The Ultimate Guide to Shopping and Eating in Nairobi

In the first part of Nairobi series we explored the amazing wild life and breathtaking national parks of Nairobi and now its some chow chow time! Exploring the “eat-scene” can’t happen without some shopping on the way, so here is the best guide from our Nairobi Insider- Niyati Dubey who has spent good part of her life in this absolutely gorgeous city! We not only have restaurants but also the delicacies that are native to Kenya. So dig in!

The Eats

Nyama Choma….the grilled delight

Nyama Choma

Talk about Kenyan food can never be complete without the mention of Nyama Choma. Feasting on Nyama Choma, a special grilled meat, is the pride of Kenyan cuisine. It is easily one of the best things to do in Nairobi, especially for our forever-hungry team. This is one delicacy you can find everywhere in Nairobi, right from some high end fine-dining affairs to those road side street food stalls. Chunks of roasted goat sliced on a cutting board before you and accompanied by a pile of salt, some chili and fresh Kachumbari (tomatoes and onions) is simply phenomenal!


Reveal your fangs at Carnivore Restaurant 

Carnivore Restaurant

 Love it or hate it, Carnivore is hands down the most famous Nyama Choma haunt in Kenya, an icon amongst tourists, expats and locals. At the entrance is a huge barbecue pit laden with real swords of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. 
The Carnivore Restaurant is one of Nairobi’s most revered open air restaurants. Set in attractive tropical gardens, the service and the decor are outstanding. Dining here is an experience to treasure for meat lovers. First comes the soup of the day along with a plate of home-baked brown bread and butter. Waiters move from table to table carrying the swords laden with different prime meats carving unlimited amounts onto your plate. Accompanying the feast is a wide selection of salads and vegetable side dishes, and also a variety of exotic sauces made from the Carnivore’s own recipes.

In the past this restaurant was famous for serving choice of game meat like zebra, but not anymore. However, it still serves a bountiful array of delicious tender roasted meats ranging from camel to crocodile to ostrich and standard offerings.One can also indulge in local and international beers at Carnivore

Taste of Ethiopia in Nairobi

Ethiopian food

Outside of Ethiopia, Nairobi boasts some of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the world. Abysinnia Restaurant on Waiyaki way  and Habesha Restaurant on Arwings Kodhek Road are definitely one of the most popular Ethiopian restaurant serving Doro Wot, Kikil, Kitfo, Injera, Tibs, Berbere etc. Vegetarians can also get to sample quite a few dishes in Habesha. Do try the Ethiopian coffee and their famous Honey wine called Tej.  If you want to sample the most authentic Ethiopian food outside Ethiopia, Nairobi is your chance!

Because there are so many Indians in Kenya 

Indians have blended into Nairobi for centuries bringing with them their culinary masterpieces. Along with Kenyan and Ethiopian food, Nairobi has a wide selection of excellent Indian restaurants. Parklands and  Westlands are fantastic areas to eat Indian food at. Some of the high end Indian restaurants are Anghiti, Handi etc. Widely regarded as the best Indian restaurant in Kenya, Haandi has an expansive menu that includes wonderful Mughlai (North Indian) spreads, tandoori dishes and plenty of vegetarian curries besides its non vegetarian delicacies. 
In order to dive into flavors of southern India , one can opt for Sarvana Bhavan (South Indian veg restaurant). For lip smacking snacks Chowpati will always be the first choice for the Indians in Nairobi.

Bhajiyas

Another must eat in Nairobi is “Bhajias”. Originally bhajias are an Indian snack, but they have evolved with African flavored influences to create a sensational treat in Nairobi. For the best Bhajias, head to Diamond Plaza.

Grilled Maize and Sugarcane Bites

Savoring the rustic taste of corn grilled over coal and then rubbed with chili, salt and lime is quite a thing to do while exploring the streets of Nairobi. Another popular snack with Kenyans is the sugarcane cut into bite sizes pieces sold on the roadside is hugely popular with Kenyans.

Have a Tusker!

source; transithotels.co.ke

source; transithotels.co.ke

Keeping up with its wild side, Kenya’s local beer is called Tusker. It is obviously the most popular drink in Kenya and is best served cold! Truly refreshing and goes amazingly well with munchies!

The Kenyan Chai

source; samrack.com

source; samrack.com

Kenya is famous for its coffee and tea. For quality Kenyan chai, as Kenyans fondly call it, one can head to Nairobi Java house or Artcaffe chains that are located all over the city.
Java house introduced coffee drinking and gourmet café culture to Kenya in 1999. As the popularity grew, more spots were created where people could enjoy the Java experience conveniently.

Shopping 

After the extensive food tour, let us now move to the amazing shopping experience Nairobi offers.

Maasai Markets

Masai market

The Maasai culture is perhaps the most renowned of Kenya’s ethnicity. The epitome of Kenyan curio and souvenir shopping all comes down to Maasai Market. There is nowhere better than the regular open air Maasai markets held in Nairobi at different shopping centers on different days of the week. These markets are nomadic and boast of everything from local paintings, curios, drawings, wood carvings, beaded jewellery, baskets, Maasai crafts and East African based Fabrics. Just remember to bargain hard.


Spinner’s Web

source; spinnerswebkenya.com

source; spinnerswebkenya.com

The Spinner's Web showroom in Nairobi is another place to get high quality Kenyan handicrafts and souvenirs. There are some appealing items, including carpets, home décor, wall-hangings, ceramics, wooden bowls, baskets and clothing made out of African fabrics.

Utamaduni

source:aardvarksafaris.co.uk

source:aardvarksafaris.co.uk

Utamaduni is a large crafts emporium, selling all kinds of excellent African artworks and souvenirs. Prices start relatively high but no haggling and quality items, a portion of all proceeds go to the Kenya Wildlife Foundation. There’s an on-site restaurant and playground. This place is also close to the Giraffe Centre.

Kazuri Beads Factory….for ceramic beads and fine leather bags

Kazuri beads factory

The Nairobi Kazuri Bead Factory is home to Kenyan handmade and painted ceramic beads as well as pottery and fine leather bags. The craft centre was started up by an English expat in 1975 as a place where single mothers could learn a marketable skill and achieve self-sufficiency. A free tour in the factory shows the process from molding of raw clay to the glazing of the finished product, which is quite magnificent. There is also a gift shop with fixed prices and a pile of beads where visitors can mix and match and get the jewelry made according to their own choice. The famous Kazuri beads from Kenya are shipped all over the world.

TOI Market

surspurce: seattleglobalist.com

surspurce: seattleglobalist.com

Toi Market is Nairobi’s largest second hand market offering great clothes, music, dvds, salons, and a selection of fresh produce! Quite a unique and big experience for a second hand goods market I must say!

Triangle market

Source: the-star.co.ke

Source: the-star.co.ke

It is located in the Westlands area of Nairobi, opposite the roundabout from Sarit Center. The market is stocked full of Kenyan handicrafts and souvenirs with some great bargaining deals!

Kitengela Glass

Source: travelstart.co.ke

Source: travelstart.co.ke

Anslem’s Kitengela Glass Factory is home to local artists who create intricate glass sculptures and abstract glass creations from renewed and recycled raw materials such as scrap Windows, glass bottles and other glass materials. The resulting products can adorn any home perfectly.

The place is like a fairytale land--- the land of art and a mystical adventure, wherever you turn there is charm and beauty. Inside factory visitors would come across glass domes, sculptures, ornaments, majestic Bejeweled chandeliers, lamps, goblets and some furniture made out of recycled glass. It is also common to find few animals and birds that are domesticated and roam around the place around giving it the feel of a mystical land.

There is a glassblowing area to see the glass blowers in action which was quite magnificent.  Kitengela Hot Glass receives tons of broken / recycled glass and glass bottles weekly which is fed  into the furnace in the early evening. The glass then melts overnight and from there, they then use it in the morning only once it has achieved the right texture. Each piece made here is eye catching and inspiring! There is a restaurant here where the furniture is 100% glass! Final stop is Kitengela’s little shop where one can pick up some great bargains and end of line glassware at a 30% discounted rate.

Nani’s Kitengela Glass….there is one suspension high bridge too!

surce; geochahcing.com

surce; geochahcing.com

There is Nani’s Kitengela Glass---piece of artwork in the neighboring compound, she is the mother of Anslem and a great animal-lover. Her style and her place are fancy and vivacious. The animals and birds roam around freely in the compound and include the likes of fully grown cranes, storks, camel and monkeys. It is worth the visit just to observe these beautiful animals at relatively close range. There is even a swimming pool and compound, surrounded by handmade mosaics.
At both compounds - Anselm's and Nani's – the art is in abundance and leaves the visitors spellbound.
To top it all there is beautiful scenery and a suspension bridge above the deep valley. A narrow bridge for the thrill seekers, who can climb up the hill after crossing the bridge and head towards the Masai lodge for some quick bites. Near the bridge there is a glass coffee shop one floor higher from where one can see the sparkling sunset.


Maroula Studios

Source: hotel-r.net

Source: hotel-r.net

The artists make arty trinkets out of old flip flops which is quite impressive. The products are of good quality but the prices are quite high. We were shown how the animals are made and they make unique gifts that are light weight for travel.

Village market…not what you think

Source: travelstart.co.ke

Source: travelstart.co.ke

Nothing about village market is “Village-y”, it is just a name and the setting is quite opposite of what a village market look like! The Village Market is one of Kenya’s leading shopping malls. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations. Not only does it have amazing shopping outlets that carry a wide variety of local and international trinkets, it also has a wonderful open air food court with a variety of dishes from a wide range of cultures, including local cuisines. It also boasts of a well equipped Cinema, a water slide and bowling alley. The Village Market is a sprawling shopping center and recreational complex that boasts over 150 stories, a glorious food court with fountains and canal settings, Friday Maasai Market, a bowling alley and a theater.


The Hub- More than a Mall

Hub mall, Nairobi

The Hub Karen is Nairobi’s newest, trendiest and most quintessential premier shopping mall ideally tucked away from the hustle & bustle of the city in the charming upmarket leafy suburbs of Karen. Spread on a 2000 sqm the Hub is spaciously elegant and has open-air family atmosphere, with a clock tower at the Centre of the enormous open-air courtyard. It is a dining hotspot surrounded by an excellent array of local and international eateries in a charming setting. On the other end, a film is screened in the evening, once a month. The Hub Karen offers visitors a mix of large uninhabited open spaces, pristine natural surroundings and some of the most sought after retail brands. The Hub is host to the first Carrefour Hypermarket in East Africa. It also hosts socially engaging activities, showcasing frequent entertainment acts, regular themed-movie nights, lots of fun for the kids to enjoy including segways, hover boards, skateboards and riding ponies and various stuffed animals. It also forms an ideal space for parties, festivals and product launches.

To add to the uniqueness of the mall there is a beautiful man-made lake at the rear for picnics & enjoying lake activities like kayaking. One can also enjoy lakefront restaurants and food court outlets that give a fresh experience altogether in the beautiful Nairobi weather. 
Funscapes family entertainment zone designed especially for a younger generation. 
The Hub is a lifestyle destination whether for work, play or leisure. It’s the only mall that allows photography and wi-fi here is also free. 

Westgate Mall

Westgate mall, Nairobi

It is one of the premium malls of Nairobi. There is a sloping escalator leading to the ground floor where there are several restaurants and high end coffee shops. The first floor has the main Nakumatt supermarket and the mobile shops as well as souvenir shops
It is definitely one of the nicer places to spend time in Westlands. The second floor has several fast food joints like KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut as well as a Nakumatt children's division and the entrance to the multiplex mall which shows Bollywood and Hollywood movies. The kids love the toy shop near the cinema and they have some good ice cream on the ground floor as well. 

Diamond Plaza

Source: Jetcost.co.uk

Source: Jetcost.co.uk

Diamond Plaza is Nairobi’s Indian shopping plaza. It is like mini India within Nairobi. With over 70 stalls, an outdoor food court having variety of delicious Indian cuisine from tangy fast foods to main course and a new mall extension added to it, it is a place one can find almost everything  from Indian clothes, perfumes, religious stuff, Indian spices, Sweet shop,  Indian vegetable market where you find produce that we don't find anywhere else in Nairobi. When it comes to Indian stuff, Diamond Plaza known as DP, has you covered!

Nakumatt

Source: venturesafrica.com

Source: venturesafrica.com

The principal supermarket chain in Nairobi and Kenya as a whole, Nakumatt has a huge selection of Kenyan food items, Western foods and other products. From groceries to household item, Nakumatt is a true Kenyan experience! Nakumatt is located in various malls like village market, Westgate etc. Nakumatt Ukay is open for 24 hours. 

So this was the complete food and shopping adventure in Nairobi. With this guide we are making sure that next time you visit Nairobi, you don’t run out of things to do. Running out of things to do is actually not possible in Nairobi. Lush wildlife, endless forests, unlimited food fests and shopping……we are still left with one more in the series! So stay hooked.

-Niyati Dubey

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