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Gipsy, 24 years on and still thriving

Njeri Maina @njerimainar 

Flags of different colours are flying in the breeze in true world cup spirit as we walk into Gipsy Restaurant and Bar.

For all you party animals out there, Gipsy was the place that people used to frequent when they wanted to paint Westlands suburbs of Nairobi red. It is still one of those places with timeless allure. The only difference between then and now is that it is now a full-blown restaurant, known for its pizzas and lunch packages.

We walk in ready to test the hype. Robert, our host for the day, welcomes and helps us sit outside, in a perfect spot for people watching. We ignore the upstairs section as the place is too cosy and intimate and Cynthia and I are not about that life.

There happens to be two bars here, both well stocked with a wide range of drinks that tempt us for a whole five minute-tour, though sobriety finally wins, lucky us! We can always come back to watch football and have a few drinks after a meal.

Cynthia, a friend, colleague and photographer, chooses Biancha, Focaccia bread topped with salt, olive oil and rosemary for her starters.  I opt for the Catalan salad. Focaccia bread arrives warm from the oven. It is just a tad crispy and crumbles in the mouth.

We dress the bread with one of the three choice dips on the table and polish it all off.  We are unanimous in agreement that it is what everyone should order for starters.

The catalan salad is equally delish. It is a marvel of textures and tastes with fresh crisp lettuce leaves, capers and olives beautifully contrasting with the umami of the tuna and the creaminess from the quartered boiled eggs. The salad is dressed with virgin olive oil, the only oil the restaurant uses to cook. We are already full but that has never got in the way of my main course meal.

I order chicken wings, mildly spiced and their Florentine cheeseburger with all its glorious toppings and side of French fries. Cynthia goes for the Gipsy signature dish of deep fried spring chicken ‘poussin,’ flash cooked in piripiri butter with a side helping of mash potatoes.

The chicken wings are so good that they put new meaning to ‘lipsmacking good’. Moreover, the portion is large enough to be shared by two. These I order out of curiosity as a friend had recommended them as the best fried wings in Westlands. I am yet to test out all the fried wings in Westlands but so far these are winning.

My main course of burger and fries arrives on a wooden platter. The burger bread is grilled and still warm; the patty well done and gives way with the slightest tug at every bite. The crunch from the caramelised onions and the warm cheese taste are fast food heaven.

The French fries are beautifully browned on the outside and are soft with a buttery taste. I take a bite of Cynthia’s food out of curiosity to find the mash smooth, with tastes of cream and butter.

The half portion of ‘poussin chicken’ is so huge that the two of us cannot finish it. It is beautifully browned and is soft with a mild butter taste. We cannot decide over whose food choice is better.

We decide to order passion fruit juice to ‘wash the meal’ as there is clearly no room for dessert. Mango, orange and cocktail juices, among others, line up for us. So we sip on the unsweetened passion juice and watch as people mill around Woodvale Grove.

We request Robert to call Karim the restaurant manager for a tete-a-tete. Who wouldn’t want to know the secret to running a successful enterprise? “We pride ourselves in providing quality. We provide quality food, quality drinks and quality ambience,” Karim boasts.

As the restaurant workers close for the afternoon— the restaurant opens from 12 to 3pm and reopens for dinner from six in the evening —we all agree that Gipsy has stuck to its foundation tenets.  That’s partly the reason it is still thriving a quarter of a century after being established.

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