Discovering and Tasting the Wasp and Sprout

There’s a splendid new café in Loresho. There’s not much in Loresho, apart from rows of residences. Am I right? And the small shopping precinct along Loresho Ridge is a bit shabby, isn’t it? But tucked away behind the shops is a gem of a place – the small but burgeoning Wasp and Sprout.

‘What’s in a name?’ someone said in one of Shakespeare’s plays. Juliet, I think it was – about her Romeo… Anyway, Wasp and Sprout? Strange name for a café, don’t you think? It sounds more like the off-beat name of a village pub in the south of England.

And Wasp? I’ve never liked wasps since I listened to my scoutmaster when a wasp landed on my chest and the scoutmaster said, ‘Stay still and it will fly away’. But it didn’t fly away; it crawled inside my shirt and stung me. I’ve never trusted scoutmasters after that.

But this Wasp I like. And what’s in the name? ‘We chose the wasp, says the proprietor, Chris Neale (as is also explained in the café’s lively Facebook page), because it is a symbol of Africa’s resilience. That’s true, I think. Wasps are hardy little things.

What about Sprout? That, it seems, is all about growth. And that, certainly, is a very apt word for what has been happening to this little café on Loresho Ridge.

Chris was over here working for the Australian Embassy. Angela, his Kenyan wife, had a project for young entrepreneurs in Kangemi. She set up a small craft workshop on Loresho Ridge. They had a coffee machine. Their coffee became popular with those who visited the workshop, where Angela was making her wooden furniture items.

Someone suggested they should put on a Sunday brunch. They did. They acquired the current premises and opened the café for lunches. Just by word of mouth, the Wasp and Sprout became popular, and not just with people from the neighbouring houses and apartments.

Last February, Chris resigned from the Embassy to devote his time to the café. He says they intend to start opening for dinners – at present the opening times are 8 am to 5 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8 am to 8 pm on Friday; 8 am to 2.30 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

My wife and I went last Sunday lunchtime. The place was wasp-like buzzing. It was a mini United Nations in there – with people from all over the world. There were families; there were young couples. The Belgian artist, Xavier Verhoest, wandered in with one of his paintings under his arm. It’s that kind of place.

I said the name could be like that of a pub in the south of England. So could the décor be like that of a café in, say, Winchester, Lyme Regis or St Ives. There is something hippy about it, with the colourful patchwork fabric Angela does for her easy chairs and cushions, or the quirky wooden stands for her lampshades. Also, there are displays of craft work done by the artisans she supports – chirpy clothes for children, silvery jewelry for the mums, and cool cotton ties for the dads.

Oh yes, the menu. The coffee is still good, of course. So was the chilled Chardonnay I sipped waiting for our order to arrive. Yes, if you go this Sunday lunchtime, be prepared for a fairly long wait. But there’s plenty of artwork to keep you occupied – also books on the shelves, and magazines on the coffee tables.

I went for one of the dishes from the weekend brunch offerings – the Eggs Benedict, with English muffin, poached eggs, ham and Hollandaise sauce. Lut, my wife, chose the Roast Vegetable and Coucous, with pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini, eggplant and yogurt dressing.

It’s a very eclectic and imaginative menu: from breakfast panini or waffles with organic honey; to Thai beef or pulled pork and slaw burgers; apple and rhubarb pie or sticky date pudding – and much more.

The prices are very reasonable too. My Eggs Benedict and Lut’s Roast Vegetables and Coucous were both 800/-. There are daily specials, like curry with rice, pasta with garlic bread, or a steak sandwich, for between 650/- and 750/-. A mug of soup will cost you only 300/-, and a bowl of soup with toasted bread is 450/- .

Wasp and Sprout is a great place, then, whether for a relaxed weekend brunch or a mid-week sundowner cocktail and chat. There are many people, aren’t there, who fancy setting up their dream restaurant, find out it is hard work, discover that customers are fickle – and they close down within a year or so? But this place is different. It has evolved – sprouted. I reckon it has a good chance of being as resilient as its wasp motif.

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Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation

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