The Parisian café concept has taken off in Africa over the past decade, partly due to a new appreciation as a centre of social and culinary life in a city. More than your typical coffee shop, they come with a complete kitchen offering a restaurant menu with meals for any time of the day.
CJ’s in Nairobi’s CBD is one such café. Catching up with my younger sister who knows the trendiest spots in Nairobi, I found myself at CJ’s, along Koinange Street, last week.
The restaurant is an offshoot of Café Javas, which is famous in Kampala. Walking into CJ’s for brunch, I was welcomed by gracious attendants who ushered me to a table for two at a corner where I could sit undisturbed as I watched people go by.
CJ’s has thick glass walls at the front, and features an ornate and elaborate interior design with high ceilings, fine neo-classical accents, plush furniture and pastel colour schemes overlaying more traditional features. It was dotted with vases with green plants, and fluorescent pendant lights and chandeliers giving the restaurant a warm ambience.
The restaurant was bustling with activity. Attendants hurried up and down the aisles with food trays on their shoulders, handling it all with finesse despite the high number of diners.
CJ’s has a restaurant menu with meals for any time of the day. They seem to have put a lot of thought into their design as even the menu itself was ornately designed.
I settled on the breakfast menu as I was having brunch. I asked for a breakfast pancake sampler and a fruit bowl. The sampler features two signature pancakes, two farm fresh eggs, two sausages, baked beans and golden hash browns. This is served with tea or coffee, and your choice of continental juice.
The food arrived surprisingly fast. I was pleased to find that what you see on the menu is what you get. I had a Spanish omelette, white coffee and mango juice.
The thick fluffy American-style pancakes were soft. The Spanish omelette and sausages were served hot to my liking, and the onions in the omelette were mild. The golden hash browns were soft with a crisp crust. The fruits were fresh and the entire meal was quite the feast.
We stayed at the restaurant so long that we ate again. I opted to try their main meals, and chose the BBQ chicken pizza. And to drink, I had a passion colada.
We changed location to the balcony upstairs to get an overall feel for the place. The pizza of barbecued chicken cubes with green pepper, onions, tomato and mozzarella cheese was not the worst pizza I have had, but it lacked that spark that would make me come back for more. The passion colada was quite good.
CJ’s has nearly 300 different types of food on their menu, catering to Italian, Mexican, American and British cuisine. It is family friendly, offering children and ranger meals.
All in all, CJ’s matched the hype. The portions are generous, the service is fast, attendants are gracious and the overall ambience is inviting.
My only issue was the no-alcohol policy, as I think that could be a big draw for customers looking to wine and dine in the relaxed style that CJ’s offers.