Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?

Tripadvisor still rates Heaven Restaurant as the number one in Rwanda, a statistic which Heaven proudly quotes on their website. Perhaps the casual diner would prefer to hear the views of the general public on Tripadvisor than what a smartarse with a blogspot account thinks, but just remember this: the general public like eating at McDonalds.

Do check out the Heaven website though - my partially exposed bumcrack still appears peeping slyly at you in a photograph on the Heaven homepage. What a glorious legacy.

Pleasingly, the menu has changed since my last visit, but my concentration span is low so I order the default burger which impressed me so much on my very first visit. I also got to taste a Turbo King beer, a dark beer with a Trappist vibe going on. At about 8% though, overconsumption might lead to errors of judgement.

An amuse bouche is normally the chef's excuse to show off a bit, but here we are presented with the same baby poo on chapathi chips as they were knocking out two years ago. Yawn. They still haven't listened about the Guacamole either. A squeeze of lime juice, an extra pinch of salt, and maybe a spot of chilli is all it takes folks.

The burger seems to have declined. Despite ordering medium, it comes well done, very dry, and about the size of a bottle top. The bun is also dry and slightly burnt, while the triangle of cheese is barely visible. Chez Lando do a better burger. Yes: Chez Lando. Chips (fries) are good though. Very crisp and more-ish.

Making fish and chips - proper British fresh-from-the-chippy fish and chips - is both a delicate science and a fine art. Either do it properly or don't do it at all. Likewise ravioli: it looks all handmade and nice, but why force it to swim in a big red puddle like some sort of bizarre alien crime scene?

So, top marks for chips (fries) and very good service. Top marks for that view as well. I had a quick poke around in the kitchen too, which seemed very clean, until I was politely ejected. I can't quite put my finger on why Heaven always strikes me as a bit weird though. It's a bit like going on the London Eye. You can enjoy the view, especially at night, but it's expensive, and you're in a bubble isolated from the people in the city down below, surrounded by overweight tourists.

Number 1? Nope, maybe top five on a good day.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

It's okay, even better this way. That's what they'll tell you. That's what they'll say

Just down the Hill from Mille Collines - in what I think used to be the American club - the Royal Garden is knocking out a mix of Chinese and Indian food, and minestrone soup.

The main thrust of the menu is the sort of vaguely Indian cuisine served at Khazana, although with the addition a whole page of ever reliable egg curries on the menu.

A few years back there used to be an Indian Restaurant in Kigali called the Minar, and I wonder if the chef at Royal Garden used to work there. Like the Minar, Royal Garden's curries are quite rich and creamy, and very heavy on the ghee. Fresh herbs are in evidence, but these fail to make much an impression against the heavy sauces.

Tandoori roti's are OK, a little over-cooked around the edges, and rices fine. Our paneer sizzler is delayed, and arrives only after one of our table ("the Atilla the Hun of restaurant feedback") wrestles a waiter to the ground and sets about him with a tightly rolled chapathi. What arrives is kind of weird, and involves cabbage, chicken, and cheese.

But lo - the manager takes it off the bill, and demands feedback. OK then, here is my feedback:
Lighten up the food and tighten up the service. Skim off some of that ghee and have more faith in your spices and fresh herbs. Keep the breads moving quick in the tandoori - they need to come straight to the table before they start cooling and going hard. Tighten up on service - it is very friendly and polite but the wait on the sizzler dish was a bit silly.
And take the tinned soups off the menu.

It is Valentine's night, and the place is packed with people wearing red. Our table are the only wazungu present, so it is sort of the inverse of Khazana in that respect. I reckon that could be a very good thing indeed. Once the restaurant settles in a bit, I'd say the food might easily match up to Khazana (and no Khazana-style "morning after" problems were reported). So Royal Garden: good luck.

Royal Garden
Kiyovu, Opposite the Bank National of Rwanda
Tel:0788 500073

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

I go, I come back.

I'm back. My usual table please.

Despite an absence of 18 months or so, the staff at Chez Lando greet me like an old friend. Some things have changed for the better - there are more hotel rooms and fewer tarts in the bar than previously - and some things have taken a turn for the worse. The best bar in Kigali, Jiffling HQ, is now a building site, and we're forced to take our Mutzigs around the corner were the old nightclub used to be. At least you can get a croque-monsieur now (well, a loose interpretation of one). All my lobbying finally paid off.

I see Ndoli's still sells Domaine Bergon for 8000 RwF, and that the hot snacks still make you ill. Sole Luna seems bigger, or maybe I just got smaller, and the young digital nomads still play the game of eyes with each other from behind their laptops at the Bourbon Cafe. Is it me, or is Bourbon Cafe getting a little scruffy?

Anyhow, recommendations please folks. Don't be shy.