Having travelled extensively along the Kenyan coastline, Mombasa is not exactly my favourite stop.
My preferences for a coastal getaway tend to veer towards remote locations and unspoilt beaches, and I’ve always found Mombasa to be far too crowded, particularly during peak tourism seasons like now.
I, however, happened to be in the city this week and ventured out to Fort Jesus with a friend on a whim.
As we strolled down the charming Old Town taking in the Portuguese and Arabic influences in the architecture and haggling with the curio shop vendors over their overpriced goods, we chanced upon Forodhani Restaurant at the end of the street.
I’m a sucker for Moorish architecture and it is actually the intricately curved wooden Swahili door that first attracted me to this place.
Walking in, we were confused for a minute because the ground floor was empty yet the walls outside announced a restaurant. A man in a white kofia, who may have been a host, finally directed us to take the stairs downwards where an al fresco dining set up awaited us on the terraces on two lower floors.
The best part about Forodhani has got to be its prime seafront location, adjacent to the scenic Tudor Creek and overlooking the old harbor ,which is actually still functional.
The view is completed by birds fluttering past above the sea as boats come in to anchor, never mind that these are actually Indian house crows which can be quite the nuisance.
The menu had an array of Indian, Swahili and seafood which are decently priced; we paid between Sh 800 and Sh 1,000 per person for lunch.
I still think that what you’re actually paying for is the location. Having had just about enough fake pilau in Nairobi, I was on the hunt for an authentic Swahili dish and therefore immediately settled for pilau. While the dish was decent, I was a little disappointed that they make it with pilau masala. I find that using whole spices gives the dish a strong taste and aroma, which is exactly what I had been craving. Besides, is it really authentic pilau if you don’t mistakenly bite into the odd black pepper or cinnamon stick?
I had this with a side of mchicha whose English name I am told is Amaranth, but no one should refer to it as such because that sounds like the name of some herbal soap. It cost Sh 80, and was a welcome accompaniment despite being a little too salty.
Ever notice how much, like with newspapers and books being more interesting when someone else is reading them from across the room, your companion’s food always seems to look better than yours? My friend ordered samaki wa kupaka which was a whole mid-sized grilled tilapia that came on a thick coconut sauce, and accompanied by butter naan.
The naan was a lot thicker than what I’ve tried before and it actually felt like a pizza crust, and that is by no means a complaint.
Just don’t overestimate how much you can actually eat because my friend ordered two but it was too heavy to finish.
To wrap up the afternoon, nothing would have been better than a cold beer or perfectly chilled glass of wine. But, alas, they do not serve alcohol because of religion. Still…