Saturday, 6 December 2008

Getting out of town

Its been a little while, and material has dried up somewhat. In the New Year I'll update the Kigali 'long list' of reviews and sort them into restaurant types for easy surfing action.

For now though, lets have a look further afield. Some gorilla hunting types may end up spending the night in Ruhengeri on their way to visit our hairy cousins in Volcanoes National Park. With this in mind, here are a few reviews from Ruhengeri.

Having spent the best part of three months based in Ruhengeri, I'd recommend visitors avoid some of the more down at heel bars. As well as the usual annoyingly drunk 'friends' that strangers seem to accumulate in such places, I witnessed a fair few angry punch-ups. My interest in the grotty bars of the world remains strong, but it's important to know when it's time to leave.

Tourist Rest House, Rue Muhabura
Despite the general air of grubbiness and foot dragging service, this place remains my favourite place to eat in Ruhengeri. The Ugandan manager speaks good English and is eager to please. The menu is reasonably varied and its a good place to meet friendly folk from Ruhengeri who are having a quiet drink, as well as overlanders and backpackers.

Recommended:
  • Cheap, and reasonably varied menu. Very good chappathis.
  • Friendly and calm atmosphere.
Avoid:
  • When the power goes off the mice come out to play.
Hotel Urumuri, Rue du Marche
Hard to work out what is going on here, it seems a bit disorganised. Most things on the menu are off, but brochettes are almost guaranteed. You may have to wait some time while they go out and buy the meat though.

Recommended:
  • Cheap
Avoid:
  • Boring food
  • A bit disorganised - you'll have a long wait
Silverback Bar and Restaurant, Avenue du 5 Juillet (website)
This is a great spot for lunch as you can watch the world go by on Ruhengeri 'High Street'. Food is good quality - the usual brochettes etc, but with a few sandwiches and salads thrown in as well as a lunchtime buffet. There is a decent disco here, and a modern hotel. Its also a good spot for keeping an eye on bus arrivals and departures.

Recommended:
  • For people watching
  • Good, clean environment
Avoid:
  • Can get busy at lunchtime
Home d'Accueil, Avenue du 5 Juillet
Offers up a single massive plate of food at lunchtime, usually beef of some description, with all the carbs and beans you can eat. A little flirtation brings out the best in the staff and it's a pleasant place to spend lunchtime. Some senior military personnel like to eat lunch here, so everyone is well behaved.

Recommended:
  • Cheap with massive portions
  • Quick service at lunchtime
Avoid:
  • Little choice available
Hotel Muhabura, Avenue du 5 Juillet
Supposedly the only 'decent' hotel in Ruhengeri, this place suffers from the blight of many Rwandese hotels - they are happy to bump guests out of their rooms if a better offer comes in. The food is no better than Silverback, but the prices are higher. You might meet NGO types here.

Recommended:
  • Not a bad place for a drink
  • The food is OK
Avoid:
  • Overpriced
  • Bad service
  • Awful, awful coffee.
Some other tips on Ruhengeri that the guidebook neglects to tell you:

If you've just returned from Gorilla trekking and are eager to email your friends and family about your amazing experience, please take your muddy boots off before you go into the internet cafes. The owners are too polite to say anything, but they get very annoyed with the daily gang of dirty foreigners trailing mud onto their premises. Your courtesy will be acknowledged with kind smiles.

If you're travelling by bus keep a little spare change for the people who gather to beg around the bus stations. These people are not opportunists like you might occasionally find in Kigali, but are often people with mental health problems or who are very physically ill.

Don't walk on the grass in the middle of the main road through Ruhengeri, cross only where indicated.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'll post a guide to Gisenyi soon. Butare, being a university town has a few exciting places to eat - I've had some worthwhile stops there. I'm not that familiar with the town though, so ideas welcome.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Counting the statistics

I've got this little bit of software that monitors how many visitors there are to my blogs. I doesn't steal your data or anything like that, just tells me when, how many, and where you come from, both in terms of links and search terms, and your actual physical geography.

Yawn. Most interesting is a little function that tells you the search terms entered into a search engine which then prompted the user to click through to Kigali Restaurant Reviews. There are a few popular searches, most disturbingly people (mainly residing in Switzerland and Belgium, it seems) searching for the promise of pay-as-you-go sex at some of the more popular hotels in Kigali. My warning remarks about a few places also work as a useful guide for the travelling scumbag.

Apart from all that, another popular, and altogether more legitimate search is for 'Heaven Restaurant'. It seems that the folks at Heaven have their own website now: Heaven Restaurant Website

It looks like they're doing a US election night special on the 4th November, so get down there and order some Obama burgers.

Also doing good trade at the moment are Torero in town. If they get that place right then Kigali may have a cultural hub worth talking about. Good Luck to them. They have a website too: Torero Cafe Website


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Kigali: A 24 Hour City

Kigali is not so much a city that never sleeps, as, as Alex Turner might put it, a city that never wakes up. What qualifies it as a 24 hour city, is that a lot of visitors only end up spending 24 hours there. As a veteran of Kigali hotels I can confirm that the travelling aid dealers, overlanders, and gorilla hunters tend to make their stops in Kigali as short as possible, before venturing on to excitement elsewhere.

So, in the absence of any real new material (or content, as I believe the kids call it these days), here's a cut out and keep guide to where to eat if you're in Kigali for 24 hours.

High End
Are you a luxury gorilla tourist, or a high rolling World Bank aid monkey? Here's how to spend those dollars:

Breakfast:
The buffet at Serena is hard to beat, but if you're not staying there it will set you back at least $20. Otherwise try the Panorama Restaurant at the top of the Hotel Mille Collins. The buffet isn't as spectacular, but the view makes a great start to the day.

Lunch / Snacks:
The Novotel buffet is one of those places to go when you have money to burn. It isn't much fun though. Better is the Bourbon Cafe, with branches at the Union Trade Centre in town, and the MTN Centre in Nyarutarama. Excellent coffees come with free wi-fi, leather sofas, and an international menu (i.e. club sandwiches, salads and burgers)

Dinner (or 'tea' if you're from my neck of the woods)
Its a choice between Indian Khazana, for curry and fancy dress waiters, or Heaven for a quality, local sourced menu that changes with the seasons. Both restaurants are in Kiyovu and will set you back a minimum of $20 a head - more if you order wine.

Late night drinking:
Head down to Republika in Kiyovu for cocktails and beers with a view across the valley.


Mid-range
For the NGO workers, journalists and solo travellers looking for a hassle free bite.

Breakfast:
At the hotel, or why not stop in and pick up a pain au chocolat from the bakery at the Novotel or the Nakumatt at UTC.

Lunch:
La Sierra, near the banks in town does sandwiches, samosas, cheese pasties and a buffet. Eden garden a few doors down has a well regarded buffet. $10 will buy a decent Italian buffet at the Sol e Luna in Remera.

Dinner:
Back to Sol e Luna for a choice of about 50 pizzas, decent pasta and pitchers of red wine. For a broader menu, head to New Cactus in Kiyovu. A reasonably priced and very tasty buffet can be found at Chez Robert, across the road from the Hotel Mille Collines.

Late night drinking:
Fine dine or Karibu in town for a few beers, then on to Planete nightclub for a dance.

Budget:
Overlanders, backpackers, volunteers, save your pennies for the following.

Breakfast:
A cup of tea and a few biscuits. Who needs breakfast?

Lunch:
There are good buffets to be had at the Kigali Business Centre, Le Banjo in Remera, and at Nile Grill (Rue Kalisimbi, city centre)

Dinner:
Load up on meat quite cheaply at Carwash in Kimihurura, or grab a buffet at Karibu. Chez Lando's (Remera) brochettes come pretty cheap.

After hours drinking:
Stay at Carwash, or Chez Lando, or head over to Fine dine. New Cadillac for dancing.


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Nakumatt

All hail the arrival of Nakumatt in Kigali.

For the uninitiated, Nakumatt is a successful Kenyan supermarket, that has recently opened itsfirst branch outside Kenya in the Union Trade Centre, smack in the middle of what passes for Kigali 'city centre'. They plan more openings around town soon. Rejoice.

Readers of Experimental Jifflings, or anyone who has shared a beer with me, may detect a whiff of hypocrisy here. I've been in the checkout queue to give the big supermarkets a kicking in the past, and I'll continue beat my little drum in future. But Nakumatt is a different case.

For one thing, it's Kenyan owned, starting out in Nakuru as a little store selling mattresses (hence the name Nakumatt). I'm pleased to see that the store in Kigali still sells mattresses. The real Nakumatt boom has only come in the last ten years, and they train and pay their employees well, and are an example of how East African business can do well in East Africa. Over in Dakar we have to make do with a grim monopoly of the French owned Casino supermarket chain.

Why is this good for Kigali? Well it's a firm kick up the backside to all the other supermarket owners who overcharge, underservice, and can't guarantee supplies. Nakumatt's economies of scale will bring a new diversity of products to the shelves, and will ensure keen prices. With any luck, Nakumatt's influence will overturn the poor service and silly prices that seem to be the accepted norm at most shops and restaurants in Kigali. Thats no excuse for the City Council to let them open a store on every corner (not that the City Council would ever, ever be open to any sort of persuasion), but a bit of exposure to an economy outside of the bubble is long overdue, and should sharpen everybody up.

And thank Nakumatt for one last thing: Those 8000 franc bottles of Domaine Bergon will be a thing of the past. Now we're entering a new era of Spanish and South african plonks in all the colours that go for less than 5 notes a bottle.

--------------------------------------------------------

In 1998 I rolled a trolley around a Nakumatt in Nairobi for the first time. We were there to fill up on supplies for 3 months of fieldwork under canvas, and it was an ideal one stop shop. I'd just come from Norfolk, UK, were I'd spent much of my time tramping around the Broads practicing my field skills. Roys of Wroxham (a supermarket hero) had provided me lunchtime sustenance on many a grey winter morning, so I was delighted to discover that my Nakumatt trolley proudly advertised 'Roys of Wroxham' on the handle. How the hell does one get a shopping trolley from East Anglia to Nairobi? That is one hell of a steal.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Uptight Eating

H2O Restaurant, Kiyovu
I like a nice bit of decking. Waitresses who stare are even more fun, but please close your mouth now. Brochettes, brochettes, brochettes, steak and chips, brochettes. Owner has got religion in a big way and is considering banning sales of alcohol in the restaurant as well as smoking. If you think that sounds like a good idea then you're probably on the wrong blog.

Recommended:
  • The steak wasn't bad after all
  • Try throwing peanuts into the gaping mouth of the waitress.
Avoid:
  • If you're not comfortable with that whole creepy staring thing.
  • If you want to smoke, drink, have fun...

Belvedere, Centre Ville, by the banks.
Uncertain as to where this fits into the Kigali scene. Despite swinging saloon doors the punters are conservative types. Perhaps they're too aloof and snooty to eat at Chez Lando, because they might have to put up with foreigners, and smoking, and smiling, and the little people not doing as they're told.

Recommended:
  • It has saloon doors, that's quite good I suppose.
  • Staff are cheerful, despite being inefficient and not entirely honest
Avoid:
  • Toilets are a state
  • Shoddy service
  • Menu somewhat limited

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Good Chips / Bad Chips

Restaurant Emeraude (Emerald Restaurant), Boulevard de l’Umuganda, behind FAO and UNHCR.
Being so close to the FAO offices they do a brisk lunchtime trade here. Staff seem ultra-friendly and helpful and there is a sense of pride in the establishment. A well priced menu is mostly the usual Franco-International stuff, but has one or two surprises from what looks like a Javanese cookbook, along with healthier options. Ignore the healthy stuff though - the chips are thick cut and full of flavour.

Recommendations:
  • Friendly atmosphere and swift service
  • Good chips, acceptable fish
  • Plenty of parking space
  • Buffet lunch during the week
Avoid:
  • The chicken is like chewing an old slightly singed rope,

Passadena, Gikondo Nyenyeri
Done up like some sort of log cabin saloon, this out of the way venue has a funny sort of appeal. Its the kind of place where you might find someone miming to Celine Dion on stage, or doing bad breakdancing. For a real laugh roll up on Thursday night to check out the salsa classes. The last time I went the students enjoyed themselves oblivious to the bad jokes of their over-earnest British teacher. Like an awkward English sitcom. It might even be fun to join in...

Recommended:
  • Come for the weird entertainment, not the food.
Avoid:
  • Its a bit out of the way, hard to find a taxi or a moto home at night
  • Crinkle cut oven chips. Oh dear.
---------------------------------------------------------
A request for info:
Does anyone know the name of the hotel/bar/grill place on the airport road, on the hill opposite the Texaco garage? They do decent brochettes, but I've lost my notes.

Monday, 29 September 2008

As featured on the Guardian website!

Marvellous news this morning. An article on the Guardian food website included a link to Kigali Restaurant Reviews. One of my favourite food writers, Jay Rayner, included the link in his blog-article about ethnically incongruous restaurants.

My hit counter has gone through the roof! Hopefully this means the blog will reach a wider audience than the current ex-pat crowd, and perhaps help to encourage a few people to visit Rwanda, see for themselves, and spend a few quid.

Its been a good week for publicity. A few days ago I discovered that a link to KRR had been included in Kigali's 'Loose lips' newsletter. 'Loose Lips' has the makings of a good listings and classifieds magazine for Kigali. You can subscribe to the electronic mailing list by writing to: Kigalinewsletter@gmail.com

A few more reviews coming soon, and I'm hearing good things about 'Torrero' and a new Turkish place opening up. Meanwhile, have a look at my other site: experimental jifflings for some foodie notes from my recent trip to Asia.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Another two:

Two more reviews, and I'm not even in Kigali. Magic.

Le Banjo, Remera, on the road to the stadium
Some sort of safari saloon vibes going on here, but the welcome is friendly. Rwandese and East African menu, and there is a popular buffet at lunchtime.

Recommended:
  • Lunchtime buffet (carbs, carbs, beans and carbs) is good value at RwF1,500
  • Decent range of snacks - omelettes and so on.
Avoid:
  • Its not the most inspiring place. Alright for a quick lunchtime pit-stop.
  • The boulettes. Dense.

Freddy's Horizon Garden Restaurant, Kiyovu
Tucked just underneath Heaven, this place has a massive projector screen upon which they are promising to show films. Its a nice little spot to watch olympic gymnastics while partaking of a Mutzig pression or three. Buffet at lunchtime, slightly below-par snacks and brochettes in the evening.

Recommended:
  • It might be good for films, if they get the films right. Please: nothing starring Nicholas Cage.
  • Cheap. Cheerful
Avoid:
  • The goat brochettes have an unusual sweet marinade, but are as tough as tyres. Trying to extract a piece of meat with my fork resulted in it flying some eight feet across the patio, nearly striking a Dutch researcher
  • If you're on a date. Nobody looks good under UV lighting

Saturday, 13 September 2008

KIGALI KRAWL

Did you see what I did there?

Its the final weekend in Kigali. It could very well be the last weekend ever in Kigali. Why do I sense that this isn't over though? The sense that I'll be back here in the new year getting my back slapped by the waiters in Chez Lando.

So a pub crawl is in order. The Kigali Krawl. A gaggle of us, consultants, Australians, and other heavy drinkers. One day we'll publish an official route guide to the Kigali Krawl, they'll sell it in the ORPTN office at a hugely inflated price to amorphously-shaped American tourists. Grown men wearing baseball caps. Supposedly the most advanced nation on earth.

The Kigali Krawl

(Based on field notes, and inspired by the cheap wine lady)

Karibu
The Kigali Krawl Kicks off at Karibu.

Yes.

Every taxi driver, moto-rider, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, knows where Karibu is. An ideal, low key, place to start a krawl through town.

The waiter brings hot nuts. Good thinking Mr Waiter.

We're lingering a bit, need to get the momentum up.

Belvedere
Last time I was in here they were showing the A-Team dubbed into French: "Je plains l'imb├ęcile". There are middle class eaters comprised mostly of tall women with a haughty camelid demeanour and men in bad suits. They stare disapprovingly at our noisy group. We eat our bad food and toddle off.

The voices in my head are singing:
You see I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can't remember your name
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la

Don't know why. Good song though.

Fine Dine.
Packed with Anglophile Rwandese. They don't stare, but the wazungu in the corner do. Architecturally it has a post-colonial Asmara coffee shop vibe. I haven't been to Asmara. Thats the vibe though. I like it. There is a band. LIVE MUSIC WITH REAL LIVE MUSICIANS PLAYING AND SINGING AND PEOPLE SMILING AND DANCING. In Kigali. Thats not right. Has this been sanctioned by the correct authorities? I'll come here again next week. Ah. Too late.

Passion
Skip the Mille Collines, lets shoot some pool. Two shots to you. Two shots to you. Two shots to you. One shot on the black.

Nice potato wedges. I should've eaten more.

Informers make the smokers go outside. Funny. It doesn't seem like the sort of place that informers would drink.

Torrero
New. Look at this. Coffee tables, illegal gay waiters, and copies of wallpaper* magazine scattered around. We could be in New York.

US troops? what are they doing here? Stop staring at us. No, sorry, stop staring at the girls.

This is a Krawl - coffee is for cheats!

Those two South African idiots again. Lets move on.

Carwash.
Yeah.
Wot no ribs. Bring on the pork and chips. And more beer. Here's Boniface. Forgot to call him, but he found us anyway. Good.

Pork and chips. Drunkeness, perhaps if I just keep talking no one will notice I'm drunk

Lets walk to One Love. Who is this guy following us. Does he know kung fu?

"Do you know Kung Fu?"

"Eh?"

"Do you know Kung Fu?"

"Eh?"

One Love / Orion
Orion: No, rubbish.
One Love: Yes, good.
Open air reggae dancing. I am the only one dancing. Coca-cola to keep me sober.

"Do you know Kung fu?"

Taxi. Hotel. Bed.

Monday, 25 August 2008

It's a small town

I've been continuing my quest to see what the man on the street thinks about eating out in Kigali, and stumbled across an interesting little coincidence...

Check out the reviews of the Heaven Restaurant in Kigali on Tripadvisor.

Lots of positive reviews. I concur - its a good place to eat. Now look a little closer:
  • Note the language used. Each of the reviews reads like a press release.
  • Check out the reviewer profiles. 4 out of 5 joined within a couple of days of each other, and immediately gave Heaven glowing reviews. They haven't reviewed any other places.
  • Where are the reviewers located? NYC, Boston, San Francisco... Next time you go into Heaven, ask the owners for a little potted history.
  • Google the names of the reviewers with the names of the owners. Hello there!
What an extraordinary coincidence.

Mixed but mostly very positive reviews of Heaven have already appeared on Kigali Restaurant Reviews and Jifflings. The reviews still stand (its still a great place to eat), but they are not due to another extraordinary coincidence.

By the nature of my eating habits, I have developed good relationships with restaurant owners and staff in Kigali and elsewhere, and yes - I sometimes get special treatment at some places due to my repeat custom, and maybe even because of this blog. However, the reviews are always impartial and not driven by any special service or favours I receive.

News of the best places always comes from genuine reviews and, more importantly, genuine word of mouth.

Three More

Stella 2 (and VIP), Remera, close to Chez Lando
A bar in many parts. A slightly grubbier alternative to Chez Lando, the Stella VIP bar boasts private areas where you can talk politics without worrying too much about the thought police. Across the road at Stella 2 things are more public. Cheap as chips.

Recommended:
  • For plotting and skullduggery.
  • The whole barbecued tilapia smelled nice.
Avoid:
  • The waiter didn't tell me about the whole barbecued tilapia
  • Shrivelled up brochettes.

La Sierra, City centre, beside Bacar Bank.
Forgot about this little gem after my first visit in 2006. Near the banking area in town La Sierra does a brisk lunchtime trade. A buffet is supplemented by simple a la carte and a take away section inside the shop. Ham and cheese sandwiches on brown bread cut into slices leave me nostalgic for home.

Recommendations:
  • Proper butties!
  • Swift service
  • Decent a la carte
  • Samosas and pasties are well stuffed
Avoid:
  • The buffet is expensive (6500 RwF) - better value elsewhere
  • Not much going on in the evening here.
Flamingo, Kimihurura
I think this is the same Flamingo that used to be on the top of the telecom tower. In any case it offers upmarket Chinese food in tasteful surroundings with good views from upstairs. Popular during the week with Rwandese movers and shakers.

Recommendations:
  • Soups made with decent stock.
  • Super-hot towels
Avoid:
  • Staff can be a bit forgetful.
  • Main dishes are a bit heavy on the onion, go for the sizzlers
More soon. Click here to see the other reviews.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Downturn

A couple of recent visits to Papyrus have been real disappointments. After the refit, new menu, and bakery section opened, Papyrus was one of the hottest places in town. Its still busy, but I think the reason the place is so full is because it can't turn the customers over quick enough. One has the impression of a busy restaurant, but the reality is of a restaurant where nobody is actually eating

A place serving pizza, pasta, and salad really shouldn't be keeping punters waiting for an hour. Customers walking out of the restaurant because a salad has taken two hours to arrive is not good news. They won't come back, and they'll tell ten other people not to go. Business evaporates.

A few nights ago my colleague visited Papyrus with a small group of friends. As they ordered their food over in Papyrus, I was across town meeting another, more hippy-like colleague, at the Novotel. We had two beers, walked over to Havana Club, ordered and ate a pizza, had one last large beer, hailed a motorbike taxi, and drove across the valley to Papyrus. As I arrived at Papyrus the first plates of my colleague's party's food were emerging from the kitchen.

Disappointing.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Rwanda foodie links

Thankfully I'm not the only person daft enough to write about eating out in Rwanda on the internet. A few minutes googling throws up a number of hits, and I've spent a bit of time rooting about, seeing what the man onthe street has to say.

I found a review of the Chez Lando hotel, where I usually stay, written a couple of weeks ago:

This hotel is fantastic. The brochettes in the restaurant are top notch, but the pool is its crowning glory. What a swim!!

The brochettes are indeed very good. There is no swimming pool though.

What was it Johnny Rotten said about the man on the street? He was right. Tripadvisor has a lot to answer for. Here, idiots write about how some rancid pizza shop is the best restaurant in East Africa, or perhaps the epiphany they had when they tried mayonnaise with their chips for the first time. Here are some more choice cuts:

Menu with something to tempt everyone, including vegetarian and healthful foods as well a delicious variety of starters and entrees.

I love Indian fare...period!

Oh dear (ellipsis, period, exclamation mark).

Food blogs will never wipe out proper journo-reviewers like Jay Rayner, AA Gill, or Giles Coren. Those folks can write, all cleverful and professionful. They know a thing or two about what is on the plate in front of them. They are not cretins. Not even Michael Winner.

Anyhow, there is one good Kigali blog: cheap wines of kigali, written in a suitably drunken style by an anonymous lady who always carries a notebook in her handbag just in case there is wine. Check it out here.

Another short batch of reviews coming soon.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Kigali Restaurant Reviews

Here are the reviews, first published on Experimental Jifflings. I will add and edit as and when - please post your ideas.

The Chez Lando Hotel, Remera. (The rooms are alright, and the staff friendly)
Foodwise you have the choice of the atmospheric bar and grill area, which shows international football and has a friendly crowd, or the rather stale, brightly lit, indoor restaurant, which has all the atmosphere of Crewe train station on a wet Tuesday in January. The menu is the same at both venues, so unless its raining, head to the bar.

Recommendations:
  • The goat brochette is probably the best in town
  • Steak and chips is pretty reasonable, but avoid the mushroom sauce
  • Tilapia to share between two is highly recommended, but takes a while to arrive.
  • Some people swear by the barbecued chicken. Personnally I would rather eat boiled bicycle tyres, they would be less chewy.
Avoid:
  • The pizza. I don't think the chef has ever eaten a real pizza, but has created this from the memory of a picture of a pizza, drawn on the side of a moving donkey by a four year old child, that he once saw 15 years ago, from a distance.
  • Solo visits to the bar. The prostitutes there are serious. There is no foreplay, they just come right up and ask you for your room number, then your phone number, then your name. Its easy to deny knowledge of the first two.
  • Same goes if you're a solo female - expect lots of uninvited male attention.

Sole Luna (Remera, near Chez Lando)
Probably the best pizzas in town - from a proper wood-fired oven, and reasonable pasta too. Smaller bites at lunchtime and reasonable red wine. Not great if its busy and if you're in a hurry, but why should you hurry? Decent music, friendly staff and a nice al fresco atmosphere. And they've sorted out the toilets too.

Recommended:
  • Good value lunchtime buffet
  • Pizza 'Sole Luna'
  • Bruschetta
  • Pitchers of red wine
Avoid:
  • The lasagne sucks
  • The large parties of christians. Don't blow smoke in that direction for god's sake.
Hellenique, Kimihurura, near New Cadillac
Greek (obviously), comes with a hotel attached and a view over the valley. Its pricey, but you get proper Greek food - taramasalata, feta, dolmades, souvlaki, moussaka, and plenty of obscurities (including rabbit dishes) in satisfying portions. There is some standard pasta stuff for the philistines.

Recommended:
  • Visit the well stocked bar for a chat with the owners and a glass of ouzo
  • Mezze
  • Steak with roquefort sauce - mighty!
Avoid:
  • If you want a big night with plenty of action - this place is seriously sleepy.
  • If your budget is tight.
  • The Congolese waiter trying to flog 'art'.

Novotel, Kaciyiru
Bland business hotel from the French owned Accor chain. All the things you need from a business hotel - pool, gym, shops, internet. Buffet lunch and dinner or a la carte dining.

Recommended:
  • For business lunches at the buffet
  • For a small fee you can use the pool all day.
Avoid:
  • Eating a la carte - rubbish burgers and the usual hotel muck.
  • Drinks prices are steep
  • Buffet doesn't change much.
Indian Khazana, Kiyovu, not far from Mille Collines
Probably Kigali's best regarded restaurant amongst ex-pats. Better food is available elsewhere, but pleasant surroundings and colourfully uniformed staff give it a touch of class/crass depending on how you look at it. Busy for much of the week.

Recommended:
  • The railway mutton curry
  • Pretty good breads
  • OK for a sociable work dinner
Avoid:
  • If you're a real curry snob
  • Sitting near the artificial waterfall (you can ask them to switch it off)

Chez Robert
Opposite the Hotel Mille Collines this popular restaurant serves a la carte and has probably the best buffet in town. Friendly service and a warm atmosphere.

Recommended:
  • The buffet is quick and has a great selection
Avoid:
  • The long wait for a la carte orders

Karibu, Avenue de la Paix
Relaxed restaurant in town. Offers a lunch and dinner buffet of the usual Rwandese carbs, a la carte pizzas and pastas aren't anything special.

Recommended:
  • The breakfast buffet is popular at weekends.
Avoid:
  • High expectations

Republika, Kiyovu
A bar / restaurant that goes on until the early hours. Republika has established itself near the top of the Kigali nightlife tree. Early doors its full of expatriates eating in large groups, who are then replaced by Rwandese movers and shakers who stay until late. The decor has an upmarket safari lodge feel.

Recommended:
  • Mutzig beer on tap
  • Sambaza - tiny fried fish
  • Steak Republika
  • The view from the balcony restaurant
Avoid:
  • The girls who congregate at the bar at the weekend

Havana Club, Next door to Novotel, Kaciyiru
Laid back pizza and pasta joint, not a patch on Sole Luna's food, but the atmosphere is fine and the prices are reasonable. Great for a meal or just a few drinks.

Recommended:
  • Mutzig beer on tap
  • Sweet and savoury crepes
Avoid:
  • The annoying American contractors who sit by the door spouting their racist, homophobic Republican views in front of whichever confused looking prostitutes they're sleeping with this week.
Barn Thai, Kimihurura, next to New Cadillac
Great, a Thai restaurant. No, I take that back. Barn thai has the longest menu in the great lakes region, illustrated by colour photographs of each dish. Don't get excited though, most things are not available. The food itself, when it eventually comes, is averagely disappointing. During a powercut we sat in darkness for 20 minutes while the waiting staff acted as if they'd never encountered a powercut in Kigali before.

Recommended:
  • If you want some Thai flavours to break the brochette monotony.
Avoid:
  • If you like to be able to see what your eating.
  • If you've forgotten the mosquito repellent

Nouvelle Planete, Remera, by Chez Lando
Slightly lower budget alternative to Chez Lando, with a very similar set up. A few more Rwandese specialities on the menu too.

Recommended:
  • If you're on your own and don't want to attract the attention of the Chez Lando girls
  • If you fancy a side order of sombe, or an omlette
  • The best (only?) lunchtime buffet in this neck of the woods
Avoid:
  • If you're with a group and want somewhere more atmospheric - try Chez Lando.

KBC, Kaciyiru
Probably the best and most popular lunchtime buffet in Kigali. Queue up with your plate for great avocados, and a good dollop of groundnut sauce. Friendly staff, and decent fruit juice.

Recommended:
  • For a quick lunch at a bargain price
Avoid:
  • It can get busy sometimes, so be prepared to share your table with random folks.

Papyrus, Kimihurura
After a previous pasting on Experimental Jifflings, this place has sorted its act out. Smart atmosphere, with not-too-intrusive music. There is a deli with local(ish) cheese, yoghurt and bread on-site, and cooking has reverted to the classic home made pizzas and pasta.

Recommended:
  • Most of the pasta dishes.
  • Supporting the deli
  • "The tower of Mutzig" - five bottles in a long upright tube.
Avoid:
  • Starters are a bit weak.

Unnamed Chinese, by Novotel/Ninzi Hotel, Kaciyiru
Nice vibes here if you can get one of the little snugs. The food bears no resemblance to anything Chinese, but a lot of Chinese people eat there... I suspect there is a secret menu.

Recommended:
  • If you can get hold of the secret menu.
  • A few nice pork dishes.
Avoid:
  • Watch out for the prostitutes on the street outside, 'Arse-biters' according to a colleague of mine.
  • Don't go expecting Chinese food

Hotel Mille Collines
Upper floor restaurant with great views and passable hotel food, poolside bar/grill with the usual brochettes and good-time girls.

Recommended:
  • For a quiet meal with a good view.
  • Relaxing by the pool during the day at the weekend.
Avoid:
  • More brochette boredom in the bar
  • Occasionally pushy prostitutes

Chez John, Kiyovu
Tucked away, you'll have a job to find this one. A nice airy space is let down by slow service. Franco-Rwandese international cuisine. Yeah right.

Recommended:
  • Not much, the fish - capitaine (Nile Perch) - is quite nice.
Avoid:
  • If you want to eat your food before 11pm.

Ice and Spice

The budget alternative to the Indian Khazana, some (including me) argue that the food is better. Ice and Spice is cosy and laid back, and has an extensive menu.

Recommended:
  • For better curry than the Khazana, at a more competitive price - you can live without the waiters in silly hats right?
Avoid:
  • The egg curry. You'll be suffering in the morning.

Carwash, Kimihurura
A great place to watch the football on the big screen. Carwash does the usual brochettes and steaks, but its the Kenyan style Nyama Choma (roast goat meat) that does the business. Take your friends and order a pile of ribs with plenty of beer and greens.

Recommended:
  • For Nyama Choma, and big football matches
Avoid:
  • Not much seating if it rains.
La Fiesta, Kimihurura
Bright little mexican restaurant with no pretentions. Swift friendly service, and a garden area for daytime dining, and bizarrely, volleyball.

Recommended:
  • Sizzling fajitas for a big portion
Avoid:
  • Slightly smelly waiting staff

Serena Hotel, Nyarugenge
Does bar food and also has a 'fine dining' restaurant. Both are expensive. The food in the restaurant is bland mutton-dressed-as-lamb but at foie gras prices. Serena is the kind of place that people with no palette go to 'have a nice meal'.

Recommended:
  • The club sandwich in the bar isn't bad (but it costs 7,000 francs)
Avoid:
  • Why bother when you can spend half as much somewhere else for something better?
  • Hanging around in the lobby late at night... for the usual reasons.

Gorillas, Kiyovu
A hotel with decent grub. Pizzas are OK, steaks and the usual franco-international stuff. Lots of well dressed Rwandese about - seems to be a place to go for special occasions.

Recommended:
  • Better than most hotel offerings. Pretty reliable grub.
  • Steaks cooked at the table - always nice to have a bit of culinary busking.
Avoid:
  • Service can be a bit on the slow side

Bourbon Coffee, Union Trade centre
What's this? Some sort of upmarket starbucks-esque coffee joint with wireless internet access and leather sofas. Normally in the UK I'd run a mile from this sort of place, but here... ahhh. Local coffee in all shapes and sizes, muffins and cookies, and a menu that wouldn't look out of place in an Islington cafe.

Recommended:
  • The coffee - marvellous
  • Sitting out on the balcony
  • Great sandwiches
Avoid:
  • If you're annoyed by American college students having 'an experience' in Rwanda during their vacation.

Cafeteria at UTC, Union Trade Centre
The hub of the UTC, order a pizza or buffet lunch from one of the windows, sit at a dirty table and wonder exactly how many days your food has been sitting around for.

Recommended:
  • I suppose its OK for people watching
Avoid:
  • Eating anything

Cafe at La Galette
Laid back cafe attached to La Galette supermarket. Perfect for resting your feet post-shopping. Sandwiches and brochettes seem to attract throngs of ex-patriates on Saturday afternoons, and there is a noticeboard advertising all the usual ex-pat gubbins - cars, rooms to let, etc etc.

Recommended:
  • Meeting friends on a Saturday afternoon.
Avoid:
  • Service is a bit slow when its busy.

Lalibela, Remera
Ethiopian. This one used to be in Kimhurura, and I thought it had closed down until a colleague pointed it out. Basic and a bit brightly lit, the food can be variable, but its worth a go for something different.

Recommended:
  • Beanyatu to share
  • Doro Wat
Avoid:
  • Having meetings in confined spaces the following morning.

Maestro, Outside UTC
Well, this looks swish, but does it always smell of drains or just when the wind is blowing this way?

Recommended:
  • Cheapish and convenient
  • Buffet is reasonable
Avoid:
  • Sitting on the terrace on a windy day

Heaven, Kiyovu
Probably the top of the class in Kigali restaurant terms. Heaven is stylish and the food is unique for the city. Expect it to be invaded by braying ex-pats and fat legged gorilla hunters before long. (for a more detailed review, click here)

Recommended:
  • For quick service
  • A great location with good views
  • Can cater for large groups
  • The food is pretty good, and the menu changes
  • Great burgers
Avoid:
  • The bloke who owns the place is a bit irritating
  • If you can smell rain, don't sit outside
  • The wine list is extortionate. Its the same Ndolis supermarket plonk, double the price. Ker-ching.

Cactus, Kiyovu
Nicely tucked away, this has a relaxed garden vibe to it. Food is good - the usual French/International menu. Carafes of wine are good value. Enjoyed watching the staff mis-pouring carafes and then necking it behind the bushes one Saturday night - now thats my kind of restaurant. Oh yeah, they do fondue, if anyone's interested.

Recommended:
  • Family friendly
  • Good steaks
  • Wine is reasonably priced
Avoid:
  • Make sure you check the bill at the end in case you've been charged for the cheeky staff drinks.

Thats all for now... there will be a few more additions before the end of August.


Tuesday, 1 July 2008

KRR

Kigali restaurant reviews coming soon....