Looking for a place to excite our taste buds and celebrate an upcoming birthday, my sister and I and a friend decided to try out the new Herbs and Spices pan-Asian restaurant at the Nairobi Serena.
Located in the newly refurbished northern wing, the restaurant is spacious, and bright with indoor and outdoor seating, and offers a culinary journey through Southeast Asia.
We initially sat outside and ordered our drinks but a drizzle forced us to move inside, which turned out to be more intimate.
Being a Thursday evening, two of us steered clear of the cocktails and opted for mocktails.
The other party decided to try the “tie me to the bedpost” cocktail made with vodka, amaretto, Southern Comfort and orange juice with a dash of grenadine syrup.
It comes with a disclaimer “Erm… have a taste and see… results may vary.” The outside of the glass has a piece of star anise tied with a string, just so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
The mocktails were “blow me away,” made with homemade star anise syrup, pineapple juice, orange juice and garnished with a slice of lemon, and the H&S restaurant special made with blackcurrant, blackberry juice, and passion and apple juice.
All were said to be very tasty. And so our taste buds were awakened.
Next up were bitings of arrowroot crisps with two dipping sauces — a sweet chilli and a yoghurt dip. The sweet chilli sauce was mildly hot and the yoghurt dip was exactly the opposite, creating a tasty contrast.
We were all hungry so we quickly got on with ordering our dinner. We were warned that the portions were large but who was listening? For starters, we had the salmon ceviche, which is marinated Tasmanian salmon with orange segments, rocket leaves and Wasabi soy dressing, and a Thai beef salad of thinly sliced sirloin with cucumber and chilli dressing.
The salmon ceviche was overwhelming. With so much on the plate, I didn’t quite know where to start. Corn chips and avocado cubes, edible flowers, leaves and the actual salmon made for a colourful plate and a good-sized portion.
The beef salad was more manageable, and was also decorated with edible flowers. The cucumber and chilli dressing gave it a spicy twist.
For the main course we had the chicken teriyaki, which was pan-seared and boneless, and the Kabo Paneng pork, which was grilled sliced pork loin with market vegetables and curry sauce.
The chicken teriyaki is a restaurant favourite as head chef Jackson informed us later. It was clear why, as the chicken was tender with a good flavour balance and strong umami flavor.
The pork sat on a vegetable base, and the ginger flavour married well.
Starches for the main course were sweet potato mash and fried rice, both perfect accompaniments.
By the time we were done, there was barely enough room for dessert, but sweet teeth prevailed and we ordered the crème brulee and the cheesecake.
Taking it slow, we had a chat with chef Jackson.
He explained that he had been trained by chef de cuisine Wayan, who is based at the Islamabad Serena Hotel.
Chef Wayan trained four chefs in Nairobi, where they came up with a menu based on locally available ingredients. He said he was open to suggestions for additions to the menu and my sister mentioned that a mango dip could go well with the crisps.
Slowly but surely we ate our desserts and stumbled home, bellies fully extended. The moral of that story was that next time we would start eating earlier, at a more leisurely pace and probably over the weekend.
Because we are sure to return to try out the new mango dip that chef Jackson recently introduced into the menu.