Where art, music and food mingle

Writer Njeri Maina sneaks into The Collective to find out why millennials have been name-dropping the restaurant on social media

Njeri Maina @njerimainar

Soft strings from jazz rendition of famous pop songs permeate the air as a small group of customers move past our table. They stop to admire a beautiful piece of art made with bottle tops, then  quietly discuss its value versus its aesthetics. The price and the name of the artist are stuck below the painting.

We are at The Collective restaurant on the ground floor of View Park Towers in Nairobi CBD, where you eat or drink as you view paintings hang on the walls.  Turns out, you can leave the restaurant not just full, but also with a painting.

Millennials on social media have been name-dropping this restaurant at every opportunity. My colleague John Ochieng’ and I had, therefore, decided to check it out and see if it deserves all the hype.

I find the service attentive and solicitous, right from the liveried guard who welcomes you and holds the door open for you,  to the restaurant manager who asks you where you would like to sit. A waiter then takes over once you settle.

The place is truly a collective both for food and art. It has two seating levels with a ground floor and an upstairs which is accessible through an aesthetic spiral staircase. Pretty paintings dot the walls with colourful, freshly cut flowers in vases placed on dining tables.

We opt for upstairs, choosing a corner that is both close to the bar and strategic for people-watching. I order from their breakfast menu even though it is 2pm. The waiter says it might be hard to getwaffles, so I settle for ground beef burger and orange juice.  John orders tilapia with ugali and a vanilla milk shake.

The drinks arrive soon after, quickly followed by my food. The burger is big for me, with the beef patty being medium rare just the way I like it, coupled with an egg and crunchy veggies. It comes with a side of fries, which are so sumptuous that John gets exasperated as I start scooping away before he can take a good photo. He is worried that he will be left taking shots of an empty skillet as I steal too many fries in between shots.

The burger is sumptuous too, with the fillings making it juicy enough. I don’t have to wash it down with anything and can, therefore, enjoy its taste fully. John’s tilapia lands with a large ugali
and a side plate of kachumbari. I gladly take his kachumbari, as he deslikes raw vegetables.

I also steal some of his ugali and tilapia because, well, I am that kind of annoying friend who will grab a morsel from everyone’s plate but turnd into a snarling bear if you so much as sniff in the direction of my food. Lionesses are many in this town. 

John does short work of his tilapia,  leaving just a lattice of fish bone. Beyonce Knowles’ Crazy
jazz rendition is playing in the background, mirroring our sentiments towards the food. We finish our meal and settle the Sh3,500 bill. Interestingly, we are escorted out with a foray of thanks from our waiter to the liveried guard outside. We leave full and with a renewed appreciation for art and excellent service.

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