Restaurants get crafty with Valentine's menu


Rooibos and citrus-smoked ostrich at Chophouse Restaurant in Nairobi. PHOTO | POOL

From chilled-out gastropubs to splendid rooftops, chefs in Nairobi have crafted delicious feasts for the most romantic date of the year. For most, it is seven-course meals, six or five.

At Pango Restaurant in Fairview Hotel Nairobi, a sneak peek reveals new dishes on the menu, including tongue and beef cheeks with Japanese scallops and a beet salad with smoked cauliflower.

On wine pairing, Chef Kabelo Mooketsi says there are options that “will complement the unique flavours of the 62 days’ in-house aged meat and fresh locally-sourced seafood.”

Owner and head chef Kim Kiarie of Five Senses Restaurant says his meals will be interactive between couples. “One person gets one dish, the other person another item, and they share,” he says.

He has planned a playful, exciting mix of colours and textures in his choice of pan-seared scallops, rice paper dumplings, stuffed mushrooms, sea bass, the popular lamb rack, and a red velvet streusel dessert.

Kiarie says 2023 is more positive than last year, with people looking for exciting experiences. “I wanted a lively menu for a lively, loving evening and to provoke discussions around food.”


Pork chops at Pango Restaurant at Fairview Hotel. PHOTO | POOL

Chef Archie Alvin of Hemingways Nairobi is preparing a classic Valentine’s Day dinner of diverse, exotic ingredients. His five-course meal will have seafood Martini, fried goat cheese, aged sirloin steak, monkfish with caviar butter sauce, and the risqué-sounding ‘Lick Me’ palate cleanser.

When it comes to menu planning for big occasions, Archie does lots of research, tasting experiments, and playing around with ingredients.

“Monkfish is known as the poor man’s lobster for its firm texture and mild flavour. It’s never been sold before at Hemingways,” he says.

In keeping with the modern pub-fare done concept, head cook Alfred Mulavu of Artcaffe Gastro Bar has designed their first Valentine’s menu for sharing, everything from smaller plates to larger, wholesome items.


Norwegian salmon at Pango Restaurant at Fairview Hotel. PHOTO | POOL

“For instance, the exceptionally popular chicken we have elevated to a succulent breast on homemade gnocchi, roast carrots, gravy, and basil oil,” he says.

Regarding showmanship, it is hard to beat Chef Wayne Walkinshaw of the Radisson Blu Hotel. Walkinshaw has created a fabulous, seven-course ‘haute romance’ dinner at the gourmet Chophouse steak restaurant.

He calls it a “fusion of Mediterranean and African cuisine, especially Kenyan, with lots of flavour and drama.” Mombasa crab, three types of pickled beets, in-house aged beef filets and homemade truffles to take away.

Chef Walkinshaw will spare no effort in fancy food presentations on beds of dried moss, slabs of tree trunks and clouds of liquid nitrogen smoke pouring out from delicately plated dishes.

Celebrate your love with a dinner at Hemingways, Nairobi

Chef Mohamed Yakat is behind the elevated African cuisine of the revamped Jiko Restaurant in the Tribe Hotel. “This year will be busier,” he says.

Almost all Valentine’s dishes are new, inspired by “what I would like to eat and the expectation of a guest when they take the first bite,” he said. A Glenfiddich 40-day aged New York steak, salmon with smoked amaranth, and 70 percent Ghanaian chocolate parfait are some of the dishes of the day.

For wine connoisseurs, couples, or groups of friends, the Market Cellar wine bar is a good haunt for an easy Valentine’s evening. Manager Hunter Marrian has selected rosé wines from around. “They are paired with decadent charcuterie boards and desserts.”

At Social House, Chef Anibal Torres Diaz is planning to entice with a buffet dinner in The Other Room and a set menu in Inca Restaurant.

At Villa Rosa Kempinski, the different courses are romantically named "Burning Passion, On the Cupid... . Rachael Wambua, the Chef De Cuisine says "I want to highlight foods that bring love and romance," she says.


Rachael Wambua is the Chef De Cuisine at Villa Rosa Kempinski. FILE PHOTO | POOL

For instance, the 'Let's Fire' which is the third course of the day will have honey and garlic glazed salmon, Asian pink sauce, potato puree with Bok Choy, and Shitake mushroom.

"I went out of my way to get ingredients and elements that evoke love and romance, some of the meals like a duck are slow-cooked for 24 hours," she says.

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