THE DISH: News Café has lost its touch

Wednesday March 18 2020

The salad. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying anymore. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA


I like to go back to places I have been to before, obviously, just to refresh my memory and make sure I’m not crazy for liking them, or make sure I’m not crazy for never ever wanting to go back again.

Every time I go to News Café, I feel like something is off. Sometimes it’s the service, which I feel is not up to par. Sometimes, the food is not what I was originally promised. And I don’t know why they can’t just replace their terrible looking paper menus with something that doesn’t get dirty or tear every time someone breathes on it.

My cousin’s birthday was a few weeks ago, so we decided to have a couple of cocktails at the New Café at Ad Life Plaza.

Remember when News Café was the place to be on an anything night? When two long islands were all you needed for the evening, and you knew that they were actually trying to make your happy hour a happy one? That place is no more.

Now you walk into News Café and feel like people have forgotten it exists, or just needed somewhere to sit as they wait for their people to finish shopping at Chandarana. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying anymore, and not just when it is Burger Festival.

My cousin ordered her drink based very specifically on the picture that was next to it on the menu. When it came, it was a whole different shade than the one in the picture, and the accompanying accessories were nowhere to be seen.

Fortunately, the taste and the alcohol content packed a punch so it wasn’t all bad. Maybe this is a sign to restaurants to either take pics of what your food actually looks like? Because whoever was Photo-shopping that drink had set us up for something that looked a little more palatable.


Speaking of the palate, we tried to order about three times before we found something that was actually in stock. By the time we got there, there were no wings, and there were no ribs.

My cousin eventually ordered the steak, which she said should be done medium rare with an accompaniment of salad. The steak came, not medium rare, with an accompaniment of potato wedges. Full disclosure, we ate the wedges anyway. But still – that wasn’t the original bargain. And then the knife given was a normal knife, not a steak knife. For all the good it did, it might as well have been a spoon.

I decided to have the battered fish and potato wedges with a side of salad. The fish was unexciting, if we’re being honest. I thought the food, generally (particularly that chewy, non-medium rare steak) was uninspiring, and I don’t think I would recommend News Café to anyone who was looking for good food, or drink.

I hear the original chain in South Africa is much more conscientious about protecting and maintaining their brand – possibly because the eatery market over there is a whole different ball and chain – and I do wish they would make an effort to do the same kind of protection and maintenance here.

News Café started out so well, but it would seem that after franchising and expanding, and a distinct lack of strategy and quality control, they’ve lost their touch.

These guys basically need an overhaul, in management and in décor. The branch at Ad Life looks run down, and the last time I was at the branch at Sarit Centre, it didn’t look that much better.

They still have a chance to play with the big boys in the big leagues, but the more they play around with falling standards, the less likely they are to make a comeback in Kenya’s difficult foodie market.

It’s already difficult to sustain interest in one place, considering how fickle people’s tastes are in bars and restaurants – just look at 1824, and Rafikis – but if there’s something one can do to prevent a downward spiral, then they should do it.


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