Nowadays, it seems like any restaurant qualifies to be called a bistro. In its original Parisian meaning, a bistro was a small restaurant, serving moderately priced simple meals in a simple setting. The American definition is simply that the restaurant should be casual.
Bistros are generally defined by the food they serve, but even that is debatable.
On the outskirts of Kigali is the 1000 Hills Distillery, home to The Distillery Cocktail Bar & Bistro, which is true to the French interpretation.
Nestled on one of the many hills of the Rwanda, it is a 20km drive from the city. It has a breathtaking view overlooking the gentle sloping hilly suburbs of Gatenga, and the Cultural Village that is under construction.
1000 Hills says that it is “East Africa’s first craft small batch distillery.” They make triple-distilled, hand crafted spirits — gin, whiskey, vodka, rum, and a rum-based coffee liqueur. The purpose-built distillery gives tours and you can have a meal.
The bistro has an outdoor and indoor dining area with black and grey motifs with red chestnut themed furniture. The tranquil ambience with pop music playing in the background was as a reminder that the weekend was here.
The attendants ushered us in warmly, but did not seem to have a clear grasp of their food and drinks menus. I settled on the chicken tacos for my meal, and tried their famed Singapore Sling cocktail.
The Singapore Sling cocktail was apparently inspired by Rwanda — sometimes referred to as “The Singapore of Africa” — as one of the mixologists explained. It was refreshingly sweet with a twist of bitter which all in all made for a perfectly rounded drink.
The chicken taco came with sides of chips and a vegetable salad. The tacos had quite a lot of cabbage, but this did not take away from the taste of the chicken. It was adequately spiced and the cabbages added a bit of crunchiness. The fresh side salad had avocado, cucumber, grated carrots, tomatoes and lettuce.
The Distillery offers chicken and beef tacos, chicken, beef and mushroom satays and hot rock beef fillet served with chips and guacamole as lighter meal options.
Prices of meals range from Rwf2,500 ($2.9) to Rwf15,000 ($17.4).
The Distillery’s signature cocktails are a must try. All of the cocktails at 1000 Hills Distillery are sold at Rwf5,000 ($5.8), and they are served in large glasses. There is a wide range of beers, wines, fresh juices and soft drinks.
On the guided tour you can learn about their processes and taste their whisky, gin, rum, vodka and coffee liqueur at Rwf21,626 ($25), with the option of sampling their cocktails served with tacos, salad and chips at Rwf34,602 ($40).