It is not every day that you walk into a food court and not be harassed senseless by menus thrust at your face by waiters looking to close a sale for their kitchens.
But at the food court at NextGen Mall, Mombasa Road, you can walk leisurely around and decide from which kitchen you want to be served. On a warm Saturday afternoon, I take my brood here and leave them riding scooters and cars around the metallic cone at the entrance of the mall as I look for food.
Today I decide to try the Indian food at The Royal Kitchen as I keep an eye on my exuberant brood. I order a vegetarian starter, tandoori mushrooms. It takes around 10 minutes to be served since the mushrooms have to be stuffed with vegetables then put in the tandoori kiln. I then wander to the stall right next to the kitchen, a dessert and coffee place named Home Coffee House, where I order a Vanilla latte as I wait.
And before you accuse me of bad God-parenting, the children are well looked after by fun-fair attendants and myself. They crisscross the food court at various speeds, mostly high speeds, to ask me for money for extra rides. And oh, they have seen burger kings so they want paper crowns from burger king and the huge burgers.
Of course, I do not give in to their every demand as I do not want spoilt brats. I pay for some rides they want, the burger king paper crowns and mini-burgers, but not the huge burgers. I think that is a fair balance between strict parenting and wheedling the kids so they can call me their favourite auntie, not just Njeri, for once.
The latte arrives almost immediately. As if they had not done enough to surpass my expectations, it has the perfect balance of vanilla notes and good ‘smokiness’ of roasted coffee.
My tandoori mushrooms are smoking hot from the charcoal oven. They are spicy and a bit salty with a healthy sprinkling of onions and fresh tomatoes for garnish. Every mouthful is a marvel of textures and flavours as I crunch peas, smoky creamy mushroom and crunchy capsicums.
My main meal; chicken tikka masala is served with tandoor plain roti and butter naan. I learn that the difference between roti and naan is that roti is made from brown wheat flour while naan is made from the normal white wheat flour. Roti is the healthier and more nutritious meal, but naan wins hands down in sumptuousness, just as for white and brown chapatis.
My chicken tikka masala comes in a large, beautiful golden bowl beautifully garnished with dollops of white cream. The gravy is thick and mildly spiced. It leaves a whisper of heat with every scoop. I tear my butter naan and dip it in the bowl and enjoy the heat. The chicken pieces are soft and well marinated such that every bite is just as sumptuous as the last.
As for the children, I will bribe them with burgers the size of Mt Kenya if they will just call me auntie. Would it be so hard to call me auntie Njeri?
For now I will settle for just Njeri being screeched from every corner of the food court as I polish off every last morsel of chicken and gravy. I pay less than Sh1,500 for both the vanilla latte and my two-course meal.
My two clowns boss me around as we search for paper crowns. I deserve one; so do the lovely NextGen Mall Play area attendants who kept their eyes on my brood as I took a food time out. You guys are the real MVPs here.