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Pango At Fairview Hotel Nairobi
Nairobi’s Fairview Hotel has a typical brasserie that is big, keeps long hours, serves classically straightforward food that everyone likes to eat and has reliable wines. Pango is one of five restaurants that is found at the Fairview Hotel located on Bishop’s road in Nairobi. The restaurant proudly calls itself a “Gourmet”.
The restaurant is on the second level, spacious and comfortable. A tall, well-lit wood-panelled room that is almost neutral and not giving much of a hint as to what to expect. My expectations were different, that of starched table clothes but alas! The tables are bare, simply set with candle bras. Two large vivid landscape paints of Kenya straddle the central fireplace and anchor the room.
Our table is set and on arrival, we are shown where it is almost immediately with a gift from the chef announcing the beginning of the meal. The gift is a sushi duo accompanied by an inventive small glass of cold soup with a straw to sip from. The sushi is followed by prawns in a fresh light platter.
The wine list is excellent with some very good French wines including a Sancerre, which is rarely found on wine lists in Nairobi. You can request win by the glass. For the connoisseur, a blackboard displays the special wines of the month.
The food at Pango impresses from the start. It is a mix of traditional brasserie fare and contemporary French dishes with a modern flair. Here you will find offering reserved for the temples of fine dining: classic pan-fried liver in port wine sauce and steak Diane, Prawns and Pernod, Supreme of Chicken Stroganoff prepared tableside.
Attention to detail makes dining here an occasion and every dish is artfully presented. The descriptive menu with its headings is a delight to read. A cocktail of King prawns comes dressed in sesame seed yoghurt and basil instead of the customary Marie Rose sauce.
Try the smoked Trout Timbale with a smoked Salmon and Avocado Mousse, garnished with fresh scented lemon balm. The texture of the mouse is so light and airy it disappears faster than you would want.
The well-trained staff keep the dining experience flowing without being intrusive. Baskets with a variety of pieces of bread appear and are refilled plates are expertly whisked away at the appropriate moment. From the oceans, lakes and rivers, you will find a classic brasserie dish, bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse is the glorious French fisherman’s soup that somehow always manages to provoke controversy.
Traditionally it is made with red and white fish, cut into pieces, skin and all. Purists say a true Bouillabaisse must contain scorpionfish found only in the Mediterranean. Here the delicious hearty soup is based on the catch of the day and is prepared with sea fish, calamari, octopus, prawns and lobster.
Dishes arrive at the table dramatically festooned with strands of white coral fashioned from rice cracker and puff pastry garnishes. I order the Seared Salmon and the Supreme Duck with Cinnamon and Lavender. The Salmon fillet, imported from Norway, is seared with a just enough sweetness to caramelize the skin and is paired with ginger-spiced spinach and puree of the potatoes and basil.
The flavours are at once distinctive and layered. The supreme duck is served sliced on a bed of rosti with a perfectly complimentary light tangerine dotted with black cherries. Both entrees are expertly plated with the protein elevated against the starch and the black cherry glaze spooned around the largely shaped dishes sit snugly alongside the entrees displaying a variety of delicious and diminutive fresh vegetables from the chef’s garden. By now we are really into the art of the plate. The desserts call out from the menu and are over the top. I settle on the Mango and Passion Fruit Souffle a tangy and welcoming finale.
Pango means cave in Kiswahili is one of the few restaurants in Nairobi that honours the drama of fine dining. Allow for time to have a pre-dinner drink in the wine cellar. The cellar is a delight. It is subterranean, it’s a bit of an adventure just walking down the narrow steps into the temperature-controlled cave. There are two long wooden tables with benches, wine bottles and wooden crates from vineyards are stacked artfully around. The cellar is an ideal setting for sharing a bottle of wine from any one of the many fine wines on display.
Also available is a popular business lunch menu which changes every week and set menus can be arranged in advance by large groups. Overall if you are looking for a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion then Pango is ideal. The food is pricey but worth every bit of the cost.
In a nutshell, the atmosphere at Pango is spacious, comfortable and quiet. It is a no-smoking area. Set menus for large groups for over 10 can be arranged in advance ranging between 1900 and 3,900 ksh. A la Carte for starters from 650 to 1900 ksh, entrees start from ksh 1350 to 2450 and desserts start from 675 ksh. There is an excellent wine list and you will not be disappointed. There is a special business lunch menu that starts from 1950 ksh.
The best tables are those adjacent to the fireplace. The restaurant is opened from 12 noon to 2 pm and 7 pm to 11 pm with last orders at 10 pm. On Saturday it is closed for lunch with dinner only. The restaurant closes on Sunday and public holidays. There is secure parking available.
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