energy reserves. Especially if the objective of being at the Village Market is to indulge in a game of bowling.
Price Guide: [KES 600-2,500PP]
The latest Artcaffe in town is located on the ground floor of the iconic Westminster House. Along Kenyatta Avenue, it is Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) flagship and largest eatery yet as the American company makes a come back to Nairobi’s CBD.
In a move that reveals its rustic, ancient, artsy side, Artcaffe’s new location is a 91-year-old National Monument. The three-floor building with its balustraded balconies previously housed the Ecobank. Before that, many years ago, when it was first built in 1928, it served as a lodging for colonial administrators.
Try out their new signature chocolate pastry. Or you could explore their new meatball sandwich. It has got to be the first of its kind in town. Definitely one of those restaurants in Nairobi worth exploring.
Price Guide: [KES 170-1,950PP]
Bridges Organic Restaurant
Do you usually know how many kilocalories you are taking when you order a meal in a restaurant? Did you, for instance, know that the daily kilocalorie requirement for men and women is 2,500 and 2,000 Kcal, respectively? Well, now you can, at the Bridges Organic Restaurant. Located on the ground floor of the Trust Mansion Building along Tubman Road in Nairobi’s CBD, Bridges has a thing for everything natural.
The restaurant whips an assortment of meals that are as organic as its name. Each menu item has this extra piece of information you hardly see in any other restaurant – its calorific value. That is not all – the restaurant has a resident nutritionist on standby for your nutritional curiosities.
Bridges is Kilimohai certified, which means it has met the highest standards in producing and processing organically grown foods. Put another way, the food on your plate is free of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, insecticides, antibiotics, hormones or GMOs.
On the day I visited, a 696 Kcal portion of organic fish fillet in coconut sauce served with white ugali (you can opt for brown) and spinach sounded like a good plan. I washed it all down with a glass of ‘the Cleaner’, a blend of carrots and beetroot, which added another 237 Kcal.
Folks at Bridges like to say that eating at the restaurant is not only a winning move for you but also a win for the small scale organic farmers. The farmers supply the menu ingredients. It is also a win for the environment!
Price Guide: [KES 100-980PP]
Valley Coffee Shake
Valley Coffee Shake sits on the third floor of Yala Towers along the famous Biashara Street. Right in the heart of the CBD, it is one of those restaurants in Nairobi that offers excellent views of the ever-changing city skyline. With an amazingly spacious outdoor sitting area on the balcony, iconic buildings like the Trust Mansions and Cianda House are easily visible.
Suppose you cast your eyes a bit further. In that case, you will also see the infamous Chester House. KANU, an influential political party in Kenya until the early 2000s, still believes Chester Housed harboured people and events that marked the beginning of its downfall. Posta House and the uniquely built I&M building are also visible. With some luck, you may even get a visit from the local birdlife. The birds come to try their luck with your food!
With a wide menu range, Valley Coffee offers relatively affordable meals for its class. You may not enjoy the luxury of its WiFi at the balcony because here, the signal gets weaker, but you will enjoy good food, ample space and some quiet, particularly on weekends.
Price Guide: [KES 100-850PP]
Beirut Restaurant, opposite Jamia Mosque in the Nairobi CBD, serves a predominantly Indo-Arab cuisine. You can also get continental meals here. The best sitting location is the balcony. Here you get splendid elevated views of the famous Mosque and the equally legendary McMillan Memorial Library.
A hive of activities as Muslim faithful answer to the muezzin’s calls for the 1 o’clock prayers, Jamia is fascinating. Merchants outside the Mosque, busy themselves arranging their wares. From exotic Arabian perfumes to spiritual items and eatables, they add extra colour and variety.
The McMillan library, just next, takes you back close to a century. Back then, the larger than life figure of Sir McMillan still roamed the streets of Nairobi in colonial Kenya. An iconic building, it is one of the gazetted national monuments.
Try the Arabic Kebab served with naan bread and an interesting pink sauce made from pomegranates. Wash that down with a mug of Dawa, and your weekend starts well.
Price Guide: [KES 70-1,920PP]
The new Kilimanjaro Jamia, opposite the Jamia Mosque, offers two floors of seating space and balcony areas, making it perhaps the biggest Kilimanjaro yet. Tastefully finished in Moroccan/Arab-type decor, the Kilimanjaro Jamia started off on the slightly shaky ground.
The Kilimanjaro brand has been rising. Its hearty Somali and Swahili dishes have become popular among a new generation of adventurous Kenyans boldly seeking out new food cultures.
Once the newborn syndrome wears out, and WiFi is working, the restaurant promises to be, perhaps, the next most significant meeting point for Nairobians.
Price Guide: [KES 110-830PP]
The SQ Restaurant (also the K-Square Grill) sits on the Karen Square Building’s ground floor, along Langata Road in upmarket Karen. The restaurant prides itself on its affordable and healthy menu overflowing with a rich assortment of traditional African dishes.
The ambience at SQ quickly reminds you of the popular Charlie’s Restaurant in the CBD now closed – only smaller. The green carpet, which gives the feeling of walking on grass, especially stands out.
On my visit, I tried a dish of dry-fried Matumbo served with white Ugali. A thick tomato gravy topped this culinary African journey. I washed everything down with a cleansing concoction of Carrot and Beetroot which made saying, “Hakuna Matata” rather easy. If only they had their own washrooms! That should not keep you from checking it out, though.
Price Guide: [KES 50-500PP]
So there you have it. My ultimate list of restaurants in Nairobi worth trying out after COVID is behind us. Let me know your thoughts, including some more ideas you might have. Feel free to also stop by our Instagram page for more restaurant reviews. Stay safe.