Dinner in a cave?…Yep!…Last night we dined in a cave…

I thought Tom looked great in this photo, but I reminded myself of Morticia wearing all black or, of the day in Abu Dhabi when we entered the famed White Mosque, requiring that I wore the black abaya in the 100+ degree weather while I was sick. I’ll never forget that day or, that photo which my sister Julie gets hysterical over every time she looks at it! (See the post in the archives for May 30, 2013).

As we continue on our mission of trying a different Diani Beach restaurant each Saturday night, we enjoyed on our second outing at the locally acclaimed Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant

The ambiance, in a natural cave, was formed by the sea over 400,000 years ago while the restaurant itself is thought to be between 120 to 180 years old, renovated in the 1980s with the intent of maintaining its original integrity.

Standing at the top of the stairway leading down to the natural cave, we were able to look down at the bar below. Every effort was made to maintain the original integrity of this environment when it became a restaurant over 100 years ago, renovated in the 1980s

This was accomplished with the most finite details, using only a minimum of modern-day amenities such as; candles as opposed electricity; few electric wires discretely placed to allow for small fans for movement of the humid air as opposed to air conditioning; an open ceiling as nature had created allowing a view of the stars in the night sky while dining.

During dinner, Tom mentioned that it reminded him of a “man-made attraction one might find at Disneyland where the walls we made of molded resin as opposed to the natural stone.” 

The lounge in the bar where we had our drinks while waiting for our table. The restaurant didn’t open until 7:30 pm with most diners not appearing until 8:30 or later. I guess us folks from the US are early diners.  We’ve found that dinner is typically served at 8:00, often 9:00 pm as we travel the world.

Adding to the ease of making online reservations for dinner, Ali Barbour Cave Restaurant provides complimentary driver service to and from the restaurant. At promptly 7:00 pm, the driver arrived as we waited with the guard at the main gate to our complex.

As the older van pulled up, I asked, “Where are you from?” as a safety precaution. When Joseph replied, “Ali Barbour Cave Restaurant” my mind was at ease.

Another view the seating areas in the bar, depicting somewhat of a Moroccan theme, of which we’ll see plenty when we live in Marrakesh Morocco, a mere six months from now.  My, how the time is flying by!

Based on the restaurant’s proximity to our home on Google Maps, I’d anticipated a short two or three-minute drive. Once on the dark, narrow, bumpy unlit road, as cars drive on the left side, I began to worry after more than 10 minutes had elapsed. 

Joseph reassured me it was down the road a short distance. As we pulled into a narrower rocky unpaved, unmarked road, Tom and I squeezed each other’s hand, wondering why there was no sign on the road and where we were going.

View of the walls in the bar. All lighting in the walls and at the table was a result of candles, creating a warm atmosphere, romantic to say the least.

Later, when we left the restaurant, we noticed a glaring sign on the opposite side of the highway that we missed when turning in. Perhaps, we were foolish to give it a thought.  But, living in Kenya one cannot be too cautious.

The seating across from us as we lounged on the love seat in the bar.

For the first time in our travels, with all the bumpy and scary roads we’ve traveled, last night was the first time I felt a little carsick. The weaving back and forth along the busy highway, the lack of air conditioning, the smell of toxic fires in the air, my stomach revolted in queasiness. Luckily, once we arrived, the feeling quickly passed.

To our surprise, no security was in place at the entrance to the restaurant, although a Maasai guard/greeter wearing traditional African red robes warmly welcomed us, graciously opening the car door and offering a hand to assist us out of the back seat.

The story about the cave.  Excuse the flash.  In the dark cave, it was unavoidable.

Upon entering the unique space, we both were instantly in awe of yet another of nature’s creations that humans had so carefully maintained.

The air, thick and humid, cooled by numerous quiet, well-hidden fans, took a few minutes to become adapted. After all, we were in a cave.  I’d expected to find a few bats flying about or perhaps evidence of guano. There was no evidence of either.

In Kenya, living, and dining all of our meals outdoors, I feel sticky and grimy at all times. Also, the necessity of re-applying mosquito repellent (DEET free is working well, but requires reapplication every few hours) during all waking hours (we’re protected by the mosquito netting in bed) invariably attracts the soot and sand in the area at all times, only adding to the feeling of being dirty.

Showering every morning leaves me at my worst by the end of the day. With the water restrictions, we choose to only shower once a day. Having to dress in more “evening out” clothing as is typical in finer restaurants in the area (no shorts allowed), it’s difficult to make myself change into other clothing, as the mosquitoes are in a full frenzy around 6:30 pm each night. 

Diners began to filter in around 8:00 pm, filling all tables by the time we were ready to leave around 9:45 pm.  We’d be warned not to rush the servers for the check-in our travels. Many countries’ servers are accustomed to taking their time in delivering the bill. Most often, as is the case here in Kenya, tips are only allowed to be paid in cash, not added to the credit card slip.  Of course, this requires us to keep adequate change on hand.

When staying in, we both change into our BugsAway clothing provided considerable protection from the mosquitoes except for exposed skin. Each night before dinner, I lather my arms, hands, and ankles with the stinky lotion.

Going out to dinner changes the entire scenario.  With no BugsAway clothing acceptable for dining in finer restaurants to protect me, I have no alternative but to fully coat myself with the lotion before putting on the evening clothes. 

Talk about feeling hot and sticky! Of course, I bring the lotion with us, often requiring an additional application during dinner, as the mosquitoes swarm around me. 

This is the natural opening in the ceiling, allowing a view of the night sky. It would interesting to visit during the day to look down into the hole in the main dining area.

Perusing the dinner menu, we were at a loss as to what we’d order. With their chef familiar with gluten-free cooking, I felt reasonably at ease, especially after explaining that he need also consider my avoidance of sugar, grain, and starches.

Twice, the waitress came to our table graciously inquiring as to our readiness to order, and twice we still hadn’t decided. Tom, beef lover than he is, coupled with his finicky taste buds, ended up choosing double Fillet Mignon once again, one of which was veal with Bearnaise sauce and the other regular beef with a peppercorn sauce. 

Only a few tables had guests when we entered the dining room around 7:45 pm. Within an hour, it was fully booked, mostly with non-English speaking tourists.

He didn’t find either of the sauces offensive in any manner but said the steak was less tender than he’d had the prior Saturday night at the Sails Restaurant at the Almanara Resort. 

Compliments of the chef, we were both served this tangy GF marinated salad.  Tom took one bite turning his serving over to me, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

My dinner was similar to a pesto cheesy chicken recipe I’d concocted while living in Italy using the fresh herbs from our patio garden. The portion at The Cave was small leaving me hungry after dinner. Upon returning home, I ate a large handful of Macadamia nuts, which took care of that issue.

The dining room extending beyond where we were seated.
Most likely, we were the oldest diners in the restaurant all evening.  We noticed that the majority of the diners were younger couples, mostly in the late ’20s and ’30s. As we’d also observed in Italy when out and about, we seldom encountered any “old-timers” like us, causing us to wonder where all the retirees have gone for vacations or “ex-pat” living.
With the cost of living escalating in Kenya over the past several years and, with tourism down considerably, few retirees are making Kenya their home.  Also, the negative press regarding the crime rate in Kenya has deterred many travelers from coming this way.
This was the view to my right as we sat at a cozy, not too small table against one of the walls. We always prefer a wall, table as opposed to one positioned in the center of the room.
Candlelight accentuates the natural holes in the cave, adding to the ambiance.

For my dinner, as shown, I ordered the Cheesy Chicken atop a pesto sauce, all gluten-free, with a side of sautéed vegetables. Tom, as always, scooted his vegetables onto my plate, a common occurrence due to his distaste for “green things.”

My dinner, Cheesy Chicken atop a pesto sauce was well seasoned and pleasing to the palate, although the serving size was small. Rather than a chicken breast, this serving was a small single thigh. 
Realizing that my dinner may not satisfy my now ravenous appetite I’d considered a side salad.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have a salad dressing befitting my way of eating (low or no sugar and gluten-free) plus, we assumed that the raw vegetables weren’t washed in purified water, adding to the risk of disease or illness.
Tom’s dinner of two small Filet Mignon, each with a different sauce.  He was disappointed in his meal, having higher expectations after reading many five star reviews.

Would we recommend the Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant? Yes. The interesting and unusual atmosphere is well worth the visit, although we’d consider the food to be average. The service was flawless. Over the top!

Overall, including VAT tax, Tom’s two huge bottles of beer, my full liter of sparkling water, the service charge, tips for the servers, and the shuttle driver, we spent a total of US $68.09.

The stairway going up and out of Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant. Gee, we’ve gone up and down a number of stone stairs in these past months!

Currently, with taxes, we’re spending approximately US $40 per day for groceries. It’s certainly worth spending an extra US $28 for us to get out of our outdoor living room for an evening and to dine at the hands of a local chef.

Comments and responses Dinner in a cave?…Yep!…Last night we dined in a cave…

  1. Unknown Reply

    Hey Jess & Tom,

    What a restaurant, glad to see you guys are enjoying life and living it to the fullest especially in the most interesting places on earth. Hope you guys continue to enjoy yourselves!

    As always Safe Travels and Adventure ON!

    – Joaquin

  2. Anonymous Reply

    Wow, dinner in an African cave, fantastic. It is surprising to me that there are so many choices to dine out. I would have thought Tuscany would have had a lot more choices than Kenya. And the food there is presented so nicely, along with the nice tables and candlelight. The two of you look great also. I was wondering, though, what do they do when it rains and there is a hole in the ceiling?
    Looking forward to your next posting.
    Epic, Pat and Dan

  3. Jessica Reply

    Thanks for writing Joaquin. Part of the amazing experiences we've have are a result of our time i working with you booking all of our cruises with many more to follow.

    Cruising gives a traveler an opportunity to visit many more countries than we'd ever accomplish on a land or air.

    But most of all, are the amazing people we've met on our cruises, many that we expect to continue to stay in touch with for years to come.

    Thanks for checking in. If any of our readers are seeking the best pricing, best service along with a vast knowledge of cruising, please contact Joaquin at:

    He's the best cruise guy "in the world!"

    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

  4. Jessica Reply

    Pat & Dan,

    Funny, we asked them the same question as we looked up at the big hole in the ceiling. Apparently, they have an electronic cover that goes over the hole. I suppose at night they close it over.

    Rains come frequently for short bursts, as we had this morning. As we sit outside now at 8:00 am, a pouring rain just ended. The sun has since made an appearance but the humidity is brutal.

    If it doesn't dry out, today will be one more uncomfortably hot day. Sticky me!

    Keep an eye out. We'll be uploading again today!

    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

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