It was inevitable that culinary magic should emerge from the kitchens of Kigali’s fast-rising gastronomic scene given its multicultural roots and the influx of an expatriate crowd thanks to the country’s economic boom and proliferation of top-notch restaurants serving delicious local and international dishes.
Not long ago, high end casual dining in Kigali meant a plate of thinly sliced fries with steak, mushroom soup with a dessert option, more to demonstrate refinement or give face to guests than flavour. The service was invariably hostile and surroundings were shoddy.
Service with aplomb
Now not only is the best of fine dining served with aplomb, but casual dining and even nondescript eateries have upped their game. The city that was almost impenetrable to outsiders some decades ago has seen them invest in hospitality establishments. Eating foreign food in Kigali does not mean visiting a bland international hotel anymore.
If you need further convincing, take a look at Bwok, which recently opened its café bistro in its own building in a new location, a stately modern contemporary building I can only dub as the ‘Bwok Campus’. The three-storeyed building is equipped with a gym at the basement, café at the ground floor, a workspace at the first and second floor and a bistro/restaurant at the top floor.
Bwok (Korean for Kitchen) began as an offshoot of RZ Manna which had started as a quaint café-bakery in 2013. It opened in 2018 as a relatively small Korean Fusion Cuisine café in Kwetu Film School building in Nyarutarama before moving to its own location last week in Kigali’s gourmet estate, Kimihurura.
The driveway can get hideously overcrowded during weekends as a darling destination of the rich and famous. It is better to visit during the week when there are fewer people.
One is welcomed at the main entrance, by some solid hardwood doors made by Wood Habitat Rwanda. The ground floor café and top floor restaurant is minimalist, yet rugged industrial-themed interiors and monochrome colours has a lifted ceiling to maximise incoming natural light while creating an open and airy environment. The café looks like it was designed as a hub for creatives, as an office outside the office. The restaurant was designed to create a dining destination with a little touch of drama.
It can at times take some time to be attended to, but the Korean Fried Chicken bucket is worth the wait. It is fried chicken with Korean chilli paste sauce served with chips. The chicken is crispy on the outside and tender.
It is easily one of the better fried chicken I have had this year and definitely recommend. It is worth the price as two of us could barely finish it.
The Bwok Campus architecture, design and food merge to epitomise what I look for in a restaurant, good food, good ambience and good service.
And yes, they are a little understaffed, which affects service since their attendants are adequately trained.
On my first visit, I was welcomed in warmly by a female attendant who ushered me into the café. It was an early morning so I proceeded to order breakfast. It was a little disappointing that they didn’t have a menu at hand but fortunately I already knew what I wanted before I walked in. I ordered for the Fruit waffle with Café Latte which had become a favourite ever since the RZ Manna days. My partner in crime ordered the Blueberry compote pancake.
Their fruit waffle did not disappoint. It was crunchy, rich and fluffy. It was not overly baked and was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. It was served with whipped cream, slices of bananas, strawberries, pineapples and mangoes which were delightfully fresh. It was plated beautifully with an arch of powdered sugar. The blueberry compote pancake was equally as good if not better than the fruit waffle.
On my second visit, I visited the restaurant with a friend for lunch. Everyone I knew had sung praises of the Koreana Fried Chicken and that was the only thing on my mind as I walked two stories up to the restaurant that was on the top most floor.
The service on this particular day was quite wanting.