Sunday lunch at Macushla House

Last Friday afternoon I rang Macushla House to book a table for two for Sunday lunch. We hadn’t been there for many years. But we remembered it as a cared for and secluded place, tucked away in the Langata lanes carved out of an indigenous forest – in Ngurure Road and not far from the Giraffe Centre.

The voice at the other end of the line when I booked was warm and welcoming. Grace introduced herself. I told her that we had good memories from way back.

‘I guess there have been changes,’ I said.

‘Well, we have had some renovations,’ she replied, but you will still see many beautiful things.’

She was right. The house has a rumble of rooms, each one tastefully furnished and all with a fascinating display of prints, fabrics and carvings. The owner must be well-travelled or she is a well-informed frequenter of antique shops. Yes, there are many beautiful things: from Kenya, from elsewhere in Africa and, I think, from India. A few of the rooms are set with tables for eating; some are lounges for relaxing; one has a small bar. All are quite small; nowhere in Macushla House can you be crowded. A number of the rooms, decorated with climbing plants and flower vases, merge with the lovely and lively garden that surrounds a small pool.

Like the unpredictable weather of the last few days, the sun had broken through the clouds and the morning’s grey chill had gone. So, we chose a table in a small clearing of the bushes on the far side of the pool.

Stephen came to take our order. He apologised that the food might take time to come, because, as we had noticed, a minibus of tourists had arrived just before us, and they were settling themselves in the room with a blazing log fire. We assured Stephen that the delay would be no problem. It is a place where you don’t mind waiting for the food to arrive. It lives up to the rest part of restaurant.

I’m remembering once, when I was working on a health management information system with a group of public health officers, I noticed that they had called a hotel a place where you eat and a restaurant a place where you stayed in a bedroom. I tried to put them right. ‘No John, you are wrong,’ one of the officers said. ‘A restaurant is a place where you rest.’

Which reminds me to say that Macushla House is a boutique hotel. It has six guest rooms in the main house and a cottage with two rooms. It is, then, also a place where you can properly rest. (The prices for residents are KSh.14,700 for a double, bed and breakfast, and Ksh.10,000 for a single.)   

But, back to the garden… I have described it as lively, because there is a great variety of plants and trees, and many of them were in bloom. We could also see the bare branches of a tree rising above the surrounding greenery. We checked it out and found it was a baobab. It’s unusual, isn’t it, to find a baobab in Nairobi? You normally have to drive well down the Mombasa Road before you find them.

Sure enough, we had time to enjoy our drinks and explore back inside the roomy house before Stephen brought our food. The dishes on the menu are well chosen – not so many but quite eclectic. The starters range from a Levantine tabbouleh to a Thai fish salad; the mains from a grilled red snapper with coconut sauce to a tagliatelle tossed in cream, bacon, leeks and mushrooms. The house red wine was smooth.

If you would like to know more about Macushla House, visit www.facebook.com/MacushlaHse; to book a room or a table, ring 0722-329863.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation