A New Garden Restaurant in Lavington

‘A lady came to the office looking for you,’ my son said.

I was wondering what ghost from my past had visited, until Jan went on, ‘She’s the lady who ran out to kiss the Pope’s hand. But it was not about that – she wanted to tell you about the Steak Out restaurant her daughter has opened in Lavington.’

After two weeks in Darfur and Khartoum, surviving mainly on yoghourts, cheeses, fried chicken and rice – and, of course, no alcohol – I felt like indulging myself with a glass of red wine, and a plate of steak and chips. So I went along last Saturday lunchtime.

The Steak Out is on Manyani Road, the last on the left along James Gichuru Road before you reach Waiyaki Way. The first thing that struck me was the beauty of the garden. I wish I knew more about the names of trees, so I could describe it better. But there are tall ones, round ones and spreading ones. It’s a very mature garden, and there are tables set out on the lawn.

I was greeted by the daughter, Cheryl Barretto, and we quickly got into chatting about her ideas for the place, as she showed me round. Like many before her, she nursed a dream of having a restaurant – and she has now breathed on the dream. It was not so much about a love of cooking but about the enjoyment of eating out – which she did very often, travelling around in her previous career in the corporate world.

Cheryl told me that it was in an Argentinean restaurant in Amsterdam that the idea crystallized of making steaks the focus. I can well understand that, having enjoyed steaks in Buenos Aries, on my only visit to Latin America. They were big; they were succulent – and they were very memorable!

Cheryl took her time looking for her place. But as soon as she saw the available 102 Manyani Road she had no hesitation. There was the garden, of course, but the house has its own attractions. Downstairs, she has the main dining room, and there are two smaller rooms for private dining.

Upstairs, a great feature, there is the bar with a broad veranda overlooking the garden. There are three other rooms, too, that Cheryl will convert as meeting rooms, ideal for brainstorming in a quiet place away from the noise and bustle of the city. Yes, the traffic along nearby Waiyaki Way is just a faint hum, if you strain your ears to hear it.

Cheryl has recruited an experienced staff. As soon as I sat at a table in the garden, big Kwame approached me with the broad grin that never seems to leave his face. Not so long ago he was helping to launch Mama Ashanti in Muthangari Gardens; before that he was managing Le Palanka in James Gichuru Road. And the waiter who took my order was Zacharia, who I last saw at Alan Bobbé’s Bistro at the end of Rhapta Road.

There were a few steaks on offer in the menu. I went for the rump steak, with French fries and pepper sauce. The steak was generous and tender; the chips were crispy; and the sauce was peppery pepper.

But there was much more to the menu than steaks. Let me give you a few examples.

Another meat dish is the slow cooked pork belly that the menu promises will melt in your mouth – and, no doubt, the crackling will crunch. For fish there is a choice between whole tilapia with fresh herbs and capers – and grilled red snapper with mushy peas and dill sauce.

There are soups and salads and bitings. And vegetarians are not forgotten – with a choice of ‘chef’s curry’ with butternut, peanut, spinach, coconut, cashew nuts and paneer cheese; tagliatelle, tossed with courgettes, pumpkin seeds, cannelloni beans, red chili and pesto; green tomato risotto, with spinach, mixed pepper and mascarpone; mixed vegetable lasagna.

Desserts? Three of the temptations are passion cheesecake; peanut and chocolate mousse; grilled mango, banana and coconut sandwich. The wine list is quite extensive and well chosen, too.

A number of restaurants have come and gone in these parts. But the Steak Out has a lot going for it: a beautiful setting, an enthusiastic hostess, an attentive staff, and an eclectic menu. I have just one suggestion. This would be an ideal place for offering afternoon teas. I’m thinking of the Cornish-kind ones I remember enjoying on summer holidays in England – scones with thick cream and strawberry jam, an assortment of cakes and, of course, tea.

As it is, I will certainly be back soon for a sun-downer on the upstairs veranda.

If you want more information about the place, the website is www.steakout.co.ke; if you want to book a table, the phones are 0726-211443 or 0738-107026.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation