Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, is a multicultural city full of expatriates from across Africa and the rest of the world. Its culinary scene reflects this diversity, with most cuisines represented by its ever-growing roster of restaurants, cafés, and bars. From roadside diners that serve traditional Kenyan barbecue fare to gourmet French restaurants, sushi bars, and Brazilian churrascarias, whatever you’re craving, you’ll find it in Nairobi. Here is our pick of the city’s top 12 restaurants to suit every taste and budget.
The inspiration for Nairobi’s Nyama Mama phenomenon comes from Mama herself, a one-time safari lodge chef who left the safari circuit to open up a modern take on a traditional roadside diner. Adorned with colorful Kenyan fabrics and hand-painted murals, Nyama Mama now has two outlets: one on Mombasa Road and the other in Westlands. Both serve classic local dishes, including chapati wraps and ugali chips, flame-grilled meats, and stew pots (think goat curry, or chicken in cassava and coconut). International options like burgers and quesadillas are on offer, and vegetarians are well-catered for, too. Nyama Mama is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and from noon to 11 p.m. on Sundays.
Considered one of the best of several Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi, Abyssinia is located in an old house on a quiet street in Westlands. It offers a simple, no-frills atmosphere and good, honest food that provides an authentic insight into Ethiopian cuisine. Everything is made fresh with quality ingredients and served in the traditional Ethiopian way on large sharing platters on the floor. With a menu that is divided into hot meat, mild meat, and vegetarian dishes, this is one of the best options in the city for non-meat eaters (though kitfo and gored gored are both house specialities). The portions are generous, but food can often take some time to arrive. Abyssinia is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
If it’s fine Italian food you’re after, choose La Terrazza Restaurant. Located on the fourth-floor rooftop of Greenhouse Mall on Ngong Road, the space affords beautiful views of the Kilimani neighborhood from its sheltered, open-air terrace. The interior doubles as an art gallery, surrounding you with the acclaimed African portraits of photographer Gian Paolo Tomasi. Both the owners and the executive chef are native Italians, and the menu is a smorgasbord of gourmet pasta dishes, risottos, pizza, steak, and seafood. Opt for fettuccine lobster or ravioli stuffed with squid ink and prawns, then wash your meal down with a glass or two of imported Italian wine. The restaurant is open from midday to 9 p.m. every day.
Mercado Mexican Kitchen & Bar is helmed by chefs from Mexico City, who use home-grown and organic ingredients to revive ancient cooking techniques with a lively modern twist. Named the Best Mexican Restaurant on the continent by the 2019 World Luxury Restaurant Awards, the menu specializes in street food-style sharing plates, ranging from tacos and tamales to quesadillas and burritos. Plates for one include enchiladas and fajitas, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options for those who want them. In terms of drinks, enjoy Mexican cocktails by the glass or pitcher, or choose from a selection of fine wines from around the world. This Westlands restaurant is open from midday to 9 p.m. every day of the week.
Since 2007, the native Brazilian chefs at Fogo Gaucho have been introducing Nairobi locals to the unique art of churrasco grilling. Today it remains the only all-you-can-eat churrascaria in the capital, offering a full buffet spread for lunch and dinner with 17 different cuts of meat. These range from the expected, like chicken and beef, to the distinctly African, like crocodile. The meat is accompanied by 25 different salads, sides, and desserts, all of which are yours to enjoy for an affordable set price. The restaurant also gets great reviews for its lively atmosphere and professional service. There are two branches to choose from: One in Westlands and the other in Kilimani. Both are open every day from midday until 9 p.m.
The understated décor of Nairobi’s Open House Restaurant belies the rich flavors of its authentic Indian dishes. Inspired by the lavish tastes of the Mughal Empire, the menu features fragrant curries, mouthwatering biryanis, and a complete roster of marinated tandoori dishes. Peruse a range of meat-free options, or choose between chicken, mutton, fish, or prawn. Essentially, there is such a variety of flavors and spiciness that every palette is catered for. Pair your meal with an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage. Open House Restaurant has locations in Westlands and the affluent suburb of Karen; both are open every day for lunch and dinner.
Located in the affluent suburb of Runda Estate, The Lord Erroll bills itself as the premier French and gourmet restaurant in East Africa. It has the awards to prove it, too, with recent accolades from Haute Grandeur and the World Luxury Restaurant Awards. Each dish is crafted and plated in exquisite style, whether you choose bouillabaisse followed by filet mignon, or duck a l’orange along with passion bavarois. Peruse an extensive list of imported wines from all over the world, or opt for a refined glass of Moët or Taittinger. The restaurant is also known for its afternoon tea, and for its idyllic al fresco seating amidst a garden filled with waterfalls, streams, and ponds. Come for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Famous for its fresh and inventive seafood, Mawimbi Seafood Restaurant is loved for the quality of its cuisine, but also for its gourmet plating and first-class service. With a Crudo Bar for fans of raw dishes like oysters and ceviche, this fine dining restaurant also offers up tempura lobster and panko king prawns, seafood tagliolini, and salmon Thai curry. Those who prefer red meat will find steaks and burgers, while larger groups can feast on generous sharing platters. Mawimbi is located on the corner of Harry Thuku Road and Kijabe Street, with opening hours from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Located close to Delta Towers in Westlands, INTI is the first Nikkei restaurant in Africa. Nikkei cuisine celebrates the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian culinary traditions, born from the migration of Japanese sugar cane laborers to Peru in the 19th century. Amidst INTI’s contemporary urban décor, feast on Japanese classics like sashimi, sushi, and robata, all prepared with uniquely Peruvian ingredients and served with artistic flair on coal black plates. Playful takes on the Peruvian pisco sour and chilcano cocktails take center stage on the drinks menu, with a supporting cast of imported wines from all over the world. INTI’s dress code is smart casual and opening hours are from midday to 9 p.m., Monday to Sunday.
A meal at Tamamabo Karen Blixen is a must for fans of the Danish author of the iconic memoir "Out of Africa." The restaurant enjoys a serenely historic setting close to the Karen Blixen Museum, on the site of the original Blixen farmhouse. Choose to dine in the cozy restaurant with its colonial décor, or out on the adjacent terrace with its views of the spectacular garden. One of the largest and oldest formal gardens in Kenya, it is a veritable Eden filled with giant jacaranda trees and more than 200 species of flowers. The menu is relatively small, with highlights ranging from steak to seafood curry, while the wine list features mostly South African labels. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Honey and Dough Gourmet Café is a thoroughly modern spot located in the same building as INTI in Westlands. Inspired by culinary cultures from all over the world, the dishes are connected by a common emphasis on healthiness. Stop by for breakfast, for example, and enjoy anything from a vegan English breakfast to a smoothie bowl or masala egg dhosa. Meals for later in the day range from soups and paninis to Buddha bowls and pastas. Kids are treated to their own special menu, and there’s a Grab & Dough bar where those in a hurry can pick up quick snacks, smoothies, and hot drinks. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
If you’re looking for a completely unique dining experience, head over to Hero at the Trademark Hotel in Nairobi’s Village Market. Strictly for patrons aged 18 and over, it's part speakeasy, part superhero shrine, with décor and a menu that pay homage to Marvel and DC's finest. The sushi is like nothing you’d find in Japan. Instead, Hero has reinvented the age-old classic with unexpected flavors and pairings served tapas style. Think lamb curry and prawn maki, or prawn tartare and truffle rolls. Vegetarians and vegans are well-catered for (papaya cucumber roll, anyone?), while the Prohibition-style cocktail menu is equally adventurous. Hero is open from 6 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday to Sunday.