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Italian buffet night at the Nairobi Hilton

Travellers restaurant has different food concept nights everyday

Harriet James

In a popular question and answer site, a young man once asked an innocent question. “Why do the British eat lasagna with fries?”

Most people in the platform laughed at the question, some giving sarcastic answers in this website renowned for its insights and quality answers. However, in the midst of all that madness one Italian man responded. 

“Italians find it disgusting to eat lasagne with salad and garlic bread, and surely weird eating lasagne with chips. In Italy, lasagne is a complete first course that does not need to be supplemented with anything,” he said.

That answer gave me a desire to learn more about Italian dishes and so when a friend requested me to join her for an Italian Theme Night at the Hilton’s Travellers Restaurant, I couldn’t refuse.

Situated on the ground floor of the renowned Nairobi Hilton on Moi Avenue, the restaurant is sandwiched between Cafe American (for beverages and pastries) on one side and the Sale E Pepe Restaurant on the other.

After a warm reception, we were requested to choose a preferred sitting place. Inspired by a bygone era of travel, this restaurant is decorated like an old-fashioned train, with leather suitcases and travelling paraphernalia that reminds one of the 1950s stories.

I noticed some of the romantic spots where the old train carriage was marked ‘reserved”. I couldn’t help but imagine the joy of a young woman’s face being treated to a wonderful dinner date. More joy if a proposal was in the air.

Posters of steam ships that old British travellers used to come to Mombasa form part of the rustic décor. Classic music played at the background as my friend and I selected our courses, ensuring that we took modest servings.

It was an Italian-themed buffet and, despite the fact that I am not a fan of broth, I enjoyed their lentil soup, which was served with freshly baked buns.

No Italian meal is ever complete without pasta,
I was told. So when we went for our second course, my friend and I were treated to a live cooking where we could say how we wanted our pastas prepared.

Voila! My eyes found what I was looking for! It’s like meeting a long lost friend and it felt like the lasagna was inviting me  to  have a taste of it.  I quickly served myself a worthy portion of the lasagna
Emiliana
(baked beef lasagna in English), whose cheesy taste I found so irresistible. Their risie
bisi
(rice and green peas), patate
al
forno
(roasted potato with red onion) were quite sumptuous too.

The restaurant has different theme nights every day of the week. Monday is Asian night while Tuesday is Italian night. Wednesday is Arabic or a barbeque (held in the open air pool restaurant if the weather permits). Thursday is a taste of the new world while Friday offers a world of curry. I once sampled their Arabic night too and was treated to some kafta
bel
batata
(baked beef patties topped with tomatoes and potatoes), vermicelli rice (a thin form of rice noodles) and seasonal vegetables. 

The executive chef, John Muriithi occasionally checked on us to ensure that everything was okay.  Usually, drinks are served separate from the buffet and for dessert, being that my friend and I both have a sweet tooth, we enjoyed a mixture of vanilla, chocolate and Strawberry ice cream, which was scrumptious!

The efficient, courteous staff as well as enthusiastic chefs cannot go without a mention. “People have an impression that the restaurant is not open to the public. What they don’t know is that they can come and dine for different occasions at affordable prices,” said Eric Mbugua, sales and marketing officer.

The restaurant charges Sh3,000 per person for the buffet and have an a
la
carte
meal in case you fail to find something you like in the buffet.

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