I may be one of the only people, foodies and non-foodies alike, who hasn't been to CJ's. And this isn't from a lack of trying.
The first time I tried to go check it out, my timing was horrible – I think it was some time like a Sunday afternoon, and of course it was packed to the brim. There were people waiting outside on the plastic chairs trying to get in. I wrote that one off.
The second time I managed to get a seat, me and a friend were late for a performance, and thus only had time for a quick cold drink before we had to bail. Finally, the stars aligned last week and I had the full CJ's experience.
First of all, isn't this place so beautiful? All the times I've been trying to go in, I've been consistently struck by the beauty of the place. The high ceilings and the lights with the wrought metalwork and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling give the whole place such an elegant air.
Of course they have some décor elements that I have seen before – the pastel walls and displays with cool-toned colours complementing a beige surface – but as the saying goes, ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it’.
But even with the things I have seen before, they have nicely blended what we've seen before with what's never been done before at an eatery in the middle of town – such as a beautifully winding ornate staircase to go upstairs, three separate seating areas with different design ideals, and constantly roaming management. It's a sight for sore eyes, honestly.
When I walked in and said we were a party of three, the waitress directed me upstairs through a flight of stairs I haven't seen before, behind the downstairs service area.
I guess people may have been complaining about the staircase – maybe because it avails unwelcome peeping toms? I don't know. She sat us in the plush teal couches. We were a party of three, so it was a bit of a squeeze, and I'm not sure how skinny the hostess thought we were going to be, but after she pulled up a chair, we made do.
By the time I got there, I was quite hungry, so I quickly ordered a drink as I waited for my friends, in a bid to not be too impolite and start eating before everyone else got there.
I had the CJ's Showoff, a sweet drink that came in a tall, refreshing glass. It's called a fruit booster, and consists of vanilla ice cream, mango juice & banana, strawberries & lime juice.
I have to tell you, I did not taste the lime juice at all – I was looking for a balance between all that sweetness and did not find it. But it was tasty, and took me all of seven minutes to gulp down. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll like the Showoff.
VALUE FOR MONEY
When my friends arrived, we all decided to order some food. I couldn't decide what to get between a curry and a main dish, so I went ahead and had the lemon and herb chicken; one friend had the chicken korma curry, and the other had chicken wings with an extra side of masala chips.
If you've been to CJ's before, you know that we were making very stupid decisions – there was no way we were going to finish all that food. And we didn't! The food came on huge platters and after giving it a gung-ho try, in 15 minutes, we were stuffed.
I didn't love my lemon and herb chicken, although the sweet sauce was a nice touch and the salsa it came with was very good. The chicken korma was good, though, as were the masala chips. I didn't try the wings.
What I appreciate about CJ's is obviously, the portion size. You're going to get value for your money there – the meal I had was Sh1,100 and I had to take away (yay, dinner sorted!), and the giant drink I had was Sh430, and it felt like I got what I paid for.
In terms of how the food was, though, I think that is the compromise you're making for gorgeous surroundings and large platters. I wasn't wowed by my food, but I would definitely go back to maybe try what else on the menu looked good, particularly their drinks. And I always like a restaurant with a functioning website.
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