I've been to Crowne Plaza before, on two other occasions. One was my brother' wedding, during which they catered and maintained proper food quality and service the whole time. Save for a mildly lukewarm soup, all was well.
I generally forgive hotels for wedding catering, because they think they can handle it, when in actuality, they rarely can.
The second time was during the launch of their scrumptious Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017 menu. I was convinced to break my cardinal rule of not participating in the tried and tested fallacy of cheap food at fancy places for a period of time.
I must say, they definitely delivered at their launch. Granted, I was dubious because it was a media trip, and people try to impress the media because sometimes media aren't very nice. So I wanted to go there, on my own steam without a big fat press tag, and see what happened on a normal day when there was nothing promotional.
My friend and I made reservations for dinner at Sikia, my favourite place when I go to Crowne. I love the seats – they're plush and accept you like a new old friend. The patterning on the walls look like someone with actual experience chose the patterning, and not sister's cousin's best friend's niece who is studying art in Form 3, you know?
I also love that one entire wall is glass windows. You can look out onto the foyer/conference area, if you so wish, to peep through the sheer curtains. You probably won't though, because if you're coming to Sikia, the solitude is what you're seeking. See what I did there?
Our staff was attentive without being overbearing – you know how you can go to a restaurant, and the waiter thinks every time you breathe or move your head, you're calling him? Yes, it thankfully wasn't that.
He made suggestions for wines --a Trapiche Pinot Noir 2017 in case you were wondering--pairings, favourites on the menu, and left us in peace.
Now, the last time I was at Sikia, I had some delicious beef tenderloin, and so swore to return for a steak, hopefully made by someone who understood the meaning of the term medium. I had faith in the establishment because of this visit and so had every confidence that they would deliver it.
We skipped starters and went straight to the main course. Having just eaten, I was useless as a steak partner, and so I asked for the seared salmon with arrowroot mash (which is more pleasant than it seems, I swear).My friend wanted a steak, medium.
We ordered and waited.
First came the bread with the three types of butter – which I love. I love butter. Forget milk and honey, this is truly the food of the gods. And three types! I was in carb heaven. The tomato infused butter was particularly finger-licking. I finished all of it - both mine and my friend's portion.
My salmon was absolutely perfect. In fact, I was quite full from my unwise bread consumption that I almost didn't need the arrowroot, really. It was perfectly seared and perfectly served.
Unfortunately, my friend was not so lucky. He doesn't really eat salt, and so his taste buds jump at the slightest over-seasoning. His steak was far too salty.
We wondered if perhaps they marinated the steaks before cooking them and then salt them again? I tasted it and even for me, who used to court hypertension, it was much.
We had to send the steak back, as it was unpalatable, and request for a second one, which was more edible.
I am holding out a solid verdict on their steak, because that part of the night was disappointing, but otherwise, everything else was wonderful. The team was very apologetic about the steak – the chef came out and profusely offered reparation and everything.
My recommendation? Do the salmon, and the well balanced fluffy tiramisu – really, everything else on the menu - but let's put a pause on the steak.
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.