They call it ‘Divino’. Now that could mean two things, couldn’t it? Something of god, or something of wine. I’m not sure about the god connection, but I’m certain about the wine. Because Divino is a restaurant and wine bar.
It’s a new place, along Ardwings Khodek Road, on the right hand side and beyond Yaya – if you are coming from town, that is. You can’t miss it, because the sign is a big one.
We tried it out the Sunday evening before last. It was only the second Sunday after the opening, but the car park, a very ample car park, was almost full – and the tables were busy enough. Word about something new gets around quickly in Nairobi, doesn’t it?
The restaurant is al fresco, with shaded tables circling an island bar, well greened with shrubs and trees, enclosed within a broken wall evoking gardens of rural Greece or Rome. The lounge-bar is a curved and stepped veranda of the original house. And there is a wild garden waiting to be landscaped.
The Divino website promises you a warm welcome. Well, that’s true. The settees of the lounge are soft, the candles flicker – and even on a chill evening there is the glow of jikos. And nothing could be warmer welcoming than the greeting of the owner-host, Hector Como.
Then we saw Alex, as he has done in quite a number of smart restaurants and nightclubs in Nairobi, busying himself around the tables and chivying the waiters. So it was easy to book a time with Alex to have a more relaxed chat about Divino – its concept and its prospects.
His full name is Alessandro Scarci, and his new full title is Marketing Manager of Divino. You will gather he is Italian. Como Hector, the Managing Director, is Greek. So there you have an interesting Mediterranean fusion – which explains the setting and will soon explain the completed menu. (The present menu of pastas and pizzas, meats and fish, is biased towards the Italian – perhaps because Alex’s Mum is in the kitchen.)
But back to the setting…. Alex told me that the idea behind Divino is to recreate the kind of old Mediterranean farm house – called a ‘masserria’ in Italy or ‘hacienda’ in Spain – where you would find grapes or olives growing.
Divino aims to be a sophisticated place, yes – with good food and good wines – but somewhere you can relax, take your ease. The restaurant is rather like the Osteria del Chianti, also in Hurlingham – but the bar will not be a disco like the Casablanca. It is a place where you can enjoy a conversation with friends or business partners, where you can talk as well as hear the music.
A number of Greek dishes will soon be added to the menu, and also some Spanish ones – where else can you get a ‘paella’ in Nairobi these days? From what is on offer now, beyond the wide choice of pizzas, we can certainly recommend the veal or the lamb chops – crisp and sweet.
But when I went back, Alex walked me into the bar and warmed to telling me about the wines – forty of which are going to be sold by the glass. He got the barman to set out eight different wine glasses: some ordinary ones, but also balloons for bringing out the ‘nose’, flutes for capturing the bubbles of sparkling wine, and saucer-shaped glasses for Champagne – said to be modeled on the breasts of Marie-Antoinette.
Divino has wines from many regions but Alex, with an obvious pride, showed me some specials from Italy – particularly from down by the heel of the country, his own birthplace. He caressed a bottle of the rich and dark Primativo. And he mentioned ‘meditation wines’ that you don’t have to drink with food….
Afterwards, I looked that up. In one article I read: ‘Buddhists may care to note the Italians call it vino da meditazione. Sip it slowly, with friends, as you put the world to rights’. So now we have the connection with the gods – and, also, the Divino lounge is a good place for sitting with friends and putting the world to rights.