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THE DISH: Rocking with Roco Mamas restaurant



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I’m officially overwhelmed by Village Market. I know how this sounds, but I think I’m too used to small things, and Village Market is going BIG.

They have a number of proud billboards across Nairobi talking about 42 restaurants under one roof. Forty-two? Am I the only one struggling in this economy? Who are the people going to 42 restaurants, enough for them to actually stay open?

Roco Mamas.

Beautiful lanterns and interior at Roco Mamas. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I digress. I went to check out the new wing at Village Market to see what all these 42 restaurants looked like. I think I only saw maybe 10 of them, the ones in the circle around Roco Mamas, the oyster place…see I can’t even remember their names, there were so many options. Like an American menu. Which I think is the goal – Village Market is trying, with its continuous expansions and shininess, to resemble the mall complexes that people fly out to see. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I guess the proof will be in the pudding.

The menu at Roco Mamas.

The menu at Roco Mamas. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The pudding I decided to try was Roco Mamas, actually, the only name I remember and I’ve heard rave reviews about. To be fair, it was pretty late and not many other places were open anyway.

We sat down and a friendly waiter came to ask us if it was our first time here, so he could explain the menu to us. They have that type of menu that you create your own meal from by checking the boxes next to it – what kind of burger you want, what size patty, what additions, etc. I haven’t yet figured out whether that is annoying or cool, ha, but for a first time visit, it’s pretty cool.

Roco Mamas.

Roco Mamas stunning interior. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Then I started thinking about how much paper they have to print out every day for a gimmick, and I felt bad for their profit margins, ha! That being said, I love the colourful interiors, and it seemed to be pretty popular, even in the middle of the night.

I decided to have a straightforward cheeseburger with caramelised onions (who’s not a sucker for caramelised onions, surely?), even though a giant mushroom one was calling my name, and I love anything that has mushrooms in it. As for the patty – I was hungry, and feeling greedy, but went for the medium-sized 150g Smash burger. And because it was mine and my companion’s first time there, we decided to order Turbo Charged Fries – Chilli Cheese, to be precise – on the side, and a Village Greek Salad. Like I said…I was hungry.

My burger and fries.

My burger and fries at Roco Mamas. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

When the burger came, the first bite was great, because hunger is the best gravy, but as I went on, I felt like the white sauce that came on it was a bit much, as well as the caramelised onions, which I usually love.

In smaller quantities – like half of what they put – the burger would have been more enjoyable, but as it stood, I didn’t love the burger as much as I thought I would. The patty was good though, and a good size – not too big, not kiddy-sized.

The chilli cheese fries were good, as were my normal fries. I liked the salad well enough – made up of feta cheese, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and, you guessed it, more onions. Classic Mediterranean inclinations. Because I ordered so much, though, I didn’t actually finish my salad. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.

Greek salad.

Greek salad, Roco Mamas style. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Will I go back to Village Market again? Probably to try the 41 other restaurants (FORTY-ONE). Will I go back to Roco Mamas? Sure, to try the mushroom burger, with less sauce this time, and perhaps their milkshakes, although I’m scared of the size of those things.

Is this a sign of old age, that I don’t want to consume copious amounts of sugar any more, because I know I’m not playing in a playground all afternoon to work it off or gyming into the still of the night? I think yes.

Wondering where to get the 411 on what’s happening in and around Nairobi’s foodie scene? There’s a lot of places you could go, but here’s where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.