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Valentine’s Dinners: Top Hotels Offerings

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Valentine’s Dinners: Top Hotels Offerings


Tornedo Rossini with chocolate chilli glace with sautéed shitake and potato gnocchi at the Norfolk Hotel. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

Spice And Chocolate at Fairmont The Norfolk

A glass of pearls tipped over, next to a centre piece of roses completes the decor on the intimate table at Tatu Restaurant at Fairmont The Norfolk in Nairobi.

Set under dim lights, a flickering candle and a background noise of the hiss of food hitting a hot pan, the ambience for Valentine’s Day dinner is set.

At the corner of the eye is a plate with chocolate. It is chunks of premium chocolate Lindt Excellence from Lindt & Sprüngli.

“It is the thinnest, finest chocolate. It breaks with a snap,” explains Fred Njagi, brand manager, East Africa at Lindt & Sprüngli.

‘‘Excellence’’ will be served alongside ‘‘Lindor,’’ smooth melting chocolate during the

celebration of love that will include a weeklong pairing of chocolate with champagne.

“Lindt chocolates play in the premium market as does The Norfolk and Moët & Chandon. We are giving a combined experience of a premium trio,” Mr Njagi says.

On the D-Day, Chef Lucien Pryssok, Executive Chef at The Norfolk will serve up a seven-course meal with champagne and chocolates.

To start off the evening, it is amuse-bouche of crispy scallop on wasabi purée or cauliflower on wasabi purée.

“Wasabi is a natural aphrodisiac,” says Chef Lucien.

The second course is a white tomato mousse with grilled asparagus.

“The purée is white in colour but the flavour is intensely tomato, making it a surprise for the taste buds,” he says.

The tomato soup is infused with cream before it is served up complete with a heart on top. That is followed by a tom kha gai soup with galangal and turmeric, another infusion of ingredients with aphrodisiacs.

The warm starter of kingfish medallion sits on a bed of blackened noodle, which the chef explains, is a play on colour.

Each course comes on a black or red plate, bringing focus to the colours and various ingredients that have been put together to make the dish.

Between the warm starter and main course is a chilli lime sorbert. This acts a palate cleanser before diving into the tornedo rossini with chocolate chilli glace with sautéed shiitake and potato gnocchi. This is beef medallions topped with foie gras with mushrooms, colourful vegetables, potato gnocchi and a croton.

There is a vegetarian option for each course. A wild mushroom ravioli with zucchini truffle and foam.

To cap the food offerings, a dessert of a chocolate soufflé with a gooey centre will be served with bourbon vanilla ice-cream and Amarena cherries — which resemble a heart.

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At Tamarind tree, you’ll want to order this

An apple and ginger alcohol-free bubbly is a great way to start a romantic Valentine’s dinner. That is if you are a teetotaller or you want to start the evening sober.

At Tamarind Tree Hotel in Nairobi’s Langata, I cleanse my palate while waiting for the six-course meal. I pray that the meal is as good as it looks on the menu.

The red petal roses on the table set the mood. Soft music croons from the Jazzique band as the meal kicks off with a beet and avocado fiesta starter that could very well be a meal on its own.

Tamarind Tree Hotel Valentine's Day menu by executive chef Philip Mugah

The indulgence of baked blackened salmon skin on at Tamarind Tree Hotel Valentine’s Day menu by executive chef Philip Mugah. This is chinese cabbage, coconut rice and balsamic jus. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

The food presentation is amazing, Instagrammable, if you would. The beetroot is heart-shaped and the feta cheese surrounding the avocado fiesta is simply lovely. The cheese’s saltiness is just right for the layered chunky guacamole, everything just comes to life in the mouth with every bite.

Roasted red peppers, red berries, hibiscus, and cream does not sound like a soup that I would like, especially because this the first time I find out that hibiscus is edible. But I am pleasantly surprised by the taste given that I am not a soup fan. At this point, the palate needs a break and the Executive Chef Philip Mugah recommends a ‘cool the heart moment’. This is basically a macerated wild berry sorbet. Wild berries are tricky and it is amazing how he balances the sharp tangy flavour of the berries to come up with this sweet sorbet that simply melts in the mouth.

“The raspberry is caramelised with sugar to make a base and we keep an eye on it to ensure the right temperature so you can get that sweet flavour,” says Chef Mugah.

Four options for the main course is hard to pick from. There are a grilled ostrich fillet and lobster tail, baked blackened salmon, grilled chicken or the fried tofu vegetarian option.

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I opt for the chicken breast infused in lemon sauce, creamed spinach and parsley potatoes and it is heavenly. The chicken is soft when cutting through and the spinach is really yummy.

All ingredients are locally sourced, says Chef Mugah, and it is easy to see how the entire six course ties together especially during dessert.

For dessert, the pastry chef made mango sauce, which floats in an edible chocolate base, and fluffy strawberry mousse which has a biscuit at the base.

Every bite of this entire Sh9,000 per couple meal is worth it.

Food Meets Romance at Sarova Hotel

At Sarova Panafric in Nairobi, the Valentine’s dinner has aphrodisiacs, the chef says. However, it is not in-your-face kind of aphrodisiac. Chef Avraj Singh Marwa says the food has garlic, which makes the brain more attentive and truffles.

I had a taste of what lovers will eat on Valentine’s Day and it started with smoked salmon and balsamic caviar. I’m a unique diner, I loved the caviar served in a shot glass.

Chicken Roulade

Chicken Roulade: stuffed with ostrich farce, mushroom and mustardy gravy with smoked potato truffle mush by Sarova Panafric. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

For starters, I had caramelised onion and goat cheese tart cured in beet brush. The sweet and savoury battle in the mouth is amazing. The taste left me wondering about my onion-cooking skills because I have never tasted onion made this way in my life.

The jazz band that will be performing next Thursday was fine-tuning the love ballads. My next course was brought, food that Chef Marwa calls a palate cleanser. It was double tomato consommé which was light and tasty.

The pesto mascarpone cheese quenelles is served on a plate and the soup is poured with intent to bury it in the bowl. It slowly dissolves and every spoonful of the delicious soup leaves you wanting more!

For the main course, the hotel has an option of vegetarian, beef or chicken. I loved the chicken option, especially if you are in the mood to try something new.

The duo stuffed chicken roulade is filled with minced ostrich and served with a mushroom gravy along with a smoked potato truffle mush. At this point, I understood why every meal before this was so light. Chef Marwa definitely wanted the main course to make its mark and it sure did.

The smoked potato truffle mush was airy and melted in the mouth. The chicken was moist and the ostrich meat is something I would definitely recommend.

What you need at the end of this Sh5,500 Valentine’s Day feast is a light, fluffy dessert and that is exactly what the chef offered. The raspberry napoleon with white chocolate mint starts and ends in your mouth. The heart-shaped puff pastry filled with all this spectacular goodness is so good; it must be bad for me!

Homely Dishes With a Tinge of Love

Valentine’s is the busiest date night of the year for most restaurants. Restaurants have gone all out with meal and accommodation packages for couples celebrating love. Here’s what to expect.

Utamu Restaurant at Ibis Styles:

Roasted bell pepper soup, a robustly flavoured appetiser introduces the Valentine’s dinner at this restaurant on Nairobi’s Rhapta Road.

Next up is stuffed plantain on mushroom confit with sweet and spicy sauce. The stuffing in the plantain includes leets, celery, sultanas, and cashew nuts. These plus the sweet taste of the plantain turned into a synchronised medley on my palate.

For the main course, the grilled beef tomado and the potato gnocchi pasta in red pepper sauce showcased the chef’s talent.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake. PHOTO | COURTESY

Glistening in the orange lights, my medium rare beef was tender, juicy and it was laid on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes.

Gnocchi, the vegetarian option featured a plump and pillowy texture with a mild, delicate flavour which made it balance perfectly with the boldly flavoured red pepper pesto—a decadent meal for vegetarians.

Ending the night on a special note was dessert, a rich, moist chocolate cake with a light, airy and spongy texture.

Tulip Restaurant at Golden Tulip Hotel

Golden Tulip Hotel is home to Tulip Restaurant (Multi Cuisine restaurant) and Ocean Fresh Restaurant (seafood only restaurant).

Their Valentine’s dinner will start with an avocado salad that reminded me of home-made guacamole.

What followed was lamb chops with stuffed potatoes, vegetable rice with barbecue sauce.

The serving is generous. I loved the chicken and stuffed potatoes. The stuffed potatoes were coated with breadcrumbs. They had a crunchy outside and were soft and creamy on the inside.

The chicken marinade had seeped through the meat, reaching the inner parts of the meat resulting in a meal that was prepared to perfection.

Eat the lamb chops with the sweet and sour sauce, it brings the flavour to life.

Dessert was a simple mixture of pawpaw and strawberry ice cream.



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BCCI: The bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.

BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.

It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.

BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.

The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.

He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.

In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  

BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.

The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.

The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.

It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.

The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.

It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”

This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.

The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.

And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.

“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.

BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.

“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.

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A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.

“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.

CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.

This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.

For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.

In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.

Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 

The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.

Criminal culture

In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).

The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.

This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.

Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.

“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.

These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.

“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.

BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).

Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).

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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone


Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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East Africa celebrates top women in banking and finance

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The Angaza Awards for Women to watch in Banking and Finance in East Africa took place Online via Zoom on 8th June 2021.

The event was set to celebrate the top 10 women shaping banking and finance across East Africa. The 2021 Angaza Awards, which will be a Pan-African Awards program, was also announced at the event.

Key speakers at this webinar were Dr Nancy Onyango, Director of Internal Audit and Inspection at the IMF; and Gail Evans, New York Times Best Selling Author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman and former White House Aide and CNN Executive Vice President.

Dr Nancy Onyango advised women to deep expertise in their fields, spend time in forums and link with key players in that sector.
“Gain exposure with other cultures by seeking for employment overseas and use customized CV for each job application,” said Dr Onyango.

According to Gail Evans, women should show up and be fully present in meetings and not be preoccupied with other issues.
“Be simple and avoid jargon. Multi-tasking only means that you are mediocre Smart people ask good questions in a business meeting. Most women face drawbacks due to perfectionism, procrastination and fear of failure, said Evans.

She advised women to play like a man and win like a woman, be strategic, and intentionally make their moves to get to the top.

“For us to pull up businesses that have been affected by effects of COVID-19 pandemic, we need to re-invent business models, change the product offering and make more use of digital platforms,” said Mary Wamae Equity Group Executive Director.

Mary Wamae emerged top at the inaugural Angaza awards( East Africa) ahead of other finalists.

While women continue to excel in banking and finance, the number of that occupies top executive positions is still less.

“There is a gap for women occupying C suite level and it continues to widen in the finance sector. At entry level, there is still an experience gap for women,” said Nkirote Mworia, Group Secretary for UAP-Old Mutual Group.

She said that at the Middle Management level, women do not express their ambition. For this reason, UAP-Old Mutual has developed an executive sponsorship program to help women get to the next level.

Mworia added that most women hold the notion that top positions in management have politics and pressure.
“One needs leadership skills and not technical expertise to get to the top,” said Mworia.

According to Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Officer of APA Life Assurance Company, women need to focus on the strengths and natural abilities that they already have.

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“Take risks and raise your hand to get to the high table. Find mentors along the way and develop your own brand and not compare yourself with others Focus on your strengths because it will make you move faster in the career ladder,” said Karimi.

Lina Mukashyaka Higiro, a Rwandan businesswoman and chief executive officer of the NCBA Bank Rwanda since July 2018, has three lessons for women who want to excel in banking and finance.
“Always spend at least 20 minutes each day reading, seeking genuine feedback from other staff members and widen your network,” Higiro told the webinar.

Women picked for Angaza awards

Mary Wamae, Executive Director, led this year’s Top 10 Women in Angaza Awards, Equity Group (Kenya)(2)Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer, APA Life Insurance Company (Kenya)(3)Lina Higiro, Chief Executive Officer, NCBA Bank (Rwanda)(4)Elizabeth Wasunna Ochwa, Business Banking Director, Absa Bank (Kenya)(5)Joanita Jaggwe, Country Head of Risk and Compliance, KCB Group (South Sudan)(6) Millicent Omukaga, Technical Assistance Expert on Inclusive Finance, African Development Bank (Kenya)(7)Emmanuella Nzahabonimana, Head of Information Technology, KCB Group (Rwanda)(8)Judith Sidi Odhiambo, Group Head of Corporate Affairs, KCB Group (Kenya)(9)Rosemary Ngure, ESG & Impact Manager, Catalyst Principal Partners (Kenya) and(10)Pooja Bhatt, Co-Founder, QuantaRisk and QuantaInsure (Kenya).

The Kenyan Wallstreet, a financial media firm, partnered with Kaleidoscope Consultants to raise awareness of seasoned women shaping and influencing the sector through their organizations.

The Angaza Award criteria included assessing the applicants’ area of responsibility and contribution to firm performance. Professionals in Banking, Capital Markets, Insurance, Investment Banking, Fintech, Fund Management, Microfinance, and SACCOs were invited to submit their applications or nominations via the Kenyan Wallstreet Award Web page.

ALSO READ: Angaza Awards Top Finalist; Mary Wangari Wamae

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IFC in New Partnership to Develop Affordable Housing in Mombasa County

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 – International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a new deal in support of affordable housing in Kenya.

The corporation has partnered with Belco Realty LLP, to develop a mixed use affordable living complex that will consist of 1,379 residential units and over 4,500 square meters of retail and commercial spaces in Kongowea, Mombasa County.

Together with the Kenyan firm, IFC says the partnership will help meet surging demand for housing in Kenya.

Under the agreement, IFC will help identify suitable international strategic partners to invest equity of up to $12 million, or Sh1.3 billion in Belco and to provide the company with the necessary technical support to develop the project.

The development, known as Kongowea Village, will be developed to foster inclusive and affordable community living within the city.

Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa says the project, which will be located on eight acres within the heart of Mombasa city, will aim to be a catalyst for wider city regeneration.

The project will be developed to meet IFC EDGE certification requirements and will incorporate the latest technologies in passive cooling, energy efficiency and water conservation to support sustainable urbanization.

 Kongowea Village is expected to create 1,160 jobs and business opportunities during the three-year construction period and many more after completion of the project within the themed retail arcade.

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 “Access to quality housing is a growing problem in Kenya and across Africa,” said Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

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“Developers often target the high end of the market, but this project is aimed squarely at the lower-income bracket. Helping Belco identify the right partners for this project is expected to attract more developers to Kenya and other parts of Africa to help meet rising demand for housing.”

 IFC‘s engagement with Belco will help Kenya support its rapidly growing and urbanizing population by increasing access to affordable housing. The problem is similar across most of Africa, where population growth and demand for quality housing are combining to outstrip supply.  We are pleased to partner with a company such as Belco that is committed to contributing to solving this challenge,” said Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, IFC‘s Director for Transaction Advisory Services.

 IFC’s partnership with Belco is part of its broader strategy to support better access to affordable housing in Kenya.

In 2020, IFC invested $2 million in equity in the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) to help increase access to affordable mortgages and support home ownership in the country.

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