Tucked away in Nairobi's Valley Arcade lies a culinary oasis that transports patrons on a nostalgic journey to the vibrant era of the 80s.
The decor pays homage to the pop culture of the 80s, an era that conjures memories of legendary icons like the Jackson 5, an American pop band composed of members of the Jackson family.
The iconic figures, including Gary Coleman and other Jazz greats from the era, adorning the walls and the meticulously curated lighting cast a warm glow, inviting guests to lose themselves in the embrace of a bygone era.
Wesley Baleta, the Grill Shack Restaurant General Manager says the the decor is a tribute to soul food and pop culture, specifically the 80s era.
"It's a nod to classics like the Jackson 5 and the soulful essence of that time. The visuals on our walls, lighting, and arrangement create a vibrant, nostalgic atmosphere, inviting guests to immerse themselves in that experience,” says Mr Baleta.
“While some may not have lived through that era, the visuals and essence transcend generations. It's about creating a unique, memorable atmosphere that speaks to diverse tastes and backgrounds,” he adds.
Grill Shack is among the growing number of Kenyan hotels looking to woo diners not only with its food but also with ambience.
Mr Baleta's voyage from humble beginnings as a young waiter at 15 has culminated in running the establishment.
“I was headhunted from South Africa by my managing director, Trever Wagenaar, who saw the opportunity to implement Grill Shack into Kenya, starting in Nairobi, and then expand within the market.
It led to the opening of our second location in Valley Arcade Mall, the first Grill Shack was launched in 2019 at Westgate [both in Nairobi],” he says.
On their expansion plans, Mr Baleta says, “We aim for at least three restaurants in Nairobi and more in counties like Eldoret and Nakuru.
We are looking at possibly 10 restaurants within Kenya. Then branching out to Africa. You have to have big dreams but also make sure they are realistic.”
The recent opening of Grill Shack was a gastronomic extravaganza that left taste buds tingling and hearts satiated.
The evening kicked off with a starter that set the tone for the delectable journey ahead: the red-coloured Cheetos tender chicken paired with the crispy salt and pepper calamari.
The Red Cheetos Chicken Tenders, coated in a signature red Cheetos crust, offered a playful twist on the classic chicken tender, while the Crispy Salt and Pepper Calamari teased the senses with its delicate yet bold flavours.
The next meal was a symphony of tantalising meats.
The Pork Ribs slow-cooked to perfection, yielded tender morsels that practically melted in the mouth.
The Beef Ribs, a testament to the art of grilling, boasted a smoky aroma and a rich taste.
Mr Baleta explains the grilling process. “Our char grill, ignited by gas and lava stones, imparts a distinctive charred flavour to the steaks, burgers, and ribs.
Lava stones retain the heat within the grill and provide a unique flavour to the steak, burgers and ribs,” adding, “Our secret basting sauce further enhances the flavour profile.”
Grill Shack has also joined the increasing number of establishments such as Radisson Blu, Villa Rosa Kempinski and the Tribe Hotel, serving aged meat.
“Our steaks undergo a 21-day ageing ritual, achieved through the careful implementation of a wet ageing process.
This involves placing each steak within a vacuum pack, creating an environment where the natural evolution can unfold over the designated period,” he says.
As time progresses, the meat's fibres delicately break down, resulting in a transformation that offers both enhanced tenderness and intensified flavour.
This maturation process plays a crucial role in cultivating the optimal dining experience with every bite.
Another favourite dish was the Sliders, a fusion of succulent chicken and beef.
A serving of Tilapia was also presented – fried to golden perfection.
Accompanying this feast was a selection of libations that paired harmoniously with the culinary creations.
The Red Sangria, a concoction of red wine and fruits, danced on the taste buds with its sweet yet tangy notes. Its counterpart, the Sparkling Sangria, effervescent and refreshing, provided a playful contrast that complemented the array of flavours on the table.
And just when guests thought the culinary journey had reached its zenith, a dessert emerged to claim its rightful place as the grand finale.
The Sticky Toffee dessert was a revelation – a decadent treat that balanced sweetness with the warmth of toffee and a hint of nostalgia.
Each bite served as a reminder that sometimes, the best things in life are the simplest pleasures.