“Can’t wait to meet her!” I messaged Tatiana when I found out she could join me for lunch with her young daughter. I was going to meet Olive.
“Aunty Susan :)” Tatiana sent quickly.
This would be Olive’s first restaurant review and photoshoot. And what better place to meet her than at the Purdy Arms, a popular outdoor dining restaurant and Karen watering-hole, frequented by both adults and children.
Tatiana was late, which was very uncharacteristic of her; but with her young daughter in tow, it was totally understandable. The colourful birds in the garden kept me company. One by one, they flew closer to me and perched on different branches, these beautiful resident yellow birds chirped and sang. It sounded like a lively banter between family members.
Purdy Arms, located on Marula Lane in Karen, is a relaxed oasis with warm and homely service that sometimes requires a bit of patience. This is definitely not a place where orders fly-out of the pass with incredible speed. Rather this restaurant, set upon 23 luscious acres, inspires you to lounge and linger; sometimes waiting a few extra minutes when you’re enjoying yourself is perfectly fine. The effect, courtesy of a spacious al fresco dining area that flows down towards the jungle gym and features colourful kikoy-wrapped cushions and wooden tables shaded by umbrellas, is more welcoming than you might imagine. Often, you’ll wonder where did the time go as you gaze at the last rays of the hot sun before it dips past the Ngong Hills, leaving the sky in vivid shades of purples and fiery corals. Sipping on a cold Tusker, perhaps after some shopping at the weekly organic market or a visit to one of the shops on the property, you can hear your kids make the most of their fun at the jungle gym before you beckon them to join the adults for a meal. They will indulge in their own menu that features favourites such as Fish Fingers, Sausages, Spaghetti, Chips and even some healthy Carrot Sticks with Hummus.
The straight-forward menu here has a touch of many influences, but mostly features what people would generally enjoy when watching a big rugby match on their big screens paired with a cold brew. There’s also a pizza and Indian menu for those looking to diversify.
With Olive fast asleep and happily fed, we tucked into the Prawn, Feta and Coriander Samosas with Sweet Chili Jam, the Homemade Fishcakes with Dill Dip, and the Bacon, Blue Cheese and Seared Fillet Steak Salad with Ranch Dressing. First, there were crispy but soft discs of fish cakes, their contents so soft and creamy you wouldn’t know whether to devour them or sleep on them. Laced with dill, these crispy fish cakes were complemented well by the pillow of dill crème fraiche and a vivid green dip that had a subtle sweetness. The samosas had a slight kick to them thanks to a few green chilies that softened the fishiness of the prawns and the combination of the filling contained just enough drama to keep these deep-fried parcels interesting. Overall, the samosas were quite popular at our table. The last starter, the one fail, was a tangled pile of salad with carefully arranged thin slices of seared fillet steak, which were quite dry and bland. In fact, the salad in general was very dry. Ranch dressing that’s super thick and overpoweringly sweet, can’t be anyone’s idea of a wonderful time. Perhaps a thin and simple vinaigrette would be a better option for the flavour-intensive bacon and blue cheese.
Sizeable sausages, well-seasoned with a coarse-ground pepper, stuffed into natural casings, made the Homemade Safari Sausage with Onion Gravy and Mash Potatoes. Thick slices of Gammon, cured hind leg of the pig, were grilled and served with Apple and Pineapple Chutney. Not overwhelmingly salty, the Gammon was a majestic pink and paired incredibly well with the sweetness from the chutney. The Classic Battered Fish was moist, tender and flaky. Encased in an incredibly delicate, crispy and thin batter, I would go back and brave the weekend crowds just for the Fish and Chips.
In a restaurant world full of hype and sometimes bluster, it is heartening to discover that sometimes, if you simply open your doors and let the food and experience speak for itself, people will come. Even so, Purdy Arms doesn’t give the slightest hint of its ambition to be the quintessential chill-out spot in Nairobi, for both young and old. With its boutique accommodation, collection of shops, organic market, paintball, archery, climbing wall, nature trail, buzzing bar and popular neighbourhood restaurant – the Purdy Arms’ story is only getting better.