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.


3 comments:

erwin5us said...

I just wanted to make a quick correction. The brochettes (Nyama choma) in Kigali is not Kenyan style, it's Rwandan. the Kenyan version is different from Rwandan.

Jiffler said...

Thanks Erwin. You're quite right about the brochettes. However, the Nyama Choma that I refer to in the reviews above are only served at the Carwash bar/restaurant - a popular haunt for the Kenyan diaspora. Ask for them especially, and they'll bring you decent nyama choma, sukuma wiki, and ugali.

Jake said...

Many Thanks Jiffler,

Not only highly informative but also very funny. I would just like to add that I agree the buffet in the KBC is very good but best to arrive soon after midday as they seem to run out of quite a few dishes by 1pm.

I'll keep and eye out for the arsebiters!