THE DISH: Good food, great service at Melanin food court

Thursday April 04 2019

The half chicken and chips I went for. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA


You know the song “Melanin” by Sauti Sol? The glorification of the African colour at its finest. This buzz word has become a rallying call for those who take pride in their blackness and diversity, and though the song is about women who embody this particular trait, the men in the video as well don’t look too shabby.

Inevitably, the trend has taken root in the form of Nairobi’s newest happy hour joint, located at Ananas Plaza across the road from the Lower Kabete Sarit Centre entrance. You may remember it as the glass place in its past life, but it has now converted into a watering hole for Westland’s thirsty professional post work clientele.

I am surprisingly resistant to change for a food reviewer, and so when this place was suggested as an alternative to my usual Westlands happy hour spot, I was naturally hesitant to go. I mean, it’s called Melanin. Why name something after something everyone is touting? It’s like calling your club Millennial, or something – and it makes you sound like you’re rather desperately trying to keep up with the buzzword Joneses.


A classic gin and tonic. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

But after I drove into the area and received such a friendly welcome from the guards at the gate, I was glad I overcame my myopic fears and gave it a chance.

The parking lot isn’t very big, but they look like they’re in the process of expanding it for public usage. As with almost everywhere in Westlands, there is an ongoing construction behind the actual food complex.


Did I mention that the guards were so nice? There’s something that just encourages you to come to a place when the great service starts at the gate, forget even the door. They didn’t bang my doors and directed me quickly to where I was supposed to go.


We were given bitings as we waited for our meal. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA


Melanin, as it turns out, is a bit of an umbrella for the nine restaurants housed in this wood panelled upscale food court. There’s a central eating area that leads to an upstairs bar everywhere, and you can get service from any of the restaurants up there as well. These restaurants range from fish and chicken specialties to sushi, to vegetarian cuisine, to Chinese dishes and a pizza restaurant.

And one of my favourite things about this food court, and will probably be your favourite thing as well, is the fact that it isn’t like its neighbour across the road, where as soon as you walk in, you’re swamped by over eager attendants trying to make a buck from one of the only customers they’ll see that day.


My signature drink: a tall glass of margarita. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Not that Melanin is underpopulated – au contraire, by the time we got there at around 4.30pm, there were not a lot of people, but the numbers generally increased. And they increased to a level I was comfortable with, as opposed to a level where I could not move or breathe without inhaling whatever the guy next to me had for breakfast.

Back to service – we were served by a cheerful and conscientious guy called Curtis, who came with menus as soon as we were seated. This has recently become important to me, considering the fact that I went to Uptown last week and swore to never return after the three waiters perambulating around my table took 35 minutes to hand me a menu, and only after I had started to kick up a bit of a fuss.


The exterior seating area at Melanin in Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

At Melanin, I ordered food from the fish and chicken place, because they had a quarter and fries with kachumbari that I was eyeing – last week, and if we’re being honest, every week after that, fries are my deep and constant weakness.

The chicken was crispy and tasted like home – which, to me, means Sonford but with better oil. The portions were large enough for me to be content with but not too large that I had to be rolled out when the day was done. And the cocktails were a tipsy crown on top of an already good experience, given with a kick that made the demerits of alcohol worth it.


Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in and around 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.