19 December 2012

Kenya: A Slice of Italy in Nairobi

I could live happily ever after in Italy. I die a little death every time I hear a sexy Italian accent but I am more motivated by Italian cuisine - mouth-wateringly rich and absolutely delicious to the last bite. That said, Osteria Café Helena offers a little slice of Italy and I'm not just talking about their pizza!

I recently had some lasagna at Café Helena, a franchise of the Osteria chain of restaurants, and I must admit my meal was as filling as it was delicious. Café Helena is painted in bright blue and white colours and has charming blue wooden chairs and brilliant white table clothes - the matching checkered table napkins give the place a picnic-like ambiance.

My colleague and I were warmly received at the restaurant and given the option of sitting at the ground floor with its view of the bustling activity in the CBD or at the upper floor which is more private and has a better of view of the giant TV screen mounted on one of the walls.

We chose the upper floor and our first meal was the bruschetta which looked and tasted a lot like pizza bread with a very tasty tomato, basil and oregano topping garnished with olive oil.

The tomato and basil topping reminded me of kachumbari. Next we had pork slices served on bed of slightly toasted bread - the pork was quite salty but not in an unpleasant way.

To wash down our meal was juice cocktail and red or white dry wine. The juice tasted quite dilute and didn't quite hit the spot as I like my juice very sweet. It did however taste like something diet-conscious people would appreciate - I suspect only 'natural' ingredients were used to make it.

Our food was served on sparkling white dishes with an attractive sprinkling of coriander garnishing. My colleague had 'pollo alla diavola', which in English translates to grilled chicken, served with a choice of mash potatoes or chunky fries. The lasagna with its stringy layers of cheese went down well with the white wine.

Judging from the orders of other diners, the most popular dish was 'agnello alla brace' - grilled lamb with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. It turns that this meal and the restaurant's range of pizza are fast becoming the 'signature' dishes.

Osteria is at the moment promoting its pizza margherita with the option of a bottle of beer or soda for a total Sh500. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal but my only concern is for the meat-lovers as this pizza seems better suited for vegetarians with its tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil topping. Better perhaps are the lunch box offers especially designed for the CBD crowd at Sh450 for fries, fried chicken, beef stew or tilapia fish with cake and half a litre of still water.

Coffee lovers should perhaps try out the cappuccino at Osteria Café Helena - its quite strong and therefore good for those in need of that extra kick. At Sh500, the 'lasagne del fattore' (lasagna with minced meat) is definitely worth every penny and so too is the grilled chicken and fries at Sh650. Osteria Café Helena is located in the city centre, opposite City Hall. For further inquiries call 0701 570 461 or visit www.osteriatakeaway.com

Restaurant: Osteria Café Helena

Location: City Hall Way, Nairobi

Reviewed by: Pauline Odhiambo

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