Desserts make the world go round, and since we at Yummy are utterly obsessed with chocolate, we are constantly raving about our latest favourite brownies, eclairs and much more in the office. Whenever we go to check out a new spot as a group, sometimes we shamelessly skip the main meal and head right for the dessert. While being free to experiment and play around with the rules, I am particularly fond of places that adhere to the fundamental commandments of creating with chocolate. You know…thou shall create fantastic ganaches, thou shalt be true to the cocoa bean, your mousse should have the perfect balance of richness and creaminess, your glazing should be perfect- the works. As a result, what gets to my taste buds should be good enough to make even Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson weak at the knees.
We scoured the city to bring you eight spots in Nairobi that you should definitely have on your radar, because you just never know when the craving will strike. You will discover an inevitable overlap in some of the menu items which is not necessarily a bad thing as we all love macarons and brownies and would like to be able to get these at whichever restaurant we choose to check out. A lot of these establishments also favour Belgian premium chocolate brand Callebaut which still uses the original whole-bean roasting technique that allows for the preservation of aromatic oils and flavours contained in the cocoa husk, fully releasing them in the chocolate. This couverture chocolate also has a high cocoa butter content, making it a darling among culinary and gourmet experts worldwide. Used correctly in pastries, the results are what keeps us going back to certain spots. The following then are restaurants and patisseries which seem to have an uncanny grasp of what Nairobians like at the moment.
Sometimes I will get desserts delivered to me in an unlabeled box. That excites me- it is almost like getting flowers from a secret admirer and trying to guess who it is. Even if I was blindfolded, however, I could taste a dish from the menu at DusitD2 Hotel and tell you where it was from. Executive Chef Anton Gasnier excites not by the rarity of ingredients or unusual combinations but by his sheer flawless demonstration of technique. When it comes to desserts, it is this that sets him apart from those that just pay lip service to the craft. Besides, French cuisine is responsible for a plethora of the desserts that we’ve all grown to love, and Anton is French so go figure.
The menu features classics like operas and modern items like the dark chocolate eclair. You can tell a lot about a restaurant by how they execute the basics. I generally love brownies and nuts, and therefore find the all nuts milk chocolate brownie a sure winner. The Kenyan palate profile is generally sweet, and it is no surprise that the strawberry and white chocolate mousse is the most popular item off the menu. Personally, sometimes I like my taste buds to be jolted, and the white chocolate and black berry entremet is both as satisfying to this need as it is pleasing to the eye.
In September 2015, Anton went for training at Callebaut’s Dubai Chocolate Academy and swears by their products. He is also keen on educating patrons on good quality chocolate that can be used in home cooking, and they stock some for retail. Just earlier this year, Dusit hosted a chocolate festival with about 50 desserts made using seven different chocolates on buffet. Look out for the 2017 edition.
This is a quaint and colourful Parisian-themed cafe, a darling among dessert lovers in Nairobi. Walking into the space, dramatic chandeliers hang from the roof while striking vintage French film posters adorn the walls. The decor is characterized by pink accents and large windows which wash the black granite floors with an ethereal natural light; the European charm here shines through in everything from the decor to their traditional French baking methods. This patisserie is known for their lovingly crafted cakes and pastries as well as fresh breads, light meals and delicious smoothies. Looking through the glass display, chef Shazia Deen’s spongy chocolate cake instantly attracts the eye, as does the delicate pear tart which comes complete with a custard and almond base. When the spongy dark chocolate truffles get to your table in bold blue plates, just know you’re in for a treat.
Mousse de fraises, also known as strawberry mousse will come as a pillowy rectangle in a beautiful light shade of pink and will taste of lazy summer afternoons. The passion fruit cheesecake will look nothing short of exquisite, and best believe it has the flavours to match. The individually-sized pastries offer gourmands a taste of the good Parisian life in Nairobi whilst showcasing the finest seasonal ingredients from the region. If you’re strictly out to get your dark chocolate fix while still tasting a tangy freshness and sweetness that can only come from good quality fruits, just get the strawberry tart and perhaps a slice of chocolate cake, then settle in to enjoy the rest of your afternoon. These perfectly shaped round balls of goodness are dense, dark and rich and yet all sweet and creamy.
When it comes to desserts at this brasserie, the love list is endless. My favourite is the chocolate stout cake with ice cream which is a simple choice and yet the idea behind it is just so brilliant. Sierra has its own state-of-the-art brewery on Mombasa road and they therefore make their own stout beer. Stouts have a flavour profile that tastes remarkably like chocolate, and using it to make the cake for this dessert was a no-brainer. Executive Chef Alan Murungi however gives all the credit for the recipe to his sister.
Speaking of chef Alan, his personal favourite is the salted caramel ice cream with crushed oreo cookies which comes served in a wine glass for that extra touch of elegance, a themed echoed in the ambiance of the brasserie. Besides, oreos just make everything taste better. In the thread of supporting local enterprises, I like that they make their ice creams in-house with cream transported in fresh from Naivasha.
Sierra will be marking its 10 year anniversary, and to celebrate that, there will be a special menu from April 21st to May 31st. One item sure to sit well with dessert lovers is the white chocolate panna cotta with poached apples, grape and red wine syrup finished off with shaved white chocolate for garnish. The food world has a lot of fantastic combinations, and this is just one of them. The Panna Cotta was selected by the restaurant’s pastry chef who has also been with Sierra for a decade. Be sure to pop in for a culinary experience unlike any other in the city
If you’ve never been to Tiramisu, go away. Just kidding. But really, you should check it out. Tucked at a corner in the Village Market food court, this is hands down one of my favourite bakeries in Nairobi. Part of its charm is in the ambiance which owner Harveen Jandu says is inspired by the small coffee shops in Italy which made a lasting impression when she visited. The buzz is always cheerful but not too loud, and I get their rye bread and perfectly salted pretzels every time I go. I recently discovered their rich hot chocolate which comes topped with whipped cream, and is almost emblematic of the chocolate desserts you will find there. The Callebaut is dense and dark and hits the palate with some aplomb, and yet the cream gives it a touch of sweetness so it’s not too overpowering. Other favourites are the chocolate mousse, volcano and rich chocolate cake glazed with a thick layer of ganache for the perfect Parisian finish.
Harveen was only four years ago baking muffins and cupcakes at their sister company Zucchini before embarking on this passion project. Today Tiramisu is not only known for the coffee-flavoured dessert after which it is named, but also for fresh smoothies, coffee, breads, pastries and new additions like piadinas. While the inspiration is distinctly Italian, some items like the now popular red velvet cake have been Americanized to adapt to the Kenyan market.
Unlike establishments that just put items like brownies and mousse on their menu because that’s what they’re supposed to do, these guys actually know what they are doing, and that’s exactly why any dessert ordered here will make you weak at the knees.
You might know Venom as the popular club which has been serving world class cocktails in Nairobi for the past five years. This past month, however, it expanded to include a warm, spacious, well lit, rooftop restaurant specializing in fusion Indian cuisine presented in a contemporary style. The international chefs brought in from India also make a play at molecular gastronomy with results that do not fail to impress. Kids are however not allowed at the restaurant past 11:00pm only on Friday and Saturday, as the establishment still seeks to cater to its regular party-loving patrons.
To complete your dining experience, try their signature thickly glazed German chocolate cake for an induction into the type of desserts this spot has to offer. If you are however experiencing an acute craving for chocolate and are all out to indulge, the chocolate blood bath will hit all the right notes. It’s like all your favourite chocolate desserts thrown together into one super item: cake, mousse, brownies, truffles and fudge layered and topped with a delicious scoop of ice cream. Boy does it also pack a visually pleasant punch! Chocolate fanatics will go nuts about this, waistlines be damned. What’s more, your kids are sure to love it.
This chic and classy lounge with its eclectic decor is the perfect setting for a night out with friends, family or business associates. The chef’s table which costs Ksh 9,000 for a nine course meal will be one of the best dining experiences you will have all year, with items like the chef’s signature dessert which has rosemary and white chocolate kulfi, dark and white chocolate cigar with baba au rhum introducing patrons to his approach to the art of cuisine. It tastes nothing like it looks, and this element of surprise is a clear theme throughout the experience.
Executive Chef Prashand Penkar who came in from Mumbai has been at the helm of the kitchen for about eight months now, and is the brains behind the current menu. Items which show off his technique include a chocolate olive oil cake with ganache, vanilla ice cream and vanilla sauce. You must however try the obrama, which is unlike anything offered in Nairobi at the moment. It has five components, all with different flavours; brownie, chocolate cigar, white chocolate pannacotta, white chocolate and orange peel rounded off by a dark chocolate fudge, all these coming together to create what may well be the perfect combination dessert.
Walking into Suite 101 is like stepping into every dessert lover’s dream. With high standards of presentation, your chosen guilty pleasures will look so good you won’t even want to take that first bite. Indulge in the usual array of goodies like cakes, cupcakes, tarts and pastries, but be sure not to miss out on their very own cold-slate ice cream service. Every Sunday, Jiko Restaurant hosts a fabulous brunch buffet with a cooking and grilling station, bottomless mimosas and an array of Suite 101 specialties including novelty cakes, strawberry tarts, decadent macarons and an assortment of Italian homemade gelatos and ice creams (with flavours like mint chocolate, strawberry cherry and apple pie vanilla).
This spot offers house made chocolates which come in a variety of flavours like pistachio, mocha hazelnut, orange, almond, tea masala, lemon and raspberry. You can also get chocolate lollipops, animals and squares, which can be personalized to make the perfect gift box. The signature dessert of the moment is the big time chocolate which looks every bit like a volcano and therefore packs the surprise of being hot outside with a cold liquid filling. For tea lovers, try the Omuluabi-impeccable character tea infusion which has roiboos, coconut and, of course, chocolate.
From the decor to the soothing background music, the ambiance here could make you get lost in time. Everything on their menu is prepared in-house with only the finest ingredients, fresh cream and 100% pure butter which is why since opening in 2005, they have earned something of a reputation for their desserts. Finish your meal on a sweet note with their extensive selection of sweet treats coupled with a fresh pot of tea or coffee. Try their irresistible old fashioned sticky date pudding served piping hot smothered with thick toffee sauce and walnuts, and served with fresh pouring cream. You won’t know what hit you! Another instant favourite is the warm and gooey wicked chocolate brownie with macadamia nuts topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with a rich hot fudge sauce.
If you do however want to try a bit of everything, go for the dessert trio. It offers a sampler selection of the banoffee pie, wicked chocolate brownie and strawberry cheesecake. The pie made from toffee, milk and bananas on base of crumbed biscuits and butter takes the flavour of the trio to that next level.
Placed before you, dessert plates at Fairview Hotel in Upper Hill look grand. So grand, in fact, that they are almost operatic, and some patrons like that kind of panache in fine dining. The classy presentation fits right into the ambiance, as with its underground wine cellar, quality service and overall decor, this makes for the perfect spot to celebrate a special occasion. Pastry chef Lucas Mwaore’s mantra is to go a step beyond what’s offered at other establishments, and peeking into a packed Pango Restaurant during lunch or dinner might be testament to being on the right track.
Lucas has been with the hotel since 2005, and in all that time, his face still lights up and he talks with the relish of a man who evidently enjoys creating with chocolate for the versatility it allows in his desserts. Watching him expertly plate the raspberry rhubarb with white chocolate parfait in the kitchen before letting it be presented to a patron by a waiter, I can’t get over how palpable his passion is. Unlike many foodies and industry insiders who may look down on white chocolate terming it ‘a big fat lie’ because it actually doesn’t contain key ingredients like cocoa solids, Lucas adores this derivative and it is actually his personal favourite.
A sure crowd pleaser off the Pango menu is the chocolate fantasy. You will experience it in layers of white, milk and dark chocolate with a light base of cocoa powder, garnished with a thin flat biscuit for an added crunchy texture. If you do however prefer something with a slightly sour zing to counterbalance all that sweetness, just order the chocolate sponge with passion cream and sit back to enjoy.