There's a little property right on State House Road that is the Beyoncé of location reinventions – in that, it consistently manages to stay open and productive by taking on different costumes every so often. Staying in the game. Crossing over from the 90s into the 2000s, like our child of destiny, which is no mean feat.
My first job, as a scriptwriter for Spielworks Media, was on this very lot at 209 State House Road – we shot “Higher Learning” there, before we moved on to other shows like “Lies that Bind”. But that was the genesis of my career, funnily enough, and now it is the genesis for a brand new entrant in Nairobi's food market – Lava Latte.
Lava Latte feels like a family's backyard that just happens to sell bomb paninis and a mean coconut cupcake. The décor is freewheeling Nairobian hippie with a touch of whimsy – and you can immediately tell from the iron-wrought chairs and tables, painted blue, the touches of ankara fabric, the bench seat that makes for an intimate nook to the side of the main seating area, and, of course, the cute graphics of a personified Lava Latte teabag all over the walls.
And what would a hippie cafe be without a chalkboard decorated daily with a quote involving liquor? I kid. But they do have a liquor licence, which makes it easier for the typical Nairobian to enjoy a night there.
When I finally get a chance to visit, I appreciate the smaller area it occupies, as opposed to being one of those places that you know is trying to turn into a money making franchise with six branches smack dab in the middle of town. Not that money isn't important, but not at the expense of the quality of food.
The menu is extensive, and fun – you can tell that the people who made it have a personality, as opposed to just copying the menu of said popular franchise (have you been to Valley Coffee Shake? I mean, really. Oh well. If it isn’t broken, don't fix it?).
Some of my favourite menu items that I am yet to try, but I have goals towards a budget in that general direction – their traditional uji, and their breakfast omelettes. I'll scarf down anything with feta in it, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or all three, as I barrel towards a certain future of lactose intolerance.
And what are my favourites, that I have had? Like I said, that coconut cupcake is not to be played with. And, the chicken pesto panini with potato wedges and salad is very tasty. And, because I am a Kenyan who must try tea and coffee everywhere, I'm a big fan of the mocha and the little sugar cookie that comes with the cappuccinos. If you have quite the sweet tooth, do the Lava Latte that comes with the vanilla caramel.
All the food here is made fresh, which means it may take some time to actually get to you. That being said, it is worth it when it does. I need to go back to order an actual salad and see how that tastes – I have a green tooth as opposed to a sweet one, if you catch my drift, and I need more than a side salad.
I wish they would do more with the side salad, though, because as it is, it is leaves and cherry tomatoes. I need more. I'm picky about the promise of salad, ha. And for the chapati melts, perhaps LL would consider different knives that are more efficient in cutting through the chapati?
I want to add two things – for me, the prices are perfect, considering the location, and I appreciate the attention to the, sorry my, economy (you will notice this with their generous servings of wine). And still on the subject of perfection, there really is nowhere more perfect to spend time waiting for traffic to pass you by.
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.