When was the last time you really enjoyed the space of a restaurant as much as the food?
Sure, a restaurant can have all the flickering candles and flowers, but when it comes to a “romantic” space, so much of what makes a restaurant romantic is beyond just bricks and mortar, and impossible to quantify. Either it’s there, or it’s not and Mediterraneo Westlands in Nairobi, Kenya definitely has it, even during the day.
Though my companion and I had lunch, I could imagine in the evening, under the Nairobi sky, one’s pulse would probably quicken, the imagination would flower. The space exudes a subtle seductiveness, paving the way for an intoxicating evening and hopefully with some good company.
You can tell the team, which is behind three Mediterraneo restaurants in Nairobi, has put a lot of thought and time into achieving the intimacy of the Westlands location, whilst maintaining an open, airy and modern space that still relives the nostalgia of Italy. The restaurant has just enough (but not too much) of all the Italian hallmarks that make it so.
Nestled on the ground floor of the quiet 9 West office building, the restaurant is an oasis of calm, which ironically overlooks into one of the busiest sections of the neighbourhood. The décor was enough to make me swoon, probably thanks to the pair of gleaming Vespa 150s perched high above the dining room. Red, white and gold, the small Vespa aero-designed bodies were reminiscent of the 1970s circa models and injects the space with an Italian design aesthetic. Fresh bread is presented in a standalone Italian-made organic beige cotton bag. Earthy tones of sage green and beige dot the dining room. But the rich food at Mediterraneo Westlands was also enough to make me swoon, at least more so than the two other locations in Nairobi.
Where Mediterraneo Westlands really shines is in proving that the way to the heart is definitely and will always be through the stomach. If you’re on a diet, I would recommend you sampling their new menu on your “cheat” day, and while you’re at it, schedule a gym session soon after. You will need it.
The new menu at Mediterraneo Westlands is a perfect blend of modern and comfort – still accessible and impressive to knowledgeable foodies as it is to those who like their familiar Italian foods. Curated by Executive Chef Dario Aloisio, the menu made its debut in time for August.
To begin, there was the Queen Prawns Salad with marinated prawns that were simply flavoured in olive oil and lime juice served on a bed of crunchy snow peas and basil infused nectarines (KSh1,300). The prawns were light and refreshing in flavour, which paired well with the crunchy texture of the snow peas. The subtle sweetness of the nectarines balanced the tartness from the limes perfectly. Though the prawns were ever so slightly overdone, the dish was nearly faultless. Delicious.
I chose a heavier entrée, but who can turn away from homemade gnocchi, which when done right, tastes like light fluffy pillows of comfort in one’s mouth. My Potatoes and Broccoli Gnocchi served with a Sicilian Ragusano Cheese Fondue sauce with Saffron and Toasted Almonds (KSh1,400) arrived to the table aromatically. The dish was colourful and smelled of savoury indulgence. The toasted almonds added great texture to each mouthful. The Ragusano cheese comes from one of the oldest traditions of cheesemaking in Sicily and has a sharp flavour made from whole cow’s milk. The sauce was much like a “Fondue” – rich, thick and velvety in texture – and coated each gnocchi gloriously with layers of flavours.
My companion’s Grilled Tuna Paupiettes filled with Prawns and Garden Vegetables served with Seasame and Lemon Cream Sauce (KSh1,800) arrived like a beautiful masterpiece. A trio of perfect tuna tubes rose from the plate with wonderful 45 degree grill marks. Tuna can be easily overcooked, quickly turning into a dry and chewy texture. In this case the tuna paupiettes were definitely a little dry for my preference probably thanks to the chef trying to ensure that the filling was heated thoroughly, but the Timbale Potatoes revealed a delicious moulded serving of mashed potatoes with onions and cherry tomatoes that were encapsulated in a golden brown crust.
We cleansed our palates and wrapped-up our lunch with a homemade sorbet on pineapple carpaccio. Light and sweet – the perfect prelude before a single espresso.
Our waiter seemed genuinely happy to assist us during our lunch, which instantly put my companion and I at ease. The service was to the point and efficient. Our waiter was gentle, knowledgeable, proactive, and an absolute pleasure to be around.
Mediterraneo Westlands is home to some inspired Italian cooking. The staff may not know much about handsome Italian models, but there’s much about this place that can make a woman crumble – especially the food.