Sunday, 5 February 2017

Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017: The Garden at Lotus Inn and Suites


‘Table for 2 please’
‘Great, where would you like to sit madam?’

If there is one things that matters to me in a restaurant, after the food, it’s the table. It's got to be near people - but not on top of them. With a view – not next to the toilet. Luckily the Garden doesn’t disappoint as every table is under a beautiful glass roof giving you gorgeous unspoilt views of Parklands and the surrounding neighbourhoods of Nairobi. The décor is also complemented with tasteful garden furniture and parasols giving it a fresh indoor-outdoor vibe that is severely missing in the food scene in this city.

So we were off to a good start, and we were excited – this was a new restaurant we hadn’t experienced in Nairobi and it does our favourite type of food, Chinese. Even better it was Nairobi Restaurant Week, so we could have 3 courses (6, if the Boy felt like sharing), giving us enough to truly sample the range of the menu. The ordering was easy as the Starter either came as a Meat or Vegetable Platter, so we decided to have one of each. Sadly, it was very hit and miss from here. Both platters came with a soup which in one word was ‘gelatinous’ and felt like it had been microwaved. In fact as we poked it, we heard the ‘ping’ from the kitchen. We both ignored our respective bowls and moved onto the other parts. On the meat we had a Shrimp and Chicken Dumpling – bland and chewy, but a very good Chicken Wing – crispy and well-seasoned, I wish we could have had more! The Vegetable Platter came with a wonderful crunchy, fresh salad and a perfectly fried Vegetable Dumpling, which for some reason came in a cupcake wrapper. This was quickly fashioned into a much more resourceful soy sauce bowl.

Vegetable Platter: Crunchy Vegetable Salad, Vegetable Soup, Vegetable Dumpling

          Meat Platter: Fried Beef Salad, Chicken Doup, Chicken and Shrimp Dumpling          
The mains were just…awful. When you have the choice between a dish called Vegetable Balls in Brown Sauce (no) and Chicken with Celery (sounds bland) then you know its going to be a course to forget. We settled on Dry Chilli Fry Beef as our Meat Main and the oddest named dish I’ve seen called “The Three Fresh Things of the Earth” in flavoured sauce. I want to find something nice to say about these dishes, but I can’t. The Beef was so tough and chewy it felt like bad biltong and the noodles were a boring flavourless pile of string. The spring noodles sprinkled throughout were the only redeeming feature and we quickly picked these out hungrily with our chopsticks. The “fresh” things of this earth were a culmination of pulpy, sad eggplant, potato (apparently) and green pepper which had definitely been made earlier in the day and then furiously microwaved. The fried rice was good but it's fried rice so it would be a travesty to get that wrong as well. Once again the dishes contained very fresh ingredients,  in the form of tasty side Avocado Salads, which were good but not enough to save the meals. After a while we looked at one another and realised we didn’t actually have to eat it, so put our knives and forks together and begrudgingly looked forward to dessert.

            "The Fresh Things of This Earth" with Vegetable Rice and Avocado Salad

Dry Chilli Beef with Noodles and Avocado Salad

Dessert was a Custard Bun that stuck to my spoon, served with very nice ice cream. It was served with a once upon a time fresh fruit bowl that had withered in the kitchen earlier in the day. We decided to abandon it and asked for the cheque very very quickly. Which all in all was such a shame. The Garden has potential to be an excellent, strong member of the Nairobi dining scene – the atmosphere and décor are fantastic and the service was incredibly personal and on point. But the food was just bad, bad Chinese food - spoiling very fresh vegetables that we saw evident in the salad and accompaniments, but disappearing in the cooking and seasoning of the food. 

           Custard Bun with Vanilla Ice Cream and Fruit Cup

All in all, would I recommend? For a drink with view - Yes. For eating food – order the chicken wings, only.

            The View - Saving the day from an otherwise less than impressive dinner

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