If you ever find yourself in need of a surprisingly serene nook right in the heart of the city where you can indulge your palate in a tantalising treat, then you need not look further than the Mandhari Restaurant at The Nairobi Serena Hotel.
Fine dining is more than just the plate; it is the serenade before the cutlery. It is a lesson in subtlety. It means that nothing can be too much, too soon, too loud, too rushed. It encapsulates the music selection, the service, the wine, and the food. Details are an integral part of this dance. And the Mandhari has this script down to a culinary science.
I generally hate meetings, but it will be a while before I stop smiling when I think of at this particular Saturday night business dinner. The hostess greeted us with a smile so warm that we forgot all about the dreary drizzle we had just walked away from. She acknowledged our booking and led us to a couch while our table was being prepared. Bitings arrived: crispy charcoal crackers, the most decadent beetroot inspired dip (it took all my home training not to propose marriage to that dip) fresh veggies with just the right amount of sweet and sour, and crunchy nuts.
The ambience, as balmy as our welcoming hostess made our voices lower, less urgent. Suddenly business became bearable, and deadlines became possible. The manager personally came to greet us as we were being walked through the courses. Once we settled down at our table, our coats were surreptitiously hang for us while the manager suggested which wine we should drink to complement both mains, and let’s just say her selection hit us right in the buds.
The pianist made me happy; breezily coursing through popular tunes with an adept set of hands. We felt like royalty; servers seemed to appear each time we blinked…the water glasses were never empty and neither were the wine glasses. Plates vanished as soon as we finished a course and spoons and knives were replaced in minutes. And yet they did it with such smooth finesse that it did not feel intrusive.
An honourable mention goes to the resident head Chef, Isaac Waweru, who is the most affable, most accommodating person and who has an impressive 12 years of culinary experience. He suggested that we try the Mandhari signature dish: the rack of Molo Lamb; first roasted then smoked with some herbs; the ultimate showmanship before slicing and serving. The lamb is specially bred and supplied for Serena Hotels. After slaughter and delivery, they are aged for an additional seven days, served with gratin potatoes and vegetables. To quote the chef, “You will never taste lamb like this anywhere in Kenya.”
The menu is as diverse as you would expect for a world class standard restaurant; with daily chef specials, a great wine list, and seafood and vegetarian options.
Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If feelings were the only benchmark, then this review would begin and end with one word: Extraordinary.