Friday night’s unappetizing dinner experience…Last trip to Nakumatt…Saturday night’s final dinner at Sails Restaurant…

While playing Gin on Saturday, this gecko appeared on one of the pillars supporting the roof. Its feet moved in a sticky manner, using each toe in the process seemingly all going in different directions.

To compare Friday night’s dinner at a popular local restaurant to Sails Restaurant was like comparing dining on a can of Spaghetti-O’s to experiencing a gourmet meal of fresh-caught grilled lobster tail, prepared to perfection.  There’s simply no comparison.

On Friday night, Hans and Jeri asked us to double date for dinner at a local haunt that typically has been good for them. Not for a moment would we question their taste in good food. However, it must have been an “off night” for the cook. Thus, we won’t attempt to tarnish their reputation by our dismal review by mentioning the name of the restaurant. 

That’s not our style. If we have something “good” or “excellent” to say, we don’t hesitate to mention the name and at times, include the link for travelers who may be reading from afar. 

In the event of inferior quality food or service, we tend to stay mum showing our disdain by not returning a second time. With a week remaining until we leave Kenya, a second visit would have been highly unlikely. 

Tom’s hair was blowing with his back to the wind at Sails Restaurant.  The cool ocean breeze was heavenly.

Thus, I felt compelled to share the first instance in Kenya of a challenge in getting my meal cooked properly to fit my way of eating. Also, for those of you choosing to embark on this manner of eating to improve your health, it’s important for us to share less than ideal situations in the event you encounter occasional dining out fiasco.  It is bound to happen.

Of course, Hans and Jeri, our dinner companions were as engaging as always and the conversation was enjoyable. Driving with them was a nice break from a taxi. Hans’ engine of his car blew long before we arrived and it is still in the shop three months later, leaving him no option but to rent a car. 

The restaurant, not on the ocean, had no breeze and was hot and humid. Dressed in our BugsAway long-sleeved clothing, the entire time we were in the restaurant we were sweating more than ever. It’s no wonder we love dining on the sea with the cooling ocean breezes! Being hot and uncomfortable, almost served as a warning to me that it was going downhill from there. Indeed it did!

I equally enjoyed the cool ocean breeze at Sails. Not so much at Friday night’s dinner at an off the ocean restaurant.

The menu was tricky.  Many items were in thick floury and sweet sauces. My choices were limited to grilled fish and vegetables, which I often order in one form or another, usually pleased with the result. Not on Friday night!

Ordering the grilled red snapper, after giving the server my restrictions list to show to the cook written in Swahili on my smartphone, he returned to the table assuring me that it was no problem. By the time our food arrived, it was 9:00 pm and we were all ready to dine. (We hadn’t left the houses until 8:00 pm since most local residents dine much later than our usual 7:00 pm).

Once the plate was set in front of me, I immediately knew something wasn’t right. The thin snapper fillet was covered in a browned batter, most likely coated in flour. Gently, I asked the server to go ask the chef what was on the outside of the fish. He returned saying, “A little flour.”

Again in a kindly tone, I said, “Please tell the cook to start over, grill the fish, no flour, no batter, no coating, just plain. Plus remove all the vegetables and replace them with freshly cooked vegetables. It is dangerous to my health for the flour to touch the food.”  

Moments later, we heard the cook raising his voice in the kitchen. Ouch! Was he rambling on about my food? 

I encouraged the rest of our table to go ahead and eat their food while it was hot and I’d catch up later.  A new plate of food didn’t arrive until 9:25. This piece of fish was flatter yet, perhaps 1/4″, .6 cm,  and was fried in some greasy substance, swimming in grease on my plate. It was so thin, it didn’t have any fleshy portion on the inside of the crisped exterior. The “new” vegetables were on a side plate, were also swimming in grease and grossly over-salted, inedible.

Not wanting to make a further scene, especially when everyone else’s food was palatable, I ate the fish out of desperation, never saying another word. (Hans tasted my vegetables and agreed they were inedible).

By 10:00 pm, after we turned down an invitation to accompany Hans and Jeri at the local disco, we chose the offered ride back to the house, where they dropped us off to go back out. With discos staying open until 5:00 am, neither of us could imagine spending the night in a smokey (smoking is allowed in bars and restaurants), a hot, noisy disco with no AC. 

Returning to our house, still wearing our BugsAway clothing, we decided to watch a movie after I grabbed a bowl filled with raw macadamia nuts, almond and cashews and turned on the fan. That was our Friday night.

On Saturday morning at 10:00, Alfred drove us to Nakumatt for our final grocery shopping, spending KES $8800, US $101, to include three more jugs of water and limited amounts of food items to complete the five remaining meals we planned to cook before leaving, dining out on the remainder.

At promptly 7:00 pm, Alfred, returned again to take us to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Sails at the Almanara Resort. Being our last time to dine at Sails, I decided to have the grilled seafood platter, the same entrée I’d had on our first visit. Tom had the Crab Au Gratin, the same item he’d had on a previous visit.

Tom’s Crab Au Gratin was as delicious as the last time he’d ordered it.

One would assume that a grilled seafood platter wouldn’t have flour, grain, sugar, or starch but I didn’t hesitate to ask the chef to read my list. As it turned out the chef didn’t speak Swahili.  We could hear the waiter translating it for him from afar, causing us to chuckle.

The seafood platter was smaller than the first time, saltier, and very greasy. Gee, did those two chefs from each night, talk to one another? I ate it anyway with nary a mention. So it goes. It’s only food. Right? I’m certainly not starving from a lack of nourishment.

As we dined, we both reveled in the cooling ocean breeze, wicking all the droplets of sweat seemingly stuck on our skin for hours. We sat at our usual table closest to the sea. The dining area is under huge canvas sails with giant windows that can be closed in the event of rain or inclement weather. A tourist couple opposite us started complaining that it was too windy for them to eat, insisting that the canvas be lowered to close the windows.

My dinner at Sails was too heavy on the oil, very different from the first time I’d ordered this entrée.

We were disappointed to lose the cooling breeze as the server hesitantly lowered it when he heard all of the other guests complaining about the shade coming down, blocking the wind and the view. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” so they say. 

How annoyed we all were with the squeaky wheel! At that point, we started sweating again, anxious to finish eating, and be on our way. Why tourists will make fools of themselves, demanding to do it “their way” escapes us. 

From Friday’s less than palatable dinner, for which we paid full price, to Saturday night’s less than perfect seafood platter, we’ve found that gracious acceptance goes a long way over demanding exclamations of annoyance. Also, one must consider that that complaining in a public environment could result in a dangerous situation.  We’re not chumps. We chose this life. Sometimes it is not what we expected or desired. We do the best we can.

Over a year ago, when this journey began, we decided we’d accept a situation as long as our health, well being, and safety weren’t at risk. 

Before arriving at this house in Kenya, we had no idea from the photos that there was no inside living room, sofa, or place to sit.  Had we known that, we’d have chosen another property. Would I now ask, whenever we rent a vacation home, “Does it have a living room?” Is that some lesson we needed to learn? 

But, in the end, we accepted the situation, adapting to spending 16 hours a day living outdoors, making some wonderful new friends, spending fun time with Jessie and Gucci, and experiencing the most amazing adventures of our lives while living in Kenya.

Perhaps, we’ve learned a lesson in the process. We may have become tougher than we’d have ever imagined.

Ouch, a bug just bit my foot. I swatted it off.  No squeal, no gasp, and only a slight mention to Tom, who shrugged. I grabbed the repellent and lathered up one more time.

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.