For hiding away in Valley Arcade in Lavington, Moniko’s Garden Restaurant is something very special.
A tranquil water feature sits in the middle of the courtyard, surrounded by fresh garden herbs. Simply finished black place mats sit on top of wooden tables sheltered from the sun by canvas umbrellas, painted with a nautical-hue of blue and some, a brilliant white. Red-checkered napkins and navy blue cushions accent the space with sections of laidback-lounge seating nestled in the corners of the courtyard.
Moniko’s is Nairobi’s latest urban café/restaurant with a lengthy menu of over 50 items, mainly of sandwich and salad options, popularized by its simplicity and playfulness. Rare classics such as Tuna Melt, large servings of gourmet salads, wraps, quality brunch options, fairly priced entrees, and a decent children’s menu – are all reasons why Moniko’s is quickly becoming the talk of the town. Pretty good food, without the hassle…could it be?
Yes, it could. There are breezy, unobtrusive staff who know the difference between being helpful and pestering. And what matters is the food, which is mostly good and in places surprisingly good.
To nibble, we started with the Campangnolo Chicken Salad (Sh 750) and Spicy Calamari Salad (Sh 700). Pre-tossed with the dressing, large slices of roast chicken breast, marinated eggplant, zucchini and fresh salad greens were topped with green olives and flavourful sundried tomatoes in the Campangnolo. There was the lightly grilled calamari on top of a bed of crispy leafy greens. The vinaigrette with a slight chilli flavour arrived on the side for the Calamari Salad.
With more than seven toasted sandwich choices, the team opted for the savoury Chicken Pesto (Sh 500) option – there’s nothing better than flavourful slices of chicken sandwiched between crunchy pieces of toast. Then there was the Beef and Bacon Blues Wrap (Sh 720) with roast beef, bacon, blue cheese, tomatoes, cream cheese and lettuce. The roast beef lacked in flavour; but the bacon and blue cheese certainly made up for it. Finally, the rich Chicken, Bacon and Cream Pasta (Sh 850), which was al dente, filling and heavy – be ready for a healthy dose of mind-numbing itis after this one!
We finished off lunch with desert orders from the conveniently visible blackboard, flanking the doorway. The group delved into the Wild Berry Cake (Sh 350), Apple Crumble topped with Vanilla Ice Cream (Sh 500), Lemon Cheese Cake (Sh 450), and a piece of Black Forest (Sh 400) – all of which was airy and light, not over sweetened, and surprisingly good.
Moniko’s kitchen is run by a young gifted team where their dishes – a glorious spread of convenient, fresh, and healthy options – were simple, satisfying and clever. With plans of opening another three locations in 2013, Moniko’s is a force to be reckoned with in Nairobi.
Whether it’s a sandwich, or a salad, or a juicy steak; the dish description does the job. For Nairobi, Moniko’s food isn’t cheap, but comparing with other café-turned-restaurant competitors, it’s keenly priced for the portions and fresh quality of produce.