Grilll Shack is a restaurant that has been based in Dubai for the last couple of years, and in recent times decided to open another base of operations in Nairobi.
I was privileged to attend the launch of their branch at Westgate, located right on the ground floor – you can't miss it. The people present experienced a good band, and a varied selection of the food items on their menu to get a more complete sense of what Grilll Shack has to offer.
Yes, it is indeed spelled with 3 l's, in case you were wondering at what appears to be a typo.
The Grilll Shack, if you can't tell from the name, is generally geared around things that need to be grilled, like burgers, steaks, and seafood, which means if you're a typical Kenyan, you will love it – we tend to veer towards all things meaty, with almost no exception (if you don't count seafood, and does that really count? I mean...it does...but does it really?)
And so I came to the launch expecting a good old time – precipitated by the glasses of champagne being doled out at the door. It was a celebration, after all.
After the champagne, when most people were seated, we were welcomed with more drinks – this really is a Kenyan joint – in the form of red and white sangrias, for those who were partakers, and minty pineades for those who were not.
I am of the opinion that a minty pineade should not necessarily be sweet, and so I liked how it tasted – on the other hand, a sweet tooth on the table asked for more syrup to pour into her drink – so I guess it depends on where you fall on a saccharine taste scale, really.
I enjoyed the white wine sangria, personally, and only stopped imbibing because I knew I was driving...
The first plate brought to the table was a piripiri prawn dish that I enjoyed. I'm not a big fan of chilli, and especially if it is poured onto the dish – it has a tendency to overwhelm it – but this piripiri dish barely had any piripiri, which is probably why I enjoyed it. Ha!
The seafood taste was not overwhelming, and the prawns were served in a tasty sauce. After that, there was a dish called cheetos fried chicken, which, of course, reminded me of trump – and came in a flaming red tasty package. I really liked the fried chicken. If you're a fan of Anthony Bourdain, and biased, you know that chicken can be a hard food to make exciting, but they did well with this one.
However, I think these were the last two dishes I enjoyed until the sliders, unfortunately. There was a chicken skewer dish after that that came with mukimo and mash. The mash was good, as was the mukimo, but the chicken was cold and underwhelming. There were beef spring rolls that had difficulty staying together in spite of their great presentation, and they weren't flavourful either.
And then there were pork ribs. I judge my pork ribs weightily because I don't eat pork often, outside of bacon, and when I do, I prefer that it be a real tasty treat. These pork ribs were not. The marinade felt standard, and if I wanted standard marinade, I could have made it at home. Even in terms of tenderness, I expected more. There was flank steak passed around as well, covered in bell peppers, which I assumed were to hide the mediocrity of the meat.
They did redeem themselves somewhat with the beef sliders – the patties were soft and large, and I liked the doneness, even though they didn't ask what level we wanted before they served us – they were still tasty, particularly with the touch of avocado they added.
The sticky toffee pudding served as dessert at the end is a win if you still want some more sugar after the minty pineade, definitely.
I think Grilll Shack is going to have to work on their flavours to draw more people in. They are definitely a level above the other offerings of their parent company, Innscor – they of Pizza Inn et al – but they need a little tweaking for their menu, recipes and service.
I'm not sure if it was because there were a lot of people there that night or they weren't expecting such a turnout, but the waiters were a bit overwhelmed and kept forgetting to bring things to our table.
Would I go back? Yes. I liked the ambience, and the sangrias. Everywhere deserves a second chance, third, even, as you would know if you read this column sometimes; and I've heard great things about their steak. When I do go back, you guys will be the first to know...
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