The Caramel Restaurant and Lounge in Nairobi is located on the second floor of the ABC Place shopping mall in Lavington.
The predominantly brown interiors have contemporary furniture and stylish décor in shades of grey and yellow.
Caramel classifies itself as an American restaurant, but the menu is cosmopolitan and leans towards beef and seafood dishes. The starters menu, called Shared for the Table, is quite extensive and is priced between Ksh800 ($8) and Ksh1,500 ($15).
I enjoyed the raw, seared beef carpaccio slices with shaved parmesan and capers, drizzled with truffle flavoured oil.
For a non-meat starter, the crispy eggplant with cilantro, tomatoes and Hoisin sauce is a good choice. The mac and cheese is said to be popular, as is the signature chicken lollipop served with a blue cheese sauce.
The meals are relatively highly priced so one expects top notch service. The food was good, but the service slow, with some people getting their main course when others had finished eating theirs.
Main courses are priced between Ksh1,600 ($16) and Ksh3,500 ($35). I chose the pan-seared Norwegian salmon with white beans, bacon and buttered asparagus, and it was delicious.
American dishes served at the restaurant include the Beverly Hills Cobb Salad, and the Surf and Turf of aged tenderloin and tiger prawns. Other red meat options are petite beef siders, beef Bolognese, and a pan-seared lamb loin.
The restaurant advertises itself as a good place for groups of parties. Our group lunch took up the whole restaurant, but the waiters seemed overwhelmed and disorganised.
General manager Sara Benhamo says top customer favourites are the lightly battered, deep-fried TNT Shrimp appetiser served with a spicy Japanese mayo, followed by the dry-aged Ribeye Steak with a choice of signature sauces.
The only chicken main dish is the marinated grilled chicken with baby spinach puree and parsnip puree, and vegetarian main courses are limited to a veggie risotto and truffle penne pasta. The plates are beautifully presented, and the large food portions are good value for money.
The wine list is well varied.
Two unique side dishes are the pommes frites (chips) flavoured with garlic and parmesan cheese, and the lobster mash potatoes with bisque and chive butter.
If you are vegetarian, there is the sauté spinach or assorted forest mushrooms with herbs.
For dessert, the mango and lime sorbet was a light and refreshing conclusion to my meal.
The dark chocolate fondant with coffee ice cream is recommended for those looking for a more substantial dessert.
On Monday nights, Caramel has a steak special offer of 200 grammes of beef aged for 21 days, paired with a glass of wine and a choice of either handcut fries or sautéed spinach for Ksh2,500 ($25).
Tuesday evenings is their Date Night; couples can order a platter of assorted appetisers with a glass of wine each at Ksh5,000 ($50).
A long bar and separate cabana lounge is a nice place to relax with drinks and quick bites. Caramel’s location is convenient for the weekday business crowd, but is also attractive for couples and families on evenings and weekends.
Background music is played on most days with DJ entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. The live music can get quite loud in the low-ceilinged room, creating a party atmosphere that may not be ideal for conversation or a quiet meal.
The first Saturday of every month is Salsa night. An area of the restaurant is cleared for dancing, which is a popular event.
The restaurant is part of the Caramel Group of Dubai, which has outlets in the United Arab Emirates and in Muscat, Oman.