5th Avenue: Nairobi's top restaurant with a nourishing story

The 5th Avenue Restaurant in Gigiri, Nairobi set up for a cocktail event. PHOTO | POOL

“Take it from me, the universe does not reward a worker putting in 16 hours the same prize it does the one who works eight hours,” Bashar Dhere, an entrepreneur who founded 5th Avenue Restaurant tells this writer.

It is dusk on Boxing Day as I lean closer to listen to what might be the most inspirational memoir you have encountered this year. While I was here for the food, the endless nuggets of wisdom from the self-confessed workaholic were a welcome abstraction. Nothing, in my view, enriches a dining experience more than an uplifting table talk.

Quick on the draw, if not a little bombastic, the bespectacled Mr Bashar veils his 33 years rather well and appears older if not wiser for his age. I pick out, as he restlessly sips his espresso macchiato, his apparent taste for the finer things in life telling from his designer accessories that include a Mercedes-Maybach automobile packed in the horseshoe driveway festooned with a fountain.

You cannot help but admire his business acumen thus when he throws you off with the fact that slightly over a decade ago; barely 18-years-old, he arrived in Nairobi penniless atop a truck delivering livestock for slaughter from a poverty-stricken village in Wajir.

Six foot 3 tall Bashar, a Kenyan Somali, considers himself an alumnus of the school of hard knocks insisting that he has never stepped in a classroom. This account, mark you, is delivered in standard English. So how did he wriggle himself out of the vicious poverty cycles that bind most of his generation?

For this chat, we opt away from the bustle of the now full-to-the-brim restaurant domiciled in the Gigiri Lion Villas complex located on 238 Gigiri drive, off UN Avenue. This is the second such property in the area that Bashar has invested in.

After a tour of the 14-room hospitality opt opened November 4 boasting amenities that include a coffee house, juice bar, private lounge, conference room, heated pool , fitness centre and even a Jacuzzi room we perch on the private balcony of the presidential suite, aptly named Simba Villa, that overlooks the restaurant.

“Black is the new gold,” he contends as we discuss the black-themed building with opulent rooms complete with a kitchenette and contemporary Edwardian-styled bath that I picture perfect for a couple’s staycation.

Chef John has insisted that I try the chicken cordon bleu as my host goes for a steak. Once the food is laid out, with gold coloured cutlery no less, we agree to share and toss in a pesto chicken focaccia for good measure. To wash it down, Bashar opts for a coke and I savour the freshly squeezed orange juice.

Steak matched with French fries and plantain at the 5th Avenue Restaurant in Gigiri, Nairobi. PHOTO | POOL

For one trying their hand at hospitality for the first time, I cannot help but commend the gourmet plating. Aware of his limitations, Bashar admits he has no restauranteering experience but notes that an open mind and extensive travel that has seen him visit over 60 countries (he has been to every continent except Australia) have been instrumental in setting up the venture.

It from his visit to New York’s most famous shopping district, for instance, that the name of the restaurant was conjured. The menu, he explains, was crafted by a celebrated Jewish consulting chef.

As we break bread, Mr Bashar reminisces on his first job back in 2007 where he served as a cashier in a cyber café at a time when the internet was being introduced into Kenya. With no prospects of formal education, he sought to understand this emerging sensation while also learning languages. So dutiful was young Bashar that he recalls how his employer at one time returned from safari to witness Bashar’s good profit over and above what his peer employees had banked.

It is these traits, he insists, that have continually earned him favour and helped him establish solid networks. As fate would have it, yet another truck would deliver Bashar to newly-independent South Sudan. The mission was to set up a cyber café but he ended up establishing a logistics company that presently has presence across the region. That of course came with its fair share of drama including surviving civil strife and an economic downturn but that mouthful is a tale for another day.

When asked which country from his travels he admires the most, he contends that the United Arab Emirates has one the most efficient, not to mention secure, government systems currently. He would not live there; however, as he insists that Kenya remains ideal not only for industrious mettle but more for her good-natured people and all-year fair weather.

He asserts that his mantra of honest hard work that allows his network to trust him is a path to success for any youth who cares to listen. And on this column’s last installation for 2022, I hope that food does more than just nourish your body, I pray that you derive inspiration from those you share a meal with just like I did.

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