Starting this July the Hemingways Nairobi hotel has introduced a Curry Night dinner every Wednesday evening. Now that the cold weather has set in, a warm spicy dinner in the middle of the week is an enticing way to end the day.
The dining experience at Hemingways Nairobi, I always feel, is made more special because of the location of the Brasserie restaurant, overlooking the water fountain and beautiful gardens. Once they turn on the tall gas burners, it remains a comfortable place to sit in the evenings.
The Wednesday night menu has a choice of curries and tandoori dishes. General manager Richard Kimenyi said they specifically hired a Kenyan chef who is well versed in Indian food to make the offering special. With the strong culinary influence of Indian cuisine on Kenyan cooking, Curry Night seems a natural evolution of the Hemingways Nairobi menu offering.
We were there as a group, which meant we could sample several main courses. From the Tandoori section, we had the lamb seekh kebabs. They were delicious and nicely spiced. Unlike elsewhere where off cuts are favoured, Hemingways uses lamb leg meat for their kebabs. This most likely explains the moist texture of the dish.
The tandoori chicken is marinated overnight in yoghurt mixed with spices, then baked in a tandoor (traditional clay oven). With a distinctive red colour and chargrilled edges, the chicken was tasty and beautifully tenderised by the marinade. As for the jumbo tandoori prawns, spiced and perfectly grilled, I could have had a meal of those alone.
The tandoor gives that signature smoky flavour to the food. Yellow lentils, a basket of roti and buttered or garlic naan, and a garden salad accompanied the tandoori dishes.
On the table were relishes of homemade chilli sauce, sweet mango chutney, and chilli lemon pickle to add some more zest to the plate. The side of raita (yoghurt condiment) helped cool off the heat from the tandoori spices.
From the curry selection, the red snapper masala cooked in a tomato base with roasted spices was amazing, gently cooked and very flavourful. The slow-cooked lamb curry in a mild coconut sauce was my next favourite of the options. The lamb cubes were utterly tender, cooked in a rich and well-spiced gravy.
We also had chicken tikka korma, a subtle curry dish of marinated chicken pieces cooked in fresh cream. It was tasty although I felt the dish could have used a little more spice. There is also a vegetable tikka masala as a meatless option and a rich blend of spices. With the curries, guests can specify whether they want the level of chilli as mild, medium or very hot.
As a starch for the curries, I chose the steamed Basmati rice, its fragrant taste balancing off the rich flavours nicely. I also tried the biryani rice dish which comes as a vegetable or chicken option. The vegetable biryani, with its fluffy multi-coloured rice layered with creamy vegetables and caramelised onions, was my favourite of the two. The chicken biryani is a meal on its own.
Along with the curries we had a dish of saagwala paneer which is Indian cottage cheese cooked in pureed, curried spinach and mustard leaves. I always order a paneer dish when I am at an Indian restaurant.
A full range of beverages and soft drinks is available to order with your meal. On a warm day, I would have taken a sweetened lassi, the popular chilled, spiced yoghurt drink from northern India.
The Hemingways Curry Night is not about presenting the vast spectrum of Indian cuisine but aims to serve a number of well-known items and of mostly north Indian flavours. I find that the menu is a lovely selection of homely dishes made from good quality ingredients and suitably balanced flavours and textures.