In Summary

  • Contact with the employers was minimal. But minimal contact with a driver would have been nigh impossible.
  • You just couldn’t travel for hours on end in the capsule of a car without talking. And that’s the kind of contact that would have shown how nonsensical apartheid was. Anyway, that’s just a theory.
  • Another thing I remember about my visits to Pretoria was that I never saw one mixed couple. It was, and in so many ways, different from our cosmopolitan, more liberal and relaxed Nairobi.

“So you haven’t been to the News Cafés?” a colleague asked. “I’m surprised.”

So I went. Last Sunday for a brunch. At one of the three News Cafés in Nairobi – the one in the Adlife Plaza of Kilimani. (The others are at the Sarit Centre and in Hardy Estate, Karen.)

But I knew the News Café brand from a few visits to the one in the Hatfield district of Pretoria (now Tshwane), when I was on consultancy in South Africa. That was the first of them, opened about two decades ago. 

What I remember is that all the waiters were white. Even the parking boys were white. But that was Hatfield. You wouldn’t have known the apartheid regime had crumbled a few years back.

One thing I noticed was that no-one employed a driver. It seemed that, though white households employed cooks, cleaners and gardeners, they didn’t take on drivers. It occurred to me that employing cooks, cleaners and gardeners must have been no challenge to sustaining the separation culture of apartheid. They would be left alone to get on with their jobs, and at the end of the day they would travel out on the workers’ trains to the Mamelodi township.

Contact with the employers was minimal. But minimal contact with a driver would have been nigh impossible. You just couldn’t travel for hours on end in the capsule of a car without talking. And that’s the kind of contact that would have shown how nonsensical apartheid was. Anyway, that’s just a theory.

PREMIUM ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE

Another thing I remember about my visits to Pretoria was that I never saw one mixed couple. It was, and in so many ways, different from our cosmopolitan, more liberal and relaxed Nairobi.

And having myself just piled up three adjectives, I’m tempted to have a go at the very worst kind of PR-speak from the News Café website. Have a read of this:

“News Café offers and facilitates a premium entertainment experience for its aspirational customer base by efficiently serving world class food offerings and premier beverage choices in an atmosphere that is contemporary, vibrant and relevant.” And so it goes on.

Does anyone enjoy, never mind believe, this kind of off-the peg hype? And does the News Café in Kilimani live up to it?  

I’m not sure what a “premium entertainment experience” a restaurant is supposed to give. It was a Sunday morning, so you wouldn’t expect a DJ or a cabaret, but there were TV screens set up on the walls showing, yes, SuperSport channels.

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