Pairing burgers with fine wine

Saturday February 3 2018

A meal served at the Sierra Burger and Wine Lounge in Nairobi. PHOTO | COURTESY

A meal served at the Sierra Burger and Wine Lounge in Nairobi. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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Normally, I would not have a hamburger with expensive wine. But this is exactly what Sierra Burger and Wine Lounge is all about.

Proprietor and head chef Alan Murungi got the idea after visiting the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, where they served a special Wagyu burger paired with Chateau Mouton de Rothschild, one of the top French wines in the world.

“A bit extreme, but it made sense to me. Later, I tried a pairing them when I got home and I was hooked,” he says.

Located on the second floor of Rivaan Centre off Brookside Drive in Westlands, Nairobi, the restaurant is cosy, with both indoor and balcony seating. Dark furniture, a leather banquette bench along a red brick wall and fixtures of golden yellow create an urban feel.

From the small plates we had Swahili Mignontte oysters with minced onion, garlic ginger, coriander and lime. They were fresh and tasty. The braised beef spring rolls with Porcini mushrooms and black truffle cream are among the best rolls I have ever tasted. The chicken wings were prepared extra crisp as we had requested.

The non-meat starters include a large Caesar salad, sun-dried tomato salad and a zucchini and mint soup.

For the main course I had a soy glazed beef Kowloon burger with caramelised onions and jalapeno mayonnaise. It was soft, medium-cooked to my liking, with just enough seasoning not to overpower the natural flavour.

The side options are straightforward — green salad, red cabbage coleslaw, chips or onion rings. However, the condiments give a nice spin to the meal, like the jalapeno mayonnaise, green chilli chutney and Dijon mustard mayonnaise.

Sierra grind their own burger patties, and the buns are baked in-house.

The list of African wines is impressive and does not feature the usual supermarket brands you find in many restaurants.

Murungi regularly visits vineyards in South Africa and selects vintages from smaller, lesser-known estates famous for high-quality wines, such as the Vergelegen sauvignon blanc from the Western Cape region.

I paired my starter with a glass of Buckleberry sauvignon blanc by Louis Nel, also from the Western Cape. It is crisp, light and fruity. I did not change to red wine with my main course because I was enjoying it so much. If your preference is beer, Sierra crafts their own lager.

One person in our group had the sirloin steak, a lean tender cut that she paired with a crisp Pinot Noir red wine. Another had the burger of grilled chicken breast with red cabbage, coleslaw and coriander mayonnaise accompanied by the Vergelegen wine.

The sole vegetarian among us had the falafel burger and was ambivalent as to whether she liked or not. All burgers cost between Ksh900 ($9) and Ksh1,300 ($13).

The ribeye steak and the bacon cheeseburger are some of their other popular meals. The meat comes from the family farm in Nanyuki, and the angus beef is from Marania Farm in Timau, north of Mt Kenya.

“All our beef is dry-aged at our in-house butchery before being processed daily,” said Murungi.

For dessert, the chocolate and coffee stout cake served with salted caramel and Belgian chocolate sauce was delectable, and the sticky toffee pudding drizzled with caramel sauce did not disappoint.

The waiters were friendly and knowledgeable. It was a Friday night, quite busy and the staff seemed overstretched. We had to request some items several times, including a side of chillies that never got to the table.