There’s about to be a battle of the Titans on Nairobi’s food scene and it is going to be glorious!
When Kenya’s Java House chain first attempted expansion into Uganda a few years ago, a little known Ugandan brand moved to court to block the action precipitating a fierce legal battle over trademark infringements.
The petitioner was Café Javas, a fairly young home-grown coffee style restaurant with nine outlets across Kampala and Entebbe.
On a recent visit to the lush, hilled capital, a bunch of my cousins and I made sure to visit one of the Café Javas branches for lunch as legend had reached us all the way in Nairobi of their tremendous portions, value for money and food quality. Being thrifty travellers, we intended on verifying this.
I was horrified to learn that the branch our local expert recommended was located at a petrol station. This, coupled with the devastating news that because of its Muslim ownership, pork and alcohol are not served at Javas, had me in a right state by the time we arrived.
My frustrations were assuaged as soon as we crossed the threshold into the manic dining room where my own voice was drowned in the din of a multitude of patrons.
The place was packed to the rafters; employees zipped across the floor with trays full of the most eye-popping portions of food I have ever seen!
The friend we were meeting had the good sense to reserve spaces at a long table in the middle of the place, and it was the only unoccupied table on the entire floor.
Even the massive outdoor terrace with electric canopies and an automated mist cooling system that sits up to 50 was full up.
Once settled, a friendly waitress handed us the massive menus and gave us a quick overview of the day’s specials. I ordered a portion of chicken quesadillas with garlic and parmesan chips in place of regular chips.
This came at a negligible extra cost. Served with ramekins of guacamole, salsa and a yoghurt dressing, there was no way I could possibly finish the whole meal – however delicious – and at some point, I feigned generosity and passed my plate down the table asking if anyone would have liked a taste of something they didn’t have.
And to think that all my food including a side of extra avocado and two sublime fruit mocktails cost me the equivalent of around Sh1,600
While we ate excitedly, a tall gentleman with the affable manner of a doting uncle came out to say hello. Upon discovering we were from Nairobi, he announced they’d be opening two branches in Nairobi soon – one at the Village Market (tentatively) and another along the city centre’s Koinange Street. He even promised that if we ever ran into him at one of his Nairobi branches, our meals would be on the house; an offer I intend on taking up as he seemed the kind whose word you can trust.
I later found out that the gentlemen was a founder of the Mandela Group of companies whose repertoire includes petrol stations, car tyre dealerships and Café Javas, among others.
Should they come to Nairobi, the Java House chain will without a doubt face an uphill task to stay ahead of the game. I can’t wait!