Food & Drinks

Duol Kombok, a bar where well-read men met


The well-read men of the 60s and 70s sounded quite snobbish and elitist. You will hear their lore when you visit Duol Kombok in Mbotela estate along Jogoo Road, Nairobi.

These men were the new crop of educated men, the post-independence intelligentsia and the hope of a new nation; suited up, pipes in mouth and talking the queen’s English with tight right angles.

They all met at Duol Kombok which was then called Ramogi Butchery, established in 1958. That is many years ago. Raila Odinga was 13 years old.

From the outside, this bar looks deceivingly like a shack, a shebeen, if you will. Perhaps therein lies its deception because if you are of the superficial disposition, one easily distracted by shiny objects, you will miss its true legend.

And legend has it that only men of great mystery, of status and pedigree, were allowed entry here. Read men. Duol’ in Luo culture was where the patriarch entertained his guests and was mostly under a tree.

The men sat under a big tree that still stands to date, its trunk jutting through the bar. Men without neckties were not allowed in.

I visited it one Saturday. I had no tie, or pedigree to speak of. Blue light illuminated the plastic chairs and tables where men drank beers and chewed on meat while a deejay pelted rhumba from a dark corner.

Make no mistake, this is a rhumba joint. The whole bar refuses to be touched by time. The floor is aged, and the steel staircase looks frozen in the 60s. You can smell colonialism off the walls. The food at Duol Kombok is its secret shtick.

They cook only with onions and tomatoes. Boiled or dry-fried meat. They call it ‘Alex Style’, named after a famous cook called Alex Obondo.

A random hawker occasionally walked in with wares hanging from his arm. It’s in a bar like this that you might —against your better judgments — buy a mosquito net. The age group is 40-plus.

There were a few retired folks, spinning on the slippery floor of nostalgia. At 10.50 pm sharp the music dies and it is time to go home.