Nothing in my food exploits other than buffets gives me more anxiety than set menus but I periodically dare to venture into these terrifying waters with varying results. Most recently, my partner and I were guests at The Charming Lonno Lodge in Watamu whose onsite restaurant serves scrumptious four-course dinners with a variety of exotic continental dishes. The poolside bistro is sparsely furnished with tables for four arranged arbitrarily around a gargantuan scrap metal giraffe sculpture which serves as a formidable central attraction.
For walls, white drapes that are fastened from the floor to the ceiling, allowing them to billow beautifully in the sea breeze without becoming a nuisance. Gentle piped music of all genres plays from the concealed speakers but it is often drowned by the crashing of waves in the near distance which is a more welcome type of music. On my first night, dinner included a starter of tuna tartare followed by the first and main courses; penne with smoked sailfish stuffing and crab gratin respectively. Dessert was a vanilla and chocolate mousse topped off with the most delicious espresso I have had in forever.
I’m a huge fan of seafood tartares when cleverly combined with other ingredients to create complementary flavours and this one was a hit. Raisins in something as savoury as this would be a put off for most people but together with the crushed cashew nut, capers and anchovies, the perfect balance was achieved. Simply presented without any garnish, it gave the feel of home-style cooking which, considering the boutique hotel and restaurant are family run, made perfect sense.
The creamy pasta was absolutely divine though I’d have wished for a fish of more exceptional flavour like halibut or salmon. By the time my crab gratin was served with fish and butter-tossed steamed vegetable, I was a little giddy from the many glasses of pinot grigio I had thrown back. Produced by a winery in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region, it was of superior quality and went down a real treat. I gobbled down my main course which could have used a more generous sprinkling of cheese on the crust but was nonetheless delicious. Served in a hollowed out crab shell, the poetry gave me a little chuckle. Dessert was wonderful but the consistency of the mousse was a bit odd as if it needed to be left setting for a longer period but it tasted so good I had both mine and my mate’s portions.
The second day was an odd mishmash of offerings and emotions as I fell in love with the Russian starter salad but could not stomach the prawn and zuchinni gnocchi (to be honest, I still have not found a place that can convince me gnocchi should not be relegated to livestock fodder status). The mini passion meringue pie had excellent crust but the fruit was a little overpowering. Grilled fish fillet made the main course which could have been perfect were it not for the sharp tasting lemon sauce which made my eyes water. That said, my disapproval was based purely on personal preference and not the general quality of the food which I can safely say is above par!