Food & Drinks
Generali Lounge: Nairobi's must-visit restaurant for charming culinary-visual servingsFriday January 06 2023
Isn’t it amazing that barely two decades ago, the finest dining spots in Kenya were mostly encapsulated within Nairobi’s central business district where the ‘old’ structural kings embodied by the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) building dwelled?
But as is becoming a common trend, the rise of a contemporary capital represented by the appositely named Global Trade Centre has coincided with an unprecedented culinary explosion marked by interesting offerings spread out across the metropolis.
For one to experience the real essence of Nairobi, thus, a culinary tour is requisite.
One must-visit restaurant in the new order is Chef’s Table, which is part of the 15 Rooftop collection, nestled at the zenith of The Curve by The Park building.
Hard to miss, this haunt which sits at the junction of the Southern Bypass and Mombasa Road enjoys unparalleled sweeping views of the capital capturing not only her green and landscape elements but also the booming infrastructure development.
This writer had dropped by the recently launched Generali Lounge where aficionados keen on splurging on that Armand de Brignac Champagne, Remy Martin’s premium Cognac or that royal Johnnie Walker-King George V scotch find fitting company. Eeeh, just in case, beer is not sold here.
While I was in for what Nairobians would refer to as a ‘polite’ evening drink, I feasted on the whole hog. My affair began with a samosa, three to be precise, as I interrogated the cone feature in the middle of the room and admired the kitenge mural towering over the bar. Must be the handiwork of the founding father of graffiti Brian Esendi, aka Bank Slave, I told myself.
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While the décor choice impressed me and the M-16 cocktail sublimely knocked the flu out of my nose, I also couldn’t help but notice the Midas touch of the smoked bacon and Feta opts.
With an appetite built, I was sold for the chicken confit that Chef Kendi Magiri insisted would blow me away.
Accompanied by a poached egg, spinach hash, and spicy potato sides, the fall of the bone chicken was faultless and this feat drew the chef back from her lair for commendation.
One of the pioneer female chefs to run a kitchen at a high level, the petite but sure-footed Chef Kendi asserts that passion powered by unwavering focus has been her mantra to culinary success.
Well, it helps that she has a wealth of experience that fate accidentally tossed her in 2005 at La Salumeria Restaurant located in the same arcade where Kendi was taking driving lessons.
While it sounds fictional, she walked through the door, asked for work and was handed an apron. This was meant to be a short-lived hobby for youthful Kendi who intended to pursue a Computer Studies course so was rather outrageous when Kendi switched courses in her second year of study.
Enrolling instead in the Art Institute of Atlanta took a lot of understanding from her parents as this went against the banking grain that six of her siblings had adopted.
Starting from the bottom of the culinary world, Chef Kendi worked an apprenticeship at Maggiano's, a well-known American restaurant chain serving up classic Italian dishes.
After building experience with several other brands, she felt it was time to return home.
Homecoming, however, was befuddling as she had to endure a culture shock as the industry then had little respect for cooking ingredients and was largely male-dominated.
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While it took a little getting used to, she soon found her footing with stints at several restaurants including her first stint as head chef at WestGate Mall’s Tapas Ceviche Bar before the terrorist attack knocked the wind out of her sails.
She almost gave up on the profession but Moniko’s Restaurant located in Kilimani’s Valley Arcade shopping centre called.
Chef Kendi saw it grow to five outlets; complete with a fully-fledged catering department before the global pandemic again tested her spirit.
After a brief hiatus, she realised that the flames of the kitchen were truly her destiny and 15 Rooftop was a worthy challenge.
While the highlight of her career is being named Chef of the Year, Chef Kendi gets more of a kick when her patrons recognise her work.
She insists that you shouldn’t cook when in a foul mood and is also incredibly proud of the chefs, whom she calls family, whom she has mentored and ultimately her contribution to the culinary culture of Kenya.
It had taken a bird’s view and a full belly for a clear view but as the night lights came on, the burners lit up, the jazz offering sounded clearer and a plane descended on the horizon, Nairobi impressed on me just how beautiful she truly is.
Maybe this year, as Nairobi celebrates her culture as she did in a weeklong festival at the tail end of 2022, food will feature in greater form.
“When it comes to our food, we want to keep it simple, yet delectable. We combine the finest organic ingredients with contemporary inspiration that serve up gourmet fusion and small-plate takes,” Chef Kendi.