An Intriguing Bar and Grill in Kileleshwa

It was the name that intrigued me – the name of a bar and restaurant in Kileleshwa. It’s called, Alumni Club by The Caballeros. I know what a club is. I know that alumni are the graduates of, usually, up-market schools or universities. So the impression was of a place quite exclusive and prestigious – like a gentlemen’s club in London, say, with ample leather chairs, displaying copies of The Times and The Telegraph, and with the smell of floor polish like what you get in an officers’ mess in England.

But Caballeros? These are Spanish gentlemen. I don’t know what a gentlemen’s club is like in Spain. But I guess it is also exclusive and prestigious. And this impression about the place in Kileleshwa was reinforced when I Googled it and saw its logo – a coat of arms, depicting a medieval knight in armour.

So last Sunday, still intrigued, I went along. The Alumni Club is in the maze of roads that is Kileleshwa. I had seen that Hamisi Road is off Mugoiri Road that is off Othaya Road. No problem, I thought. I drove down Othaya Road, looking for a right turn called Mugoiri Road – but there was no signpost with Mugoiri on it. I tried a few of the roads off to the right and got quite lost. In the end I paid a boda boda driver to lead me there.

Once in Hamisi Road, the sign for the Alumni Club is clear. You turn into a quite spacious parking area, beyond which is a lawn dotted with shaded tables and gazibos. Beyond that is the typical sprawl of a Nairobi stone bungalow – now dwarfed on all sides by tall apartment blocks. The club is one of the surviving oases in the concretising of Kileleshwa.

However, it doesn’t at all match the impressions stirred by the name. No ample leather chairs. No smell of floor polish. It is a nyama choma place – but a special one, I reckon. And it lives up to its own description on its Facebook page: ‘Cosy and casual neighbourhood restaurant & bar set in a garden specializing in choice wines, whiskies, cocktails and beers enjoyed with grills, tapas, bitings and a la carte. Chill out in the garden, gazebo, terrace deck or private rooms and lounge’.

That’s about right. If you want to tune in to the music you can sit in the main bar or on the terrace deck. If the sun is shining you can retreat to the garden gazebo. If you want a quiet conversation, or a private party, you can take over one of the small lounges.

Actually, the menu is not typical of a nyama choma place. Yes, you can have a pork choma (from KES.500 to KES.900), a pork wet fry at the same price range. You can have a half kienyeji chicken, wet or dry, for KES 800. For your office party this Christmas, a whole goat can be yours for between KES.12,000 and 15,000. But there are many more items on the menu, with also a wide range of snacks. And care has been taken with the choice of wines and whiskeys.

For the Sunday lunch I opted for the simple grilled chicken with potato wedges. It was fine. And the house dry white wine was good, too.

‘What’s in a name?’ asks Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. ‘That which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.’ True. And whatever the name of the Alumni Club in Kileleshwa, the grills would taste as sweet and the wines would taste as dry. I met with Sisule, one of the owners. ‘We wanted to create a local place that has a touch of class,’ he said. They have done just that.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation