After paying her dues slogging through other people’s restaurants, Deborah Swai is finally content with the way things are panning out at her very own About Thyme Restaurant. Fancy but not pretentious, this relaxed establishment is fast becoming a Westlands favourite.
About Thyme tries their sincerest to make the eatery relaxed for everyone to feel at ease.
It isn’t always the straightest of paths to own a restaurant, often times there are curves and changes before winding up with the white coat of a chef. For Deborah Swai of the Westlands institution About Thyme, it was well worth the wait. After slogging through years in the service and restaurant business in England (including an early morning stint as a baker), Swai decided to come home to Kenya to try her hand in the restaurant business.
Like a lot of things at About Thyme, even finding the location was a labour of love: Swai looked for over a year before settling on the quiet location off Peponi Road. Since opening in 2005, About Thyme has become known in Nairobi for being the go-to spot for relaxed cuisine with the atmosphere to match.
The atmosphere feels a bit homey, just as Swai intended, adding to the veneer of the spot is the exceptional blend of “home-cooked” food that has been keeping guests happy for the last decade. It isn’t your normal fare, with a slightly off-kilter blend of spices, backgrounds, influences and presentations. This even makes its way into the appetizer course, with the duck cigars (an Asian flavoured spin on a samosa) finding itself both familiar and different.
In spite of the eclecticism shown from Swai’s kitchen, the overall theme comes back to a home away from home. The décor of About Thyme matches that mantra: fancy but not pretentious, chic but not aloof.
This isn’t the inaccessible cuisine that first time diners can’t relate to. No, About Thyme tries their sincerest to make the eatery relaxed for everyone to feel at ease. It’s a point that Swai insists on: with the staff some of the friendliest in Nairobi, the food the most familiar, the touch the most personal. Every table gets a visit from Swai, every one made to feel special by a “Chef’s surprise” biting given with every meal. The aloof inaccessibility of many high-end restaurants is nowhere to be found among the rolling hillside garden of About Thyme, the further you go into the property the warmer and more casual it feels.
For Swai, the sustainability of About Thyme is its adaptability. They mend and adjust the menu, finding comfort food wherever they can find influence. This rings especially true from their participation in Nairobi Restaurant Week, where some of the featured dishes became so popular they made the jump from a one week experiment to full time featured item on the menu. The Pepper Steak is one such dish, becoming one of the restaurant’s most popular plates in recent months. Even experiments in desserts have found their way onto the ever-changing menu, with frozen Key Lime pie (once feared too cold for diners) becoming perhaps their most loved dessert.
For Swai, it has been everywhere from India to England bringing in a bit from everywhere, with everything from coconut curry fish an English style chicken pot-pie being featured on the menu. This is definite stick-to-your-ribs type of cuisine, with the mind of Swai producing menu stand outs such as lamb stew with lemon and figs, to pumpkin and amaretti tortellini served up in portions that are guaranteed to fill up and satisfy.
Whatever it is, there isn’t a rush to get to the point, only a garden, food to bring some joy and maybe a cocktail or two. For Deborah Swai that’s exactly what About Thyme should be, a place to feel like family, a home away from home.