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.

  • For plotting and skullduggery.
  • The whole barbecued tilapia smelled nice.
  • 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.

  • Proper butties!
  • Swift service
  • Decent a la carte
  • Samosas and pasties are well stuffed
  • 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.

  • Soups made with decent stock.
  • Super-hot towels
  • 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


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.


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.