Hamdi Restaurant is not a fake Somali restaurant or one of the more meaningless that have sprung in Nairobi like hyacinth in Lake Victoria.
It is not the real deal, either. Not even your classic Swahili.
Sometimes they serve a salad that is not too fresh, and my girl doesn’t touch it. But who touches salads in hotels in Nairobi, really!
Perhaps, the only regular restaurant that cares to serve good warm-up vegetable soup to prepare your stomach for digestion.
And man! Their tea.
Just how should you cook tea? Water first? Milk first? Should you view tea bags as a wasteful invention? How do you know good tea?
I’m always fascinated by simple recipes like making tea because we are inconsistent AF. Few eatery joints in Nairobi ever get it right and even more painful, the list of reliable tea joints is growing shorter by the day. Highlands corner house used to make a decent cup of tea a few years back and Sizzling makes a good attempt if you forgive them for their small cup. Valley coffee has an economy pot while Atlantis, and fare her well, had a “good cup a tea” in the days of yore. The Australian Gloria Jean restaurant that took over is a fraud. Anyway.
Hamdi wants to be forgotten, like a jobless graduate forgotten by this city and counted as a statistic that spends its day at Jivanjee Gardens.
Hamdi is a lone ranger in the heart of Nairobi. As a man who finds himself in the company of Kisii men, politics of tea often make way to the table. Dismissals, frustrations, bad blood, and fury. One day my boss instructed the waitress to have the cup heated (okay, warmed) before serving because he didn’t want any heat lost.
The problem with spotting a good place for tea is that you keep coming back, afraid that any experiments on new joints will leave you devastated thinking that the buck you’ve spent on tea could have gone to pay a deposit to that plot in Kamulu.
Story short; Hamdi has good tea.
And goat soup. And this is a small secret. If you ever find yourself hang down on a Monday morning, and your pockets have holes, because, weekend and hoes, look for this place, next to Tratorria, and order for goat soup and chapati. Ask for their terror pepper, the black powder pepper, and nurse yourself. You will part with a buck and fifty cents and the soup will have more meat pieces than your entire high school life.
Food is political in so many ways. The product in your plate is an amalgamation of cultures, domination, compromise, labor politics and decency. The general quality of food in a metropolitan depends on the nature of relations between people from different regions and the amount of freedom enjoyed by these folks. For instance, some people go into a new city in a new country and all their lives they focus on showing the locals how they come from a superior culture. Other people dissolve into the galaxy of contradictions in the new city, and somehow, manage to carve out a niche.
Hamdi has blended with Nairobi and her realities and taken a modest seat in the middle of the room. It’s very easy to pass Hamdi and its location can make you think that its prices are nearer to the glacier than the bottom. Hamdi wants to be forgotten, like a jobless graduate forgotten by this city and counted as a statistic that spends its day at Jivanjee Gardens.
Only that Hamdi has things to do, like making perfect curry beef and chicken, cooking perfect Arosto and taking care of customers. Often so much, this care comes in the form of generous portions, fresh samosas, and joyful service team.
The green theme adds to the distinction and the low traffic makes it a good place for a catch up with an old friend.
So bad though, our collective mediocrity doesn’t spare Hamdi Restaurant, either. Their washrooms, like many eateries in Nairobi and New York are not the best.
Price: $15 for two adults.