Soft African music, dark brown tones spanning from the ceiling where wooden panels run across the space above, candles placed on each table usher us into the averagely populated Ankole Grill restaurant. Its location on Senteu Plaza at the junction of Galana and Lenana roads make it ideal for after work drinks as you wait for the evening traffic to ease down. On the far left of the restaurant, is the skull of an Ankole cow hung on the wall high above. The restaurant is named after this ancient cow breed which originates from East Africa.
Excited to find out what they have to offer, and also being my first time at this steakhouse, I arrive for dinner with the intention of trying out a dish my friend had suggested I should try their Congo Bongo chicken, “It’s awesome” she said.
Their menu features a myriad of dishes with African influence. So much so, that they serve ‘mchicha’ as a side accompaniment to main meals. Aside from the classic meat cuts available in steakhouses, Ankole’s menu also includes fried whole tilapia, chicken and fish curries, paneer tikka Masala, pork and mutton.
Being a weeknight, the place starts to fill up pretty fast and our attempt at switching tables is unsuccessful after a server informs that the unoccupied tables are all reserved specifically for this Wednesday when they have the band, Ankole All Stars performing live.
It is finally 8pm and the band is done setting up. Our food arrives just as they start their first song, an African jazz melody. The restaurant, now bustling and energized is fully packed.
We order the Beef Fillet, Chicken Parmigiana and the Congo Bongo Chicken accompanied by butter mashed sweet potatoes. My Congo Bongo chicken arrives in a huge portion, an alluring aroma and bathed in a thick peanut butter based sauce. Their menu describes it as “kinda like Jamaican jerk chicken, just better”. Mildly spicy, each bite provided a forkful of flavour. The only similarity I found with jerk chicken was the spiciness. The sweet potato mash added substance and heft to the meal. Prepared with garlic butter, thyme, rosemary, fresh oregano and Italian parsley, it was a creamy comforting dish, one that I intend to try and prepare at home.
My companion had the pepper crusted beef fillet; my attempts to convince her to have it medium rare failed miserably as she stuck to well done. As much as I’m not a fan of well-done cuts of meat, the pepper added zest and fun to the dish, resulting to a full-flavoured classic cut. I can only imagine biting into a similar fillet, but cooked to medium rare, the juices and tenderness of the meat and the pepper combination would have resulted to a remarkable treat.
By the time we were done with our dinner, the ambiance had transformed. People were on the dance floor, whiling the night away almost as if the next day was a weekend.