Some of my readers will know what I'm talking about when I mention Nakumatt. It's a large supermarket chain in East Africa. You can buy almost anything in Nakumatt: all your groceries, meat, dairy, bread and fresh vegetables and fruit. You can also buy most household appliances: fridges, freezers, washing machines, toasters, kettles, irons, cake mixers and blenders, food processors, hairdryers, sandwich toasters. They have computers, printers, cell/mobile phones, dvd players, telivision sets, radio/sound systems. Anything. Upstairs you can buy beautiful patio furniture, any and all furniture for indoors, soft furnishings (curtains, cushions, bath towels, bedlinen, carpets, etc). A large range of clothing is available for babies, toddlers, men and women. Again, anything! There is a stationery section stocking all office supplies, a magazine and softcover book section; a hardware section stocking anything to do with DIY, repair and building. You get the picture!
Nakumatt has also an in-house lifestyle magazine called Smartlife. It appears quarterly and I always pop the latest one into my trolley when it comes out. Something people don't know about me, is that when I read a magazine, I read it from cover to cover, starting at the very first page. (I love those glossy perfume or cosmetic adverts on the inside cover and next two pages of women's magazines, don't you? Especially when they use "older" models like Andy McDowell and Mary Steenburgen showing how well Oil of Olay anti-wrinkle moisturiser works!) Next I read the editor's message. I peruse the masthead (I learnt to do this because of the many article queries I pitch to magazines) and then I continue to the readers' letters and so on.
This is how, in the latest Smartlife magazine, I came across the page on the "Chef's table", an article on a celebrity chef in Nairobi and his signature dish. (Yes, I read his biography and the menu depicted right there!) On the next page I spotted a smaller bar with a photo of people enjoying a meal while this same chef looks on. Reading a letter from a reader (who appeared in the photo with her husband), I saw that she'd won a competition: a meal served by this chef at an upmarket restaurant in the city. Just below that was a sidebar showing a competition whereby you can e-mail your favourite recipe (starter, main course or dessert) to the magazine and stand a chance to be a guest at the next Chef's Table.
I submitted my Bread-and-butter pudding and a week later, the PR lady from the magazine phoned to tell me I'd won! Grant and I would be feted at a three-course meal cooked by the Executive Chef of the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi.
This hotel has been in business since 1903. It has had as visitors, many an international film star, (Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Grace Kelley, Ava Gardner); authors, (Ernest Hemmingway, Beryl Markham, Karen Blixen, Elspeth Huxley); a famous statesman, (Winston Churchill) and explorers, Henry Morton Stanley after whom the hotel is named and Samuel Baker who, with his wife, discovered the source of the Nile. It also played host to Chief Scout, Lord Baden-powell who spent his last years in Kenya and is buried in the shadows of Mount Kenya. You can read all about the Stanley Hotel here. (I hope to do a complete post about this historical and long-standing hotel sometime)
The meal itself was superb. Chef Godfrey Ouda, who cooks for the president on occasion, joined us at the dinner table. He's been with the hotel group for a quarter of a century and regaled us of tales of the old Stanley and chefs (mainly expats) at whose elbow he learnt his trade. He said humility is one trait necessary to make a good chef! He also explained the hierachy of a large hospitality kitchen. The Sarova Stanley has five kitchens which is staffed with 90 people!
The other guests at the table were two managers from Nakumatt holdings, Annette and George, the PR lady, Sofia and a team of professional photographers. The latter kept clicking away, while positioning white screens and umbrellas while we tucked into the delectable courses Godfrey presented.
On our way to the dinner. As it was at a 4* (some say 5*) hotel, we bought some semi-smart clothes. I bought my last LBN (little black number) in 1990 so Grant bought me a new one for this occasion with silver top, shoes and bag to match. He also had new trousers, blazer, shirt, tie and shoes
On arrival at the Sarova Stanley, the doorman, David welcomed us
Due to the recent bomb scares in the city, we were subjected to a thorough security search just inside the lobby
Our dinner took place in a private room depicting photos of Lord Baden-powell and his wife all along the walls. The hotel also promotes it's rooms, conference facilities and other services on a large screen
Executive Chef Godfrey Ouda holding court!
As this dinner was also to laud and promote Godfrey and the Sarova Stanley, the photographers had him posing under the lights and screens
The food was tastefully seasoned and beautifully presented. The starter comprised of Traditional Smoked Salmon, Lemon Horseradish Foam on a cushion of Fennel and Apple shavings. (Did you know that the chef names the dishes on the menu?)
The vegetarian option was a Vegetable Terrine with Lemon Horseradish Foam on a cushion of Fennel and Apple Shavings (The sprig of thyme on both these plates, just made the dish!)
The next course was a duet of authentic soups. Mine was a cup of mushroom soup and another of tomato consomme - delicious. The others had lobster bisque and tomoto consomme which they all pronounced delicous as well! These were served with a Bread basket of Freshy baked rolls and a trio of flavoured butters: garlic, tomato and lemon.
The main course was Chicken a la Kiev on a bed of Basil mush (which I found out later was potato mash!) served with a Sherry Sauce. (Photo above)
The other option was Dry Aged Fillet of Beef Medallions with Yorkshire pudding and Green Peppercorn jus. Both dishes were served with Steamed organic Kenyan Roots (I spotted brussel sprouts and carrots) in a potato chip basket. We ladies wanted to know from the chef how these were made. (They use a wire basket which fits into another wire basket, lined with potato shavings and then deepfried) Grant loved the beef and Yorkshire pudding but left his vegetables claiming he had too much on his plate!
The vegetarian main course was Panneer (cheese) and butternut cannelloni with Arrabiata Sauce
The dessert was Godfrey's masterpiece. It was called Death of Chocolate. Nested Milky chocolate Mousse with Berry Coulis. Every part of this dessert was edible and TDF*!
Driving through the city centre after a wonderful meal at the Saraova Stanley Hotel in downtown Nairobi
Note: TDF* = To die for!
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