The Shamba: Food, Farm Shop and Fun

‘I’m looking forward to doing a Going Places on your Shamba place,’ I said to Paul Simkin, one of the owners, when he told me his farm café had just opened in March.

‘Great, but I hope you will let it bed down a bit,’ he said.

I went for lunch last Sunday. As soon as I saw the carpark I realised the place had certainly bedded down. It was packed – and there was an overflow across the road.

‘Do you have a reservation?’ the waitress smiled and asked me nicely when I walked into the inner restaurant.

‘No,’ I said, ‘I had thought these clouds would keep people away!’

‘Oh no, not on a weekend,’ she said, ‘But let’s see what I can do.’

And what she did was find me a comfy one-person table just inside the dining room.

But let me tell you where it is, in case you are not one of those yet reached by what must have been a very effective word-of-mouth advertising. (Come to think of it, ‘word-of-mouth’ is quite appropriate for publicising a restaurant, isn’t it?) Anyway, it is right along Loresho Ridge, and just before you reach the VetLab Sports Club and the Upper Kabete Campus of the University of Nairobi. It is a five-acre site: green, tree fringed – and living up to its name.

The Shamba is more than a café. There are two main barn-shaped buildings, one housing the restaurant, the other a farm shop. There is also a garden centre. Some tables are on a terrace overlooking the down-slope of the lawn, where there is a boule court and a bean-bag throwing game for children – though I saw more dads than children playing the game.

Yes, the Shamba is very much a family-friendly place – even a dog-friendly place. And there were many family groups there last Sunday. It was a cosmopolitan clientele. It struck me that this will be one of those places where we will bring visitors from abroad. It is more than an eating place; it is an experience – and a very Kenyan experience.

The lunch menu is also cosmopolitan – from Ugali Frittes, to Shamba Salad, Shamba Burger, Self-Built Pizzas, and Steak Fritte. I ordered a glass of the house Merlot, to give me time to ponder. Eventually I played it safe and chose the pepper steak. It was a good choice – tender and delicious. For the dessert I was more adventurous. I went for the Financier: a raspberry-filled almond-flavoured cake with a sweet warm sauce and vanilla ice-cream. It is a popular French cake, so I am told. But why is it called Financier? I suppose because it is rich.

Over a coffee I had a chat with Michelle Gilardi, the chef and manager. She is an American who has cooked around the world. But I think she has found a place to stay. She clearly enjoys the variety of the place. She talked with relish about everything from the boule court to the garden centre. And she walked me through the farm shop. Like the restaurant menu, the shop is well-stocked – with fresh vegetables, and bottled chutneys, jams and honey. Also, there is a tasteful collection of Kenyan crafts. The pastries are tasteful, too.

The Shamba is open seven days a week. From Sunday to Tuesday the timing is 9 am to 7.30 pm. From Wednesday to Saturday it is open from 9 am to 10 pm. On Saturdays there is a farmers’ market. For more information there is the website (which is due for a facelift) www.shambacafe.co.ke. They also have a Facebook page. And the number for reservations is 0740-345168.

By the way, today there is a Meet and Jazz event at the Shamba by Capital FM. So you can have music with your brunch.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation