There’s something about hotel food and eating spaces that I have always found somewhat off-putting. Perhaps it is the prospect of a buffet or the thought of seeing the rotund man wolfing down pastries at the next table shirtless by the pool later. I don’t know.
On a recent work assignment in Rwanda and Kampala, my employer put me up in two different hotels operated by one owner, and as I hardly hard anytime to go out food crawling, I had to eat on site.
CityBlue Hotels is a little known (in Kenya) hotel group which has been sending shockwaves through the industry in Rwanda and Uganda.
The group’s trendy boutique business hotels trade under the name Urban by CityBlue which is where I stayed both times.
When my colleague and I arrived at our hotel in Uganda’s capital at an odd hour, the chef at Café Mamba Restaurant was closing the kitchen but agreed to whip something up for us while we checked in.
We agreed happily, gave him our preferences and asked him to surprise us.
‘Whipping something up’ turned out to be an entire production whose outcome was a grilled fish fillet with a ramekin of brown gravy for my mate and pork short ribs for me. Impressed, we both sat by the pool flanked by well-manicured lawns.
This entire configuration seemed to me a little too intimate as the restaurant courtyard is surrounded by hotel rooms, but I looked the only one who cared.
There was a small dinner party on the lawns, and my colleague attacked her food, unbothered. Presented on a bed of steamed vegetables and grilled pumpkin, my plate was a pretty sight.
I had ordered a side of chips which I literally inhaled before turning to my ribs, which were so tender that the meat slid right off the bone.
While I appreciate a sweet and sour sauce, the chef may have been a little heavy-handed with the orange syrup which overpowered the other flavours.
Meanwhile, my dining partner gobbled her food down with relish. Her fish had a nice firm crust and did not crumble when sliced. Overall, our dinner went down a real treat, and we both retired to our rooms encumbered with the itis (millennialism meant to mean happily stuffed and lethargic).
Our dining experiences at the Urban by CityBlue, Kigali were enhanced by the property’s location.
Housed on the top floor of the hotel, The Bistro Restaurant and Lounge Bar –uninspired as the name may sound- has some of the most stellar views of Kigali I have ever seen.
The hilly landscape of Kigali makes it quite fun for view seekers like myself. Wooden floors and beams, pendant lights and slate tiled walls come together to give off a soft folksy charm which made it an easy spot to hang out at.
Trying seafood at an unknown (to me) restaurant in a landlocked country is not something I would ordinarily do, but after learning that a Filipino chef runs the kitchen, I confidently ordered a green prawn curry on my first night there.
I suspected that one couldn’t possibly come from an Asian country with one of the longest coastlines in the world, be trained as a chef and still mess a prawn curry up. I was right.
The creamy coconut infused sauce warmed my insides, and the succulent prawns were an absolute delight. I’ll be sure to check out the other menu items at those outlets the next time I am in town. Such great promise!