words and photos by Diana Odero
Nairobi truly comes alive during the holidays. What’s better than a scrumptious Christmas brunch under the sun or swapping gifts at a Secret Santa sundowner overlooking the sunset at some of Nairobi’s top restaurants? The restaurant scene this year has been buzzing with creativity and pizazz and it’s only fair that you get a feel of what to look out for as you plan for where to take your loved ones this December.
Slate – Kitchen & Bar
A newbie to the Nairobi culinary scene, Slate has created quite a buzz upon their arrival. Word spread like quick-fire about a new ultra modern and ultra chic restaurant in the heart of Nairobi – Westlands. Located at the Skynest Residences, this Kitchen bar is something out of a New York fine dining playbook. The sleek décor, the meticulous service and the intricate menu are enough to give you a most memorable experience.
Their menu is themed around Pan-African and Asian Fusion meals such as Swahili Chicken Maki, Pork Chop Katzu Sando, Suya Fries and an array of Sushi combinations that you won’t find anywhere else. They craft their meals perfectly with stellar presentation and a smooth ambience perfect for intimate dinners and group gatherings alike. This is a place that will be quite popular this holiday season so make your reservations in good time to avoid missing out!
Botanica – Kitchen & Gin Bar
Another fantastic establishment in the Westlands area – Botanica can be found high up in One Africa Place, one of Nairobi’s skyscrapers. You will be welcomed with a sparkling view of the city as you wine and dine. Their menu is diverse, giving it an exotic feel with dishes like Nasi Goreng, Chicken Curry Bao Buns, Duck Carpaccio and a great staple – Fish & Chips, among others. You will be very spoilt for choice here! As for dessert, I highly recommend the Not For Carrot cake – you’ll thank me later. The place is tastefully outfitted with artistic décor that stands out as soon as you walk in, making it a muse for all your Instagram pictures. The cozy beehive booths are a fan favourite and can be specifically spruced up for any special occasion. Botanica is perfect for a girl’s night out, date nights and a family/friends New Year’s plan.
Karen is home to this out-door haven where they not only cook what they grow, but they also make their own artisan breads and soda! Cultiva is a culinary experience like no other and is a place that your whole family will enjoy. They take special care to make everything in the healthiest way (you won’t find anything deep fried here), using the freshest ingredients to produce an assorted variety of dishes. Their menu is suitable for vegetarians, non-vegetarians and vegans too. They have some of the best croissants I have ever had and a beetroot pork taco that is worth the long drive. Cultiva has a homey feel with rustic décor and comfy seating both indoors and outside. The fresh air and the serenity of the Karen suburbs makes it a great location for a Sunday lunch plan!
Barista & Co
Who doesn’t love a good brunch in the sun? And brunch on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve is the perfect way to experience one of Nairobi’s top cafes. Located in the leafy Riverside suburbs, Barista & Co is a simple yet elegant café that has made waves in the restaurant scene for their wonderful vegetarian creations. Vegetarian restaurants are few and far between in this city and Barista has made its mark as one to watch.
Their menu boasts of numerous dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and their bakery stays stocked with sinful pastries, cakes and freshly baked cookies and brownies. The brunch selection has an assortment of dishes for those who like sweet, savoury or a mix of both. Whatever your choice, know that you will get a healthy portion and a delightful sprinkling of fresh berries, fresh vegetables and delectable coffee with your meal. I would highly recommend the Blueberry French Toast, the Pavlova Pancakes and the Mushroom & Halloumi Panini. If you still have room – a slice of their decadent Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake should go home with you, a perfect treat and a perfect gift all in one.
It’s not everyday that you can put Japanese cuisine and Nairobi in one sentence but being a world-class capital has its perks. One of Nairobi’s popular eateries is a quaint Japanese restaurant tucked away in a corner of Lavington. The ramen here is, for lack of an even better word, phenomenal. It’s fresh, filling and kind to the pocket as well. Their ramen variations include Pork, Veggie, Chicken, and Tofu. Add some gyoza and sake to the mix and you have a great night ahead of you. The Chekafe staff are very friendly, and the grounds are perfect for a family day out. There is ample space for kids to play, it’s dog friendly and is a unique spot for a chill lunch or dinner this festive season.
Beit é Selam
A fairly new addition to the culinary scene, Beit é Selam, which translates to House of Peace in Amharic, is the very definition of its name. Hidden amongst towering office blocks in Westlands, this cozy house turned restaurant transports you into a different world as soon as you step into their beautiful terracotta courtyard. It looks nothing like your typical snazzy restaurant. Instead, they’ve chosen to go the vintage route, using their surroundings as the main décor focus. Vines creep up the beams and pillars surrounding the area, coupled with fairy lights and perfectly placed lower wall lighting giving it a foreign albeit romantic ambience.
Their menu is small but exciting. Divided into 3 parts, Ndogo (small/starters), Kubwa (big/mains), and Kati (middle), it gives an eclectic array of options from corn ribs (a must have!), to a vegan roasted cauliflower steak, a Moroccan lamb burger and Injera crisps – there’s something for every palate. The drinks pack a punch too so remember to hydrate. I would recommend it for date nights with your lover or your friends, it’s a perfect spot to share a meal and bond this holiday season.
And last, but definitely not least, we conclude this list with a prime jewel of Nairobi Restaurants – The Fifteen Rooftop. Since its opening back in 2020, this literal highflying establishment has won foodies’ hearts over and over again. Perched high on the top floor of The Curve by The Park along Mombasa Road, Fifteen Rooftop has an iconic view of the national park on one end and a sprawling skyline view of the city on the other. You can have an early breakfast watching the sun come up or gather some friends for happy hour accompanied by a magical East African sunset. They offer so much already in terms of ambience and I haven’t even touched on the food yet!
Okay now on to food – their menu is succinct but with good reason, their focus on quality over quantity has garnered them much acclaimed praise. It’s a continental menu, showcasing dishes to fit a vibrant number of tastes. The Buttermilk Fried Chicken is a meal I dream about often, their Lemon Pasta is exquisite and they also make a mean Steak. These and so much more including delectable cocktails and desserts await you on the fifteenth floor. They recently opened up an event space just above the main restaurant, allowing for larger gatherings such as birthdays and Christmas/New Years Eve shindigs. The service is impeccable and the place gives off a very cool, sophisticated vibe, coupled with a fun ‘sherehe’ energy that will set the mood for you and yours this December.
Any restaurant recommendations you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.
Diana Odero is a writer with vast bylines in lifestyle, business, and travel publications. Filled with a curiosity for adventure and food, she started writing reviews under the moniker #nairobieats giving her honest thoughts on the vibrant culinary scene in Nairobi, 5-star ratings included! Follow her on @dodmichaela for weekly reviews and recommendations.