I want to spend the rest of my life taking ladies to lunch. Fine ladies. That is.
I like the idea of lunch. Late lunch. Lunch is better than dinner. I find dinners to be constricting. Unless you are taking the girl home with you, dinners have a certain sense of urgency. Most establishments close by 9 p.m. or get boring. Lunch with a free afternoon to spare on the other hand is full of possibilities. Most girls are slow eaters. Hence, even if she took a whole hour to devour the chicken or fish, she will still have two more hours to top it up with wine, or a cocktail. If your game is down, you need more time to convince her. Crack lame jokes, hoping her full and drunk self will fall into your box. Seduction is a chore, you know.
Lunch on a sunny Friday afternoon, Lionel Richie simping in the background about not wanting to lose her, is an elevating experience.
I was meeting a Ugandan online friend for the first time. I called my niece Kerubo Momanyi and asked her where one can take a great Ugandan lady guest for a good Nairobian lunch. Without thinking, she recommended the Portuguese restaurant, Frangos Bar& Churrasqueira on Chania Avenue, in the armpit of Hurlingham.
“It is a nice place, intimate and presumptuous, she’ll feel dined. Carry at least Sh 5,000 for food and two beers and two glasses of wine. Anything extra carry, Sh 10,000,” she told me, not sure why she had to warn me about the money part. But good sisters know how bills sometimes shock the hell out of men. Well played Kerubo.
I haven’t been to Ngong’ Road in a long minute, so, I am not familiar with good lunching spots, but I can always take Kerubo at her word. And so, I cabbed my way to Frangos, which is on Chania Avenue, deep in Hurlingham. It is nestled on the 5th Floor of a high-rise apartment. I arrived there ahead of my guest.
This was a weird meeting. I met Olive under strange circumstances. I belong to this WhatsApp group that is a bunch of weirdos. As in, it is the darkest, crazy in a sickening way, WhatsApp group in Africa. The most politically incorrect one that I know. So, one day, this Ugandan dude shared a Tweet by a Ugandan lady. The tweet, I think was a thread of beautiful pictures of Kisumu the lady had taken on her regular travels to Kisumu. I loved the pics, never knew that Kisumu could be so exotic. Blame the iPhone. But I loved the lady more. I asked the Ugandan lad, can I shoot my shot? He said, of course. And I started stalking the girl around a bit. I gathered some Kisii courage, and invaded her inbox, like an Enkororo. And thus started a friendship anchored on our undivided love for the late Mowzey Radio (of the Radio and Weasel music duo). We had a deal that I teach her Swahili and she would teach me Luganda. Luckily, she is Ugandan, she doesn’t know that my Swahili is as horrible, even worse than that of a Ugandan. But luckily, our friendship has revolved more around music, nostalgia, Bobi Wine politics, and not on languages.
So, after chatting for so long, here she was, recently returned from the Coast, where the sun had done a number on her skin. Olive is hyper-conscious in terms of her fashion style and she is unapologetically an African. She recently ditched her locks for an Afro that brings the best of a Ugandan smile out. And man, does she have a reassuring smile. I would be drowning, and I would feel safe with that smile. She is in a skirt and a kitenge tube top. I learned from Olive that there is a tribe in Uganda called Basoga. At the age of 69. I was embarrassed to learn it is actually the most populous tribe. She is proudly a Musoga, and I call her, my Musoga Queen.
First meetings are awkward, fraught with the anxiety of mutual disappointment. For instance, in chats, I am a bull, but in real life, I put the cow in coward. But I had assured her that the Silas in chats is the Silas in real life, only a bit duller. She arrived, five minutes later, having been caught up in Ngong Road jam. And up we went to Frangos.
My initial assessment of Frangos was, “it isn’t all that.” Of course, I love large, capacious restaurants with high roofs and good furniture. Frangos has an upmarket vibe about it. But in the afternoon, the sun hits harder, if you sit by the windows. We tried the window seats, but that side proved too hot and we moved away. Whereas I liked the place, there is a huge mjengo being built not too far, and the noise from there is too distracting. The polite R&B piping through the speakers could not drown the jarring noise of excavators.
The first impressive thing about the restaurant was its menu. Unlike similar establishments that will go for a leatherbound chic menu, Frangos has a messy newspaper-like menu. Lovely stuff. Of course, such menu is likely to be in Spanish, Lusitanian, or Italian jargon that pushes the price to be in four-digit prices. My trick always is to ask the waiter what their day’s specialty is. Usually, this does not work, as people have different tastes. Equally, you could meet a bored waitress having a bad day, and she may pick the worst thing. But the male waiter recommended their Full Frango, which is a whole spring chicken that is flame-grilled to perfection, will mild piri piri, with a lemon, and herbs. For starch, we opted for Portuguese rice (mild-spicy home rice, with onions, peppers, and peas) and Frangos’ home fries (hand-cut fries, mildly spiced, and tossed in onions and cilantro). The order took another 20 or so minutes to be served. The chicken came dripping in whatever yellowy glory spice and was orgasmic. However, if I ever go back, it will be for the rice and the fries. I can pay the chef top dollar to teach me how to make such nice rice.
Olive wasn’t hungry enough. No problem, I have an appetite for two elephants. With the food served, we caught on to so many things. Olive’s biggest beef with Kenyans is on our foods.
“Why do you take your foods so dry?” I wanted to ask her if she thinks Kiuks are a joke, but I looked around and realized that as Kenya we really like dry foods. Even what we call wet fry, is rarely wet enough. And it is not like there is soup on the side for lubrication. Soup is looked at as a cure for hangovers. Is it that soup reminds us of our poorer days growing up as children?
Of course, Ugandans’ staple of matoke is better than ugali, a million times. I have been to Uganda, and their breakfast of katogo, which is matoke and beef/matumbo, made the Ugandan way is the stuff of champions. But I do have a problem with a standard Ugandan lunch. The last time I was in Kampala, lunch consisted of ugali, casava, matoke, ground nut sauce (all served in humongous portions), and vegetables. You take that, and blood begins to flow to the wrong head and you will spend the afternoon thinking of the wrong things.
Anyway, we caught up on so many things. Olive envies the freedom we enjoy in Kenya. She thinks we are doing well in terms of infrastructure. She loves our coast. In fact, I was down at the Coast over Christmas and was shocked at the sheer number of Ugandans at Fort Jesus. Hot ones too. She hates how tribal we are. Not that there isn’t tribalism in Uganda, but it is not as pronounced as in Kenya.
On the other hand, I admire Uganda’s women, how fertile Ugandan soil is, and how they literally feed us. I also think Ugandans have a soul.
“I think, if East Africa becomes a community, Kampala should be the cultural capital,” I tell her. She agrees. Kampala has a certain energy, a certain vibe, and a certain personality, that Nairobi lacks. Nairobi is too transactional. The men are disengaged, and our ladies are a tad masculine. Ugandan women have retained their femininity. This makes it easy to have healthy inter-gender relationships. That is why Uganda does not have toxic feminists and masculinists online, trading bile.
A good lunch deserves good wine or something stiff to aid digestion. We opted for cocktails, but Olive isn’t much of an alcoholic, she picked some light-ass cocktail, and I asked for the strongest thing on the house. It was happy hour, I was disappointed during happy hour, they serve you two drinks at the same time, and one is not retained until you are done with the first one.
I couldn’t even defend that. It was exactly what we were talking about earlier about the total lack of decorum and class in Nairobi. Nairobi is too mechanical for her Ugandan sensibilities. Like New York or London, or Jo’burg, it is not a place you want to stay long enough, lest it kills your soul. And on that sad note, four hours later, we called it a night.
Olive will be hosting me and Kenyans in Uganda soon, for cultural exchange.