Thursday, November 22, 2007


Finally! He he...This is the review for Blanco's exactly as it appeared in the Sept-Dec issue of Kenyan Kitchen.

I’m solar powered. This I discovered much to my chagrin in the last 2 months. Thanks to the reluctance of the sun to grace us with its presence, I have found myself sniffling my way into June, July and even August. Talk about Winter Kenyan style. Suffice to say that finding a place to appease my taste buds this last month or so has been nothing short of an uphill task. You see, for me eating out is figurative. A place where I can sit out in the sun, or shade when it’s too hot is as close to bliss as I can get.

And this is how I stumbled on Blanco’s. After much persuasion by a friend I agreed to go eat at the said place with threats to storm out as soon as there was a hint of cold. Located on the ground floor of Timau Plaza, the new building off Arwing’s Kodhek road, Blanco’s is not hard to find. I’m not sure if it was because both times I’ve been to this establishment it’s been early evening, but we found ample parking. A small steel staircase on the side brings you to the entrance of the restaurant, which is warm and welcoming. Earthy tones greet you as you’re ushered in by the hostess and it’s immediately evident that you can comfortably stop by Blanco’s for a casual drink, as you would for dinner.

The waiter/s, attentive and courteous are at hand with napkins and the menus which contain a different special for each day. The dishes are in Kiswahili, with an English translation, and the reason I now know that starters are called Viamsha Hamu and desserts Vitinda Mlo. As usual, my first option (call me unadventurous if you will) is Fish Fillet. Our waiter, very well versed in how they make Sarara ya Samaki, approved of my choice and recommended that I order my fish with Blanco’s Special Source. I like to be surprised so I settled on Chipsi za Mseto, a very interesting sounding medley of arrowroots, cassava, sweet and regular potatoes. My dinner companion, who believes the proof is in the beef ordered Char grilled Fillet Steak, with the day’s mashed potatoes (aside: if you're looking for a more authentic African taste, matumbo ya kukaangwa (stir fry tripe) is a perfect choice). After the excitement of making our orders, we sat back and truly appreciated the relaxing ambience; from the rich colors, metal sculptures, wall murals, everything blended together perfectly. The main dining areas can comfortably sit parties of two, even up to 10, and they are arranged such that privacy is guaranteed. There are also a few tables on the outside, the perfect place to sit when you want to feel a bit of breeze on your face or when the sun makes its advent.

In no time, our food is ready and we have accumulated enough of an appetite to dig in straight away. And we are not disappointed. To start with, the chef must have flair for detail; the dish is so visually appealing that you want to just look at it and not spoil the perfect symmetry. But my hunger pangs remind me yet again why I’m here. My Fish Fillet, fresh and soft, is a dream to dig into. And I am truly pleasantly surprised by the medley of arrowroot, sweet potato and cassava chips, it must be the most enjoyable plate of chips I’ve ever had! Special Blanco’s sauce and some greens and parsley on the side, and I’m heartily tucking into my meal. The stir fry tripe, served steaming hot with spring onions, string beans, ginger, and soy and accompanied by rice is also quite tantalizing. Blanco’s definitely have a way of making even bland meals (at least I though tripe was bland) with a twist to bring out a great taste. The beef, served with an interesting mashed potatoes that have a hint of ginger, sweet potato and margarine is also quite rich. We however recommended that the chef use butter instead of margarine as the latter taste can get a bit overwhelming. I love that Blanco’s pay so much attention to the main meals and the accompaniments alike. Dessert comes too fast, as it is with the nicer things. I settle on a fruit salad, and this is probably my only disappointment. Opting not to have ginger syrup, the fruit is a bit bland; apple, pineapple, melon and slightly bitter mango. My friends have chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, and I end up eating half of theirs after snubbing my dessert.

Sitting back with the freshest passion juice I have drank yet, and listening to the strains of piped jazz, I’m pleased with myself. Will I be coming back to Blanco’s? Most definitely. Lovely ambience, great service and reasonable prices; you can get a great dish for 1000 bob as well as one for just below 500, a place you can easily hang out with friends, or with your whole family. Or you can just go in for coffee while waiting out Nairobi traffic. Really, what’s not to like?

Jade on Patrol, Kenyan Kitchen Sept - Dec 07
All rights reserved.

Additional info: There's also a Blanco's lounge, which is separate from the restaurant, but they serve alcohol in the restaurant too. Prices for beers range about 120-150, cocktails 300-450, hot and cold beverages 150-300. Basically, the drinks prices are pocket friendly.

Savana: The Coffee Lounge

Place: Savana: The Coffee Lounge
Location: Loita Street Opp. Barclays Plaza
Ambiance: Cozy

I had one and a half hours to kill before a meeting on loita street and decided to check out this new place, Savana [Since I am still boycotting Java due to the hair in the pie incident, I needed new places to take coffee]. I was welcomed into this huge place with armchairs, which I thought gave it a pretty cozy, lets do business, kind of atmosphere. The lady serving me was pretty amiable which I thought was a breathe of fresh air since service in Nairobi borders on deplorable. I ordered a macchiato and a cheese pie. Let me mention here that I had just had a macchiato from Dormans two days prior. She brought me the Macchiato in an espresso cup. It went downhill from there. Do you know how small an espresso cup is? Think of a sake glass….. yep… that’s what they served the supposed macchiato in. I asked her if this was how they served their macchiatos and she assured me that it was. On tasting it, it was definitely NOT a macchiato. The coffee was too bitter and there was no milk in sight. What the? They gave me an espresso when I specifically asked for a macchiato. Maybe they don’t know the difference. The cheese pie was alright, really nothing to write home about. I read my book and did not touch the drink and waited for the time to pass by.

When it was time to pay the bill, I asked her what coffee brand they used to brew and she informed me that it was Sasini [I was later to learn that the company is behind the lounge]. I informed her that I was not satisfied with what they called a macchiato [which cost Kshs. 150, the cheese pie was Kshs. 200]. She offered her apologies which I thought was pretty decent and she allowed me to write my complaints to the General Manager. I had to mention that they needed to learn how to brew whatever it was they had in their menu. Going to Dormans would be a good idea as well.

Do I recommend it? No. I think the prices are way too high and my experience was too negative to even fathom a repeat visit. I believe that if a place is going to charge such exorbitant prices, the least they could do is hire or train staff to know the difference between an espresso and a macchiato.

Later during the day, I went to Pasara and enjoyed a Café Vanilla.