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:

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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


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.

  • The steak wasn't bad after all
  • Try throwing peanuts into the gaping mouth of the waitress.
  • 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.

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