THE DISH: A tale of two restaurants...part 2

Monday May 28 2018

The breakfast wrap at Kaldis in Upper Hill, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The breakfast wrap at Kaldis in Upper Hill, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

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I tend to compare franchises often. If I'm having one of those days where I really feel like a Java milkshake – the ones that they do that can be mixed flavours, you know? The ones that you can get a half chocolate, half vanilla milkshake and they won't compromise on the thickness of the milkshake.

Thickness of a milkshake is important to me. Why? Because I'm not interested in drinking milk. When a milkshake is too thin, it is simply milk, like the Dairy Fresh ones in the supermarket.

If I wanted to drink milk, I would have ordered milk. I like the kind of thickness in a straw that you have to fight with to get out, you know what I mean? That's what I'm looking for.


But I digress. When I want a milkshake that only Java can do, I go for it, and tend to overlook the other aspects of Java that I can't stand, such as potentially lacking service or substandard food.

Then, if I go and have the same milkshake at another Java, I compare the consistency of their product. And if it's another Java, I expect the products to be similar in quality and taste. That is, after all, the point of a franchise, right? That you're getting the same thing?

Now that Java is everywhere and there is a level of consistency depending on which branch you go to, I kind of expected the same from other food chains.

Java is for milkshakes, for me, but Kaldis is for a chicken panini sandwich. Have you ever had one from there?

They taste delicious and they're very filling. It's really good bang for your buck – more often than not I cannot actually finish an entire sandwich by myself, which is one of my favourite types of meals – the kind where you pay for it and if you can't finish it then you know it was a good choice.

This is particularly because Kaldis are so generous with their panini fillings. The fillings feel like they are the same size as the sandwich slices that hold them together, if not more. It's a tower of a meal.

And so, one day, when I was unwilling to deal with parking fees and traffic in town, I decided to go to the Kaldis at Upper Hill that opened up on the street opposite the Savannah, which I haven't been to in years. (Is it any good, still?)

Kaldis restaurant in Upper Hill, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Kaldis restaurant in Upper Hill, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I thought I knew what I was getting when I walked in, because I've always had really good service and good food at the branch in town. They've had a host of great branch managers – from Mike, to Joy, and now Rita – who maintain the standards I am accustomed to.


Not so with the Upper Hill Branch. We sat down at about 2pm and waited for service. There was a cluster of waiters around the till whose backs were facing the four or so tables that were occupied, so it was kind of a slow post-lunch rush, I assume.

There was no eagerness to offer a menu until we waved at another waiter serving a different table, who then gave us menus and called the waitress who was supposed to be serving us.

This waitress, though friendly, took some time in coming to the table, after some confusion, still from the cluster around the till, about who was to be serving and where her pad and pen were.

When she came over at last, we ordered, but there were quite a couple of things not available on the menu, and she couldn't explain why. There was no ice cream for milkshakes, there were no steaks or lamb chops available – to the point that one of our party decided to order off the breakfast menu, and our waitress at least complied with that, seeing as there were so many things not available on the regular menu.

When my panini came, it was flat and oily. I finished the sandwich because by the time we got to Kaldis I was starving and hadn't eaten all day, but the fact that I finished it in seven minutes tells you how flat that sandwich was, literally.

I didn't enjoy the service and I didn't particularly enjoy my food, or the food of the people who were on my table with me – my friend had a breakfast wrap, whose home fries looked like they had been refried and shocked into heat, and tasted as such. My other friend had a roast chicken leg that was unassuming in taste and presentation.

As we were paying the bill, the lady who came to assist us with the PDQ also did not know or care why there was no food available. Let's just say I now know which branch of Kaldis I won't be going to.


Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in Nairobi's foodie scene? There's a lot of places you could go, but here's where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.