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Harriet James visited North Coast and found herself enjoying octopus meals at the Roof Top Restaurant of Kijani Hotel on the island 

Harriet James @harriet86jim

Shela village on Lamu Island is one of the sleepy, yet sophisticated places you can ever spend your vacation at the Coast. It was once a ghost town that slowly grew to host stunning guesthouses that have been constructed along the village’s magnificent waterfront and also along the narrow alleys.

Don’t forget the beach, which stretches almost as far as the eye can see, backed by the magnificent dunes. One thing to note is that though the area boasts of scenic beauty, there aren’t many independent restaurants in Shela except those located in the hotels and these can be quite pricey.

During my stay in Lamu, I had a perfect opportunity to sample the delicacies that Kijani Hotel’s Rooftop Restaurant had to offer. The restaurant has an amazing view on the balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean.  It was awesome watching the dhows swaying gently with the kaskazi winds as Bajuni fishermen tried  to make a catch.

Kijani, in Kiswahili connotes green and true to its name, life and new growth oozes out in every corner of the hotel. Dinner and lunch here is a la carte affair.  Being close to the sea, the kitchen offers all kinds of crabs, prawns, fish, lobsters and crabs fresh from the sea. In addition,  they offer  fresh vegetables and meat.

Am not a fan of seafood but this time round, I opted to sample, the delicious octopus (pweza) curry with rice, which cost around Sh1,800. It is a revered delicacy at the Coast and cuts across all age, religion and social background. Lactating mothers say it increases milk production and body stamina.

At first, I thought the slimy texture would make me throw up or its skin was too tough to chew,  but I found it tender and I regretted why I’ve always ignored it. This marine animal lives in salty water especially in coral reefs, therefore,  it requires special fishing skills to capture it.  The boneless meat is then washed and boiled without adding water or salt since the octopus is waterly and salty.

Octopus can also be shallow-fried or deep-fried with vegetables. The meat turns into a purple-reddish colour on the outside when cooked but white inside.

I also tried out their barrito (a Mexican Chapati with filling inside), which was awesome with fries. It’s one of the international dishes served and the word burrito comes from the Spanish word for a donkey, burro. So barrito means ‘a little donkey’. Traditionally, a burrito is made from flour tortilla rolled with beans, rice, as well as meat inside.

It’s never a Swahili breakfast without having some Mahamri and Mbaazi—pigeon peas cooked in coconut milk. Mahamri on the other hand, is a Swahili delicacy often eaten with other meals.

The hotel has a small farm where their eggs, honey and a selection of home made yoghurt and marmalade come from. “We bake our own bread, produce marmalade and yoghurt with the fresh product from our small farm on the island, which also provides eggs and honey,” said Lemmy Mwalwala, the manager, as he joined me for breakfast. 

The restaurant was built for guests in the hotel but t is open for external guests.

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