Move over London, move over New York: Nairobi’s multicultural restaurant scene is attracting cutting-edge, globe-traveling culinary talent. Kenya’s bustling capital is already renowned for its innovative fashion designers, stunning landscapes and tea and coffee trade, but it should also be recognized for its fast-growing foodie culture. From slow-cooked Indian BBQ to sushi with a view, here are the ten best spots to eat in Nairobi.
This family-run Indian BBQ joint is located within Nairobi’s ever-popular mall, Nakumatt Ukay. Undoubtedly considered the best BBQ in Nairobi by much of its hungry following, Hashmi’sboasts a divine take on Indian BBQ. Must-try dishes include the chooza chicken with chooza sauce; the fish tikka eaten with fiery poussin chips, and the khima chapatti served with a generous helping of garden salad. The food is deliciously spicy and not recommended for the fainthearted. With simple interiors and affordable dishes, it’s no surprise that Hashmi’s is always heaving. Expect queues during weekends.
Located in picturesque Karen, home to the sought-after Kitengela glass-blowers and local wildlife park, Tamarind cooks up the best in Kenyan seafood. The menu is continental and offers an extensive selection of seafood and meat dishes. Local favorites include deep-fried crab claws and garlic jumbo prawns. The elegant and serene space is inviting and perfect for sampling a cold glass of a South African sauvignon blanc. Don’t be put off if you’re not a fan of seafood, Tamarind’s vegetarian and meat selection are widely recognized as being equally exceptional.
Misono is Nairobi’s choice of all things Japanese: sushi, sashimi and local favorite teppenyaki. Situated in the bustling heart of Ngong, this family-run gem oozes a sophisticated and indulgent dining experience. The downstairs is equipped with 3 teppenyaki tables, while the upstairs à la carte seating is elegant and refined. Try the local lobster from Lake Naivashathat features on the 6-course teppenyaki menu or the dynamite and California rolls to order.
Take ex-Nahm chef, Morten Bojstrup Nielsen, and Nairobi’s new boutique hotel, Dusit D2, and you have Nairobi’s most refined Thai offering. Soi prides itself on its unique tribute to the authentic Thai. Delivering dishes of slow-cooked ribs in aromatic green curry, Kenyan cassava in red curry and passion fruit pannacotta with lychee marshmallow, their innovative food reigns at the forefront of Nairobi’s fine dining scene. Located in posh Riverside, this cutting edge newcomer is quickly becoming the local favorite weekend spot.
Grilled Kenyan Angus beef and seafood off the Mombasa Coastline are the order of business at Tatu Steakhouse. A beautiful contrast to the historic setting of the Fairmont Norfolk Hotelin which it is based, the open-plan kitchen and minimalist African décor create a contemporary stage for its food. With its newly opened patio, the Kenyan sunshine is the best way to enjoy Tatu’s speciality ostrich steak cooked medium rare with chunky fries and a cold Tusker beer. Alternatively, the cocktail menu lends itself nicely to those on a liquid fast and makes for an appealing alternative anytime of the day.
J’s Fresh Bar
Nairobi’s newest kid on the block and most in-demand dining stop, J’s Fresh Bar pays homage to the British gastropub. Opening its doors in December 2014 in Ngong, it has got local foodies talking excitedly over the beautifully executed smoked paprika scotch eggs, battered fish and chips and Szechuan-peppered squid with roasted garlic aioli. Decorated with minimalist wooden interiors and colored Kenyan Kitengela glass, the atmosphere is laid back and cosy. Sit by the bar and let the barman work his magic to the smooth backdrop of J’s Fresh Bar’s in-house DJ.
Maru’s Bhajia Café
For the ultimate savory fast food, Maru’s bhajia’s hit the spot. Originally set up as a drive-thru on River Road to capitalize on the hoards of coach passengers to Mombasa, Maru’s Bhajia Café has settled exceedingly well into it’s new home in the hustle and bustle of Diamond Plaza. Expect good, simple food – crunchy turmeric yellow bhajia’s served in paper plates adorned with lashings of tomato chutney and tamarind. Wash this down with a cold glass of fresh tree tomato juice from the food court.
It’s all about biryani and mithai’s at AA MithaiWalla, one of Nairobi’s few long-standing culinary establishments. Founded over 50 years ago by Abdulahi Alibhai Mithaiwalla, his son, Shabir takes pride in continuing the family legacy. This is a welcoming eatery loved by the locals in Pangani for its array of affordable sweet and savory Indian treats. Favorites like lamb biryani and malai ka khaja offer up a taste of traditional Mughlai cuisine preserved by the founder’s own Indian heritage. This quaint hotspot, 10 minutes from the CBD, is best for impromptu take-away’s and casual dining.
Making their own gelato on site, this beautifully done-up Italian restaurant is all about tasty, no fuss dining. Hidden within the Lavington Curve Mall, its long wooden tables, colorful chairs, and open-plan kitchen make it a most inviting space to pass many happy hours with friends and family. The food is inspired, taking Italian classics and re-inventing dishes as inspired by local Swahili cuisine. Try the Swahili beach pizza adorned in a coconut curry sauce finished with coriander and red onion, or go for the Italian classic, pear and gorgonzola. If you’ve still got room for dessert, the refreshing chocolate and fresh mint gelato is the ultimate tipping point to blissful gluttony.
The New York Times has proclaimed Talisman Nairobi’s best restaurant. With a charming interior of Middle Eastern tapestry and Kenyan craft and unrivaled candle-lit al fresco dining, who can blame them. Another of Karen’s hotspots, the Talisman is much more than your typical restaurant, playing host to a series of regular exhibitions on African art and monthly foodie events. The continental menu stretches from Japan to Zanzibar, Limuru to Mombasa. Start with the feta and coriander samosa’s doused in chili-ginger jam, followed by the deluxe burger layered with apple slaw, bacon and cheese, and finish with smooth and spicy Turkish coffee paired with famous Malindi Indian halwa. Booking is highly recommended.