Not all accidents are terrible. I was on the hunt for a leisurely horseback ride, my little ones in tow, when a rustic sign beckoned me from the side of the road, about half a kilometre from Nairobi’s Karen Roundabout.
The sign boldly declared “STABLES.”
This seemingly unassuming wooden pointer, tucked in plain sight, might easily be overlooked by even the most seasoned drivers with a penchant for a heavy foot on the pedal.
Curiosity got the better of me and I followed the sign, only to discover that the “stables” were, in fact, a restaurant, complete with immaculate white-clad wait staff.
As someone who is an absolute sucker for delectable cuisine served on high-thread-count tablecloths, attended to by gracious and upright service, this was an unexpected delight.
And when you throw in an expansive playground for children to frolic freely and a dedicated painting class for budding young artists, you realise you have stumbled upon a gem. They have an impressive wine selection too.
The restaurant is run by Leornada Langiano, along with her partner Pino Checchini.
Adorned in blue denim jeans, a pair of glossy black riding boots and a shawl cascading gracefully over her knitted top, Leornada says this space indeed housed horses at one point.
The name “Matteo’s” is a tribute to one of the stallions that once called this place home.
A passionate animal lover, she cares for two retired horses that were once destined for a bleak end, along with a multitude of dogs and pet hogs.
Leornada says her love for horses and her culinary acumen stems from Rome where her family ran a restaurant.
At her Karen restaurant, she has over 100 staff overseen by Mario Ciampi, the general manager, alongside Chefs Piero and Mike.
Matteo’s offers three distinct dining areas, each with its unique charm.
On sunny days, the garden, adorned with parasol umbrella shades and ancient trees that provide ample shade, is the preferred choice.
The enchanting glow lights strung across one of these trees cast a magical radiance over the saddle-decorated stage, creating an idyllic moonlit setting. The frog-imitated jikos and unique cookswell ovens add an exquisite touch.
Groups seeking a more intimate experience can opt for the rustically refurbished stables, adorned with striking horse paintings. There are also two well-appointed bars, one of which boasts a cosy lounge ideal for catching a game on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
Now, let’s discuss the pièce de résistance – the food. They use Kenyan vegetables but import other Italian ingredients.
During my visit, I savoured grilled calamari and red snapper fillet in pepper sauce, a triumph for my palate.
There is a seafood platter that you cannot miss to try out. The bruschetta funghi, in particular, stood out for its exceptional flavour, and the tuna tagliata with sesame made its way into my cherished doggy bag.
Selecting a main course was a tantalising dilemma.
My personal favourite? The homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and smoked salmon.
Yet, the colossal tomahawk steak seemed an enticing option for those seeking exceptional value for their culinary voyage. And if you opt for pizza, as one should in an authentic Italian restaurant, the prosciutto cotto en funghi, with succulent cooked ham, earthy mushrooms, and copious mozzarella cheese, will undoubtedly send your taste buds on a euphoric journey.
As the epicurean adventure unfolds, the dessert ensemble beckoned, featuring cheesecake, crème brûlée, tiramisu, indulgent chocolate cake, and an array of fruit-based delights. Each is a fitting finale to a sumptuous feast.