In Summary

  • It was slightly after noon and a steady stream of customers came in one after another until the place was packed nearly to the rafters.
  • I made sure to give anyone approaching my table the death gaze lest they think that I would entertain the idea of sharing, and asked for a food menu.

Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD) has over the years earned itself an array of reputations, ranging from the pathetic to the admirable, but mostly within the neighbourhood of the pathetic. Because of this, any time I am in the CBD, my default instinct is to beat a hasty retreat as soon as any official business I have there is done. So when recently I had to wait an hour while someone worked on something for me, I ducked into the first decent looking food joint I saw, and sat myself down so I could nurse my growing anxiety.

It was only after performing a breathing exercise to calm down and ordering some iced coffee that I started to take in my surroundings. Looking around Café Deli, I found myself impressed by the large split-level dining area, glass walled kitchen, muted earth tones and warm pendant and recessed light fixtures. I counted enough tables to sit about 220 people comfortably and noted that the staffers all seemed to be dashing between workstations at impossible speeds with trays overflowing with food, while managing to maintain pleasant faces and even light conversation with patrons. It was slightly after noon and a steady stream of customers came in one after another until the place was packed nearly to the rafters. I made sure to give anyone approaching my table the death gaze lest they think that I would entertain the idea of sharing, and asked for a food menu.

To my pleasant surprise, the food items listed on the menu were incredibly well priced. With no one listing costing over Sh900 (including accompaniments), I ordered pork ribs and a slice of carrot cake for then, and a chicken burger to take home. As I waited for my order, I started to notice a few unsavoury things which did little for my appetite. I was sitting in an intimate booth for two, separated from the next booth by a partition that was coated entirely in what looked like cement dust and when I looked away to the floor, I found that there were dried splashes of some sort of liquid which had to have been there since morning.  Irritated by these unsanitary conditions, I moved my gaze to the open style kitchen and hoped to God that they at least cared to handle food with some degree of professionalism, which from where I sat, it looked that they did.

The food portions were really generous and everything tasted quite good. My fleshy ribs were tender and juice packed, so I did not even have to use the gravy that had been served and the chips tasted fresh. A meagre kachumbari salad which I was too afraid to touch sat sadly on the plate but everyone else around me seemed to relish theirs. Taking care not to fill myself up so I had space for cake, I thoroughly enjoyed my ribs, and it is a good thing that I did because the dessert was awful. Oily, sticky and bland. This was surprising because during my lunch I had looked up the establishment to find it was run by a pastry chef who had started off supplying restaurants with, would you believe it, cake!

With two other outlets in the CBD, Café Deli is the perfect spot to hold quick meetings and get full on a budget. But, they need to do something about their standards of cleanliness before they get a visit from the health department!