In Summary
  • First, the name, which Lesiamon said was inspired by the notion that everybody’s mother is the best cook in the world.
  • This modern makeover is refreshing, and it also makes traditional dishes more accessible to those who aren’t so used to eating Kenyan food.
  • There’s a playfulness to Mama’s menu, a reflection perhaps of the youth of the restaurant’s kitchen staff. Head Chef Lesiamon is in his mid-twenties and was locally trained.

If I’m ever rich enough to open my own restaurant, I now know what it would look like.

The interior designers of Nyama Mama’s flagship restaurant, at Delta Towers in Westlands, got it spot on. The dangling Edison bulbs and other faux vintage paraphernalia instil a sense of nostalgia without being pretentious and the Kitenge fabrics reference the restaurant’s African roots.

Vintage car posters, bright red pepper grinders and painted pedestal fans provide a splash of colour to the grey brick exterior, and the terrace is light with a good amount of greenery.

Nyama Mama is a division of The Good Earth Group, and last weekend a friend and I sat down with the group’s Assistant Operations Director, Ashutosh Sharm and the Assistant Executive Chef, Lesiamon Sempele, to hear the Nyama Mama story. 

First, the name, which Lesiamon said was inspired by the notion that everybody’s mother is the best cook in the world.

“If you look around you, you’ll see lots of pots and pans, cooking fat and packets of unga on the shelves. We want to make you feel right at home, and to give the impression that the food has come straight out of your mum’s kitchen.”

There are plenty of traditional African, mainly Kenyan, dishes on the menu, but they’ve each been given an exciting, contemporary twist. Here are a few examples: Grilled halloumi with sukuma wiki and tree tomato chutney; Samburu watermelon and avocado salad; Spiced tilapia with smoky mayo; Mama’s matoke burger; Crispy Tusker BBQ pork belly with mashed sweet potato; Farmer’s pie (minced lamb and veggies topped with mukimo).

And then, of course, there’s Mama’s hit dish: Ugali, fries with garlic sauce. According to Lesiamon, customers are often quite reluctant to try these, and some think it’s just a ball of ugali with a side of chips. In reality, though, they’re thick strips of ugali, with a crispy, chilli-dusted outside and soft velvety inside. We complemented these with a portion of chapati quesadillas with kachumbari and guacamole for starters. For mains we sampled the char-grilled githeri with avocado and kachumbari, and BBQ chicken legs with sweet jalapeno cornbread, homemade ketchup and a side of fried plantain. 

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