While McDonald’s attempts to raise fast food to a higher level, offering “gourmet” options such as Panini and low fat delectable desserts; Big Square wants to bring it back down to earth.
Visible from hundreds of meters away, located in the Karen Square Building, Big Square’s recognizable signage glows from the Karen roundabout at the junction of Ngong Road and Langata Road in Nairobi. You can’t miss it.
The moment you walk up the steps, you sense that the people in charge of this modern burger joint are having the time of their lives. Entering the restaurant, half expecting a giant Big Square mascot to jump out at you, you’ll find a bright and spacious coffee shop with modern white chairs and plush orange cushions. To your right, a large breezy shaded patio with low-sitting couches and handcrafted-wooden chairs welcome you into the main Big Square dining space. A few intimate vinyl booths surround the indoor children’s play area. Good cheer radiates from the friendly greetings at the register and practically skips off the walls splashed with a sunny orange and the brightest of whites, and glows from the images of seductive mountainous milkshakes. Most of all, fun dances in the quirky shape of the burgers – square.
The food comes in brightly-coloured plastic rectangle baskets – keeping with the theme of all things right-angled – lined with paper, is an amusing novelty. Capital Lifestyle’s favourite was definitely the onion rings. Underneath the crispy batter that encapsulated each onion ring – pieces so big that you could really dip them into Big Square’s array of homemade sauces – revealed perfectly cooked rings of onions, slightly soft and sweating from its natural sugars. For a fast food restaurant, Big Square’s crispy hand-cut fries were delicious and didn’t taste processed.
Big Square’s flame-grilled burgers have a distinct, seasoned flavour – juicy, smokey and a touch of charred essence – and a more robust beefiness than most fast food burgers in Kenya. Unlike other fast food burgers, where the texture of the meat patty is unrecognizable, chewy and rubbery thanks to old, frozen meat; Big Square’s uniquely hand-formed square patties of beef are sourced fresh locally, resulting in tender and flavourful morsels. And with every bite, triggers a sudden gush of beef juice.
With more restaurants in Nairobi delving into offering gourmet burgers, I’m use to great, and Big Square’s was a convincing good and miles ahead of fast food chain burgers in Kenya. However, if you think about the beef patty as only one element of the burger, and not the star attraction, Big Square’s final product – lightly toasted square bun that’s still soft and squishy, novel square beef patty, homemade sauces and toppings – really can be a beautiful thing.
A surprising must-try at Big Square is the ribs. Slathered with their secret homemade barbeque or chilli barbeque sauce, both the single rack (Sh 850) and double rack (Sh 1,500) comes with chips. If you’re looking to satisfy your rib craving, then I would suggest the all-you-can-eat ribs special, Monday to Wednesday from 5pm to 9pm for Sh 1,550. Ribs have never looked so good. Fall-off-the-bone tender, mouth-watering, smokey, sweet, tangy and sticky; Big Square’s delicious ribs are a welcomed surprise. Also worth noting is that Big Square serves wings and fried chicken, both acceptably good offerings.
Unlike most fast food restaurants, Big Square sells alcohol – beers, cocktails, and even sangria – and offers a deal for a bucket of six beers at Sh 1,000 from Monday to Wednesday, 5pm – 9pm. Their milkshakes are thick enough that they shouldn’t really be considered as a beverage – no wonder it’s listed under “desserts!”
A place to indulge on sinful cravings, Big Square brings new novelty, flavours and most importantly, life to the fast food industry in Kenya. It’s cheery service and décor is like a breath of fresh air. And the food? Let’s just say everyone at the table was smiling at the sight of their orders.