Thirty-five minutes have passed since I placed my order at Osteria Café Helena, Osteria's newest location in Nairobi's CBD.
The security desk informs me that my delivery has arrived. I am greeted with a smartly dressed Osteria delivery lady.
"Hello. My name is...from Osteria...sorry..."
Her voice trails off as I listen to her formal apology for being tardy - takeout orders are suppose to take no more than 30 minutes within the CBD - and stare at the large package, I was famished.
"Again, sorry for the delay. I've included a complimentary small piece of Tiramisu. Thanks again for your business. Have a nice afternoon!"
My ears perked up. Did she say 'complimentary' as in FREE? And then she was off. Huh?! Since when did ordering-in in Nairobi become such a luxe experience? Did I mention the delivery was free (only in the CBD)?
Contact Osteria Cafe Helena via Twitter @OsteriaTakeaway or here
Enter: Osteria Café Helena
Situated on the corner of Mama Ngina Street and Muindi Mbingu Street, directly across from Nairobi's City Hall, Osteria Café Helena opened its doors only 3 weeks ago.
Polite interiors - white stark walls and baby blue accents - open up into a lofty space revealing faux rafters that line the ceiling above and lead the way to additional seating upstairs. Like a blur behind the cashier, the controlled chaos of the kitchen entertains you as you're waiting for some sensible cooking which doesn't take itself too seriously. The third of Osteria's growing number of restaurants in Nairobi, Café Helena knows what they're doing, and it shows through their lightning fast service.
The modest space is flanked by a wall of wines, a collection of Italian bottles, which has slowly grown to twelve different types. Upon City Council approval, Management hopes to extend Osteria's space out on to the sidewalk. A few wine barrels seem like the ideal place to set down a glass of wine after a long day at the office, reminiscent of scenes from a cobblestoned-sidewalk in Rome, minus the cobblestones unfortunately.
Opened for breakfast from 6:30am and until the last customer late in the evening, Osteria is quickly becoming a popular option in the bustling CBD of Nairobi. Once dominated only by neighbouring Trattoria, Osteria hopes to give consumers with an infinity for Italian cuisine more choices in the city.
The fresh pasta, Parpadelle funghi porcino (Sh 700), is impressively thin and the broad shape swims in the aromatic mushroom sauce that has the resounding effects of a massive church bell, flavours that resonate. The simple classic dish had me running a finger around the plate.
The well-rested prime grilled fillet steak, Filetto alla brace (Sh 750), sliced without oozing too much of it's juices. Paired with still-crunchy greens was a smart idea for the meat lovers who clearly don't eat enough vegetables, and we know there are plenty in Kenya.
The Red Snapper with grilled vegetables (Sh 600) was generous and gets bonus points for being moist and flaky, and not dry and flaky - yes, there's a huge difference.
The Chocolate Mousse was too sweet for my palette, but then again I'm not one who puts 3 to 4 spoons of sugar in my tea at the office. The coffee comes strong and hot.
Compared to some of the Italian places I have sampled recently in Nairobi's CBD (Trattoria and Sale e Pepe at Hilton Hotel), Osteria is cheap. On average, the prices at the CBD location of Osteria is ten percent less than their other locations (Leanna Rd. and Ngong Rd.). That said, keep in mind the no-frills approach to décor is just a small sacrifice simply because the novelty-seeker isn't Osteria Café Helena's target, happy repeat customers are what float this boat.
About SUSAN WONG
Susan Wong is a resident photographer, writer, radio presenter and full-time adventurer at Capital FM
SUSAN WONG has written 269 posts.