THE DISH: Food at flea markets? No, thank you

Thursday July 12 2018

I doubt I would go back to the K1 flea market to eat.

The K1 Flea Market in Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 


  • I am well aware that the point of flea markets is not the food.
  • The food is supposed to serve as a bonus to the entire experience.
  • K1 flea market was a huge success. But they didn't have great food.


Have you noticed that there are a great number of flea markets popping up all over the place in Nairobi?

It would seem that Kenyans – sorry, let me rephrase – Nairobians, are doing that thing where they feel like since one person has had a great idea, it would seem like an even better one to duplicate the exact same format at whatever institution they own.

It's what we do, if you think about it, and we do it often – with restaurants, with housing, with laws. It's an interesting phenomenon, as always, but again, as always, it gives me a chance to compare and contrast the varied flea markets Nairobi has to offer. So far, I have to say, I haven't been particularly impressed.

Just to be clear, I am well aware that the point of flea markets is not the food. The food is supposed to serve as a bonus to the entire experience. But I don't know, I feel like you can only flea so much.

One of the more successful flea markets, I feel, is the one at K1 on Ojijo Road, Parklands. Kaz Lucas, the multi-talented (seriously, have you tasted any of her pies? To die for!), started this particular venture, and pushed it with what seemed like her entire heart and soul.

The Dapper Monkey display at the K1 Flea Market, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

It definitely wasn't the first of its kind. There have been flea markets and thrift socials all over this city, but for some reason, the one at K1 really resonated with this city's pulse.

In my opinion, the market side was a huge success. The décor was gorgeous, and it turned into an afternoon plan for many a day drinker. And yes, it almost always slipped into night drinking as well, which I'm sure made for some interesting faces on Monday morning at work.


They had a bunch of great vendors – Dapper Monkey with their stylish accessories, Mugzie's Naturals and their amazing beard oil (and lovely smelling lotions), Migwi Farm with their cute pint-sized pant pots – the list goes on and on.


But they didn't have great food. And it was compounded by incompetent service. The waiters were slow, kept forgetting orders, took 20 minutes and beyond to see the table, bring the menu to the table, take the order, bring back the food...You see, because the flea market was so popular, there were a lot of people coming to it, and I don't think K1 was fully prepared to serve all those people, much less serve them good food.

A humorous sign outside the entrance of the K1 Flea Market, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

They needed to do a lot more training with those guys in preparation. They probably kept getting away with it, because people come to flea markets to hang out and not complain about pesky service because they're there for a long time, I guess? Unless you're me, unfortunately...

The menu looked promising in the beginning, with classic brunch fare like chicken and waffles, but the delivery was saddening. There was a point they changed the chef and it got marginally better but I think the sheer numbers from the turnout were overwhelming, to say in the least.

So the food was uninspiring, which steadily matched the watered down cocktails, and was only supplemented by an average parfait towards the end.

They had combo deals that didn't feel like a deal, you know? How you choose a combo so that you feel like you're getting your money's worth? Sometimes it felt like you were going to get your money's worth if you just ordered from the main menu.

And because I kept coming to the market, geared by people I was with who wanted to check it out, I had more than ample opportunity to compare.

I'm speaking about it in past tense as if it isn't there anymore, but it is still there every Sunday. I just doubt I would go there to eat. Plus, Kaz has left, which doesn't inspire confidence in me that was already lacking.

I suppose next I'll try a favourite brunch joint of mine, Brioche, in Karen, which has just started its own flea market. What are some of your favourite flea markets with good food?


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.

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