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THE DISH: Why I love cafes

Saturday February 23 2019

The delicious salmon tartines.

The delicious salmon tartines, made up of smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and pickled onion, and served on two slices of bread. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

ABIGAIL ARUNGA
By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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If I am in Mombasa, there is always a chance that I am going to end up at one of my favourite cafes. I love cafes.

My friends often accuse me of not experiencing the real cultural connectivity that food brings when I'm abroad or on a getaway because I am often too busy sitting at a cafe, watching locals pass by and sipping on a coffee. Or something stronger.

That being said, cafes are a haven of good service and good food at generally the same prices, for me, and so I tend to gravitate towards that general direction. Which is why Cafesserie is my go-to cafe haunt in Mombasa.

Situated in a corner of City Mall Nyali, the cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating, and feels much like a replica of Artcaffe in Nairobi, a look duplicated in its Kampala branch as well. Did I mention that City Mall Nyali has no parking charges? When you come from the unfairness that is Nairobi charging you to do anything anywhere, even be sick and go to hospital, it's a refreshing and welcome change. There was a point I had stopped going to malls that charge parking fees...then they all started charging parking.

The iced tea was quite nice.

The iced tea was quite nice. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

But I digress. I like Cafesserie because there are so many different settings to sit around and enjoy. When you first walk in, there's a line of colour brought about by the varied ice cream flavours on display, in a tidy little metal boxing common to ice cream displays but still delightful to look at, nestled between their offers of bread and pastries (like I said, very Artcaffe-ish).

To your right is a more intimate setting, with tables and chairs, and orbed room lighting hanging low over customers. To the left, the establishment opens up into a semi-outdoor seating area that affords you a taste of the sun that happens to consistently be burning in Mombasa – but then again, that is what you came to Mombasa for, no?

The children had ice cream.

The children had ice cream. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

SO SIMILAR

We chose to sit inside, next to the orbs. I was having a rather greasy day, and a lot of it had already been spent frying in the sun. I looked at the menu and it felt too early for a cocktail, so I decided to go for an iced tea. I mean, you can't just start drinking any way you want just because you're on holiday, right?

I felt like the iced tea was a standard iced tea, not particularly remarkable in its presentation or flavour. I like iced tea with a little more effort. The one Java does is all right, with the attempt at flavoured iced tea (passion, lemon, etc.). The Kaldis I used to frequent on Kimathi Street as well duplicated that idea (this is clearly a thing with eateries...), down to the Iced Arnold Palmer, which is a drink that is half lemonade, half iced tea.

The kids decided to have ice cream – or rather, their mother decided for them, because the menu, though not gigantic, would be intimidating to a five-year-old. They chose their desired scoops – 'the pink one!' 'the white one!' - and their mother had them have both, as they would have definitely complained about someone getting a different colour from the other. Parenting is truly a calling. I didn't have any ice cream, even for the sake of this article – I didn't want my own, and I wasn't trying to take candy from a baby.

The inside of Cafesserie in Nyali, Mombasa.

The inside of Cafesserie in Nyali, Mombasa. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

At some point I started feeling peckish, and I decided to have a salmon tartine. I know I've pointed out the similarity between this joint and Artcaffe (it feels like a Valley Coffee Shake/Java situation), but even the menus are so alike.

Artcaffe also has a very delicious salmon meal that is made in much the same way – cream cheese, avocado and salmon, which is one of the best combinations ever created – but the one at Artcaffe comes in a nice toasted bagel, and the Cafesserie version is a lot more simplistic in its presentation: slices of brown bread and a tasty addition of pickled onions in the middle of the plate.

I quite enjoyed that small meal and scarfed it down before my stomach decided that it was actually hungry as opposed to peckish, and then out into the hot sun again we went.

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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.

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