Exploring Kenya’s Coast: Shehnai Restaurant in Mombasa

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Food can be one of the best things about a holiday – or one of the worst.  After a day exploring the second-largest city in Kenya, Mombasa, what could be better than a succulent kebab or tikka grilled slowly in a clay Tandoor oven?

In the heart of Mombasa on Mungano Street – past an auto parts store, M-Pesa kiosk, beauty salon and a pharmacy – your nose will navigate you down the busy street, straight to Shehnai Restaurant.

Shehnai Restaurant is located at Fatemi House, Mungano Street, CBD, Mombasa. The average meal costs Kshs 1,500.

For menu and reservations – make sure you check out here.  Special thanks to Eat Out Coast.

Started in 1984, Shehnai is known for their Tandoori delicacies and its storied Mughlai food from North India – food fit for royals.  Perhaps one of Kenya’s classiest Indian restaurants, Shehnai is also known for its tremendous service.  Shehnai has been recognized by the prestigious Chaine des Rotisseure, an international association of gastronomy, cementing the Indian eatery’s commitment to the experience of fine cuisine.

The eighties regal décor doesn’t quite complete the Hemingway fantasy, but there’s plenty to look at: intricately hand-carved wooden dividers, stately dining chairs, emerald green linens, heavy drapery, and hanging instruments.  But the food is what you come for.

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The menu is typically rustic and hearty, although more exotic and creative interpretations are also available.  Cooked in the specially-commissioned authentic clay Tandoor that stands proudly as the show-piece of the kitchen, the charcoal-fires cooks and smokes by allowing the fat and delicious food juices drip and sizzle on each glowing lump.  Kept lit for long periods, the radiant heat in the Tandoor can reach 500 °C –searing meats and perfecting the crust of delicate pieces of naan.

Classical cooking as a spectator sport has all but died out, but at Shehnai, though, it’s all part of an epic dining experience.  Don’t be shy to ask to see the oven in action.  The chefs will gladly roll-out some naan, and with one quick and smooth motion, slap the dough on to the sizzling hot walls of the Tandoor.  Watch as the flat bread glows from the radiant fire below, and magically puffs and bubbles in minutes.  When the food arrived at my table, ripping into the delicate naan and biting into one of the most succulent and tender chicken tikkas I have ever sampled in Kenya, certainly proved to be one of the highlights of my holiday.

When the food is good, nothing quite beats finding edible treasure whilst exploring the heritage of the coast.  It’s true: food can be one of the best things about a holiday – or one of the worst.  But if your holiday includes a meal at Shehnai, you won’t have to worry.

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SUSAN WONG

Susan Wong is the Editor of Capital Lifestyle, a resident photographer, an award-winning journalist, radio presenter, full-time adventurer, long-time admirer of anything edible, and a spicy food athlete at Capital FM.

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