Sometimes I just crave the real thing. Whether it’s a faithful homage, or simply a half-assed and clumsy interpretation, somedays, I wake up with one mission in mind – find and indulge in authenticity. Nairobi is fortunate to be the home to a handful of talented French chefs, most of whom call hotels their offices. But none work in a quaint patisserie, which feels as homely as Mama’s Fine French Patisserie.
One of the first to bring a little bit of Paris to Nairobi, customers can expect a bit of romance coming from the kitchen. Mama’s is the kind of place where customers become regulars, then friends. Whether it’s stopping by religiously every morning for fresh baguettes and croissants, or indulging in a weekly Sunday brunch; Mama’s freshly baked brioche and its delicate pastries stay with you. As Ernest Hemingway penned in A Moveable Feast, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you…”
Located in the new wing, just next to the parking exit of ABC Place in Nairobi, Kenya; Mama’s is a modest and elegant bakery and café. Vintage French film posters adorn the walls, painted with the brightest of whites. Dramatic black chandeliers hang from the pink ceiling, and matching sconces highlight the pillars. Large windows wash the black granite floors with soft natural light, filling Mama’s with a sense of springtime in Paris. Fresh flowers begin to bloom on the display, and a sense of romance fills the air. Only cobblestone streets with woman cycling in their stilettos and arrogant waitresses are missing from this Parisian-inspired café.
There was the French Onion Soup (Ksh 450) with caramelized onions, red wine and fresh bread with grated cheese floating in it, which was heavy on the salt but rich with aromatic flavours. A crusted grilled goat cheese from Switzerland with a dusting of crunchy walnuts served on a fresh bed of greens and grilled vegetables oozed of splendour – a Goat Cheese Salad (Ksh 950) prepared with precision.
Our starters were followed by a hearty savoury Chicken Florentine Crepe (Ksh 650) with a silky Bechamel Sauce. Then there was the Smoked Salmon Sandwich (Ksh 800) with a side salad that was so fresh my neighbour could hear the crunch in the carrots. Lightly dressed in vinaigrette and paired with flavourful quail eggs, the crepe was a wrap of creamy deliciousness.
At Mama’s, their French chef bakes up more than 20 types of cakes and pastries with their decadent eclairs, macaroons and croissants topping many customers’ list of favourites.
There’s no two-ways about it. With its rich cakes and pastries, and fine savoury ingredients, a visit to Mama’s is a treat. Her seductive charms, like the city of Paris, are legendary and as potent as ever. Ella Fitzgerald said it best, “I love Paris in the spring time, I love Paris in the fall, I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles, I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles!” And at Mama’s, you’ll love your Parisian-fix any time of the year.