Arosto series: Cafe Pronto Verdict

  • on Fri, 2nd February 2018 10:20 AM
Reading Time: 3 minutes

We are back, I hope you’ll love us.

That’s the tagline for Café Pronto, the massive restaurant that’s a defining eatery brand in downtown Nairobi, and makes for a key feature on Standard Street overlooking the rear end of Barclays Bank building.

For a hotel that has been around the city for nearly a decade that line makes for such a meek declaration, sort of begging for a new lease of –culinary-life. Café Pronto with its adjacent eatery the Café Pronto Coffee House at the Wabera Street and Standard Street junction makes for one of the ageless meeting points in the city.

Founded in 2009 Pronto has all the hallmarks of a café that’s been a player in the evolution of Nairobi culinary culture, but as a typical Somali restaurant they in many ways reflect their own cultural sensibilities-. For starters, the best service that Café Pronto offers is natural lighting through its massive windows as well as the light and spacey furniture. The natural lighting muffles the dandelion bulbs built into the small woody chandeliers above reducing them to typical artsy part of the hotels ambiance.

The servings are generous which may compensate for the fact that their arosto could obviously make do with a little less frying, and lesser spicing.

For such a large hotel the entire floor space looks crowded even when it’s merely half full largely because their corridors are narrow. Pronto possesses pretty much one of the longest Café terraces extending to up nearly a third of the size of the entire Standard Street below.

Established in late 2000s, Pronto is overseen by a tall sublimely intense supervisor with slightly hunched shoulders and calm face with resolute eyes.

‘We really are in the rush hour, I hope I can give you all the information that you need.’ Abdikadir speaks up, right in the middle of a three-way conversation with an older patron on one side, a waitress on other while also trying to put up with my meddlesome questions. 

The clock right behind Mustapha’s wall strikes noon. The numbers increase almost exponentially as the paying counter also gets jammed by clients who are seeking to leave.

‘Our Arosto is prepared right here. It takes about three hours.’ He turns back to me while pointing towards the long corridor behind the large ceramic counter that leads to the main kitchen area. The massive kitchen makes for a symphony of clanging utensils, cutlery, kitchenware and bales of foodstuffs brought in for cooking.

The extended ceramic counter has about 15 personnel each at various stages of issuing instructions regarding a specific meal order by their respective clients, at designated tables around the restaurant. It makes for an intense yet flawless exchange, each staffer reflecting a steely calm under pressure with admirable concentration.

The main eating area tends to be crowded while the terrace outside packs fewer people where sometimes entire table sets are taken up by single gentlemen, mostly middle-aged men hunched over their phone screens.

Tucked at the first floor atop a floor space just above the coffee house and a row of electronic stores, Pronto has the standard atrium seats made from natural cane in the middle section while the compartments-two in total- have comfortable benches fitted with maroon cushion.

‘Your arosto will arrive just now.’ the waitress speaks up as she begins walking away towards the increasingly busy counter. The staffers dress in Maroon tees and black trousers though some wear red collared T-shirts.

Abdikadir and his team have lined up the rows with potted palmy plants most of which gets drowned out by the sheer size of the hotel floor space.

Their arosto comes served with either white rice or Pilau both of which cost the same at 200/=, and a bowl of sauce. The arosto takes on a darker hue with the servings being a mix of well boiled and fried goat meat, and portions of a rather chewy goat meat.

The thick delicious sauce and finely boiled rice make for a good serving though the salad is a little too basic consisting merely of lettuce and near ripening tomato on this particular Wednesday.

The servings are generous which may compensate for the fact that their arosto could obviously make do with a little less frying, and lesser spicing.

‘We serve about 700 guests on a typical day.’  Abdikadir intones while looking around trying to judge whether his guestimation reflects a more accurate number of clientele.

With a staff of 50, Pronto’s massive floor space absorbs the huge number with only about 10 to 15 waitress directly dealing with the clientele. The clientele which is mostly made up of professionals in the morning, lots of middle-aged men in Kanzus and coats during the day and families in the evening sharing space with lots of young, upwardly mobile Nairobians.

For a hotel poised as just another Somali restaurant, Pronto compensates in variety and portions what it clearly omits in ambiance and sophistication.

The thick delicious sauce and finely boiled rice make for a good serving though the salad is a little too basic consisting merely of lettuce and near ripening tomato on this particular Wednesday. 

You’d probably get a tastier but pricier Arosto that’s also a noticeably smaller portion, elsewhere in other Somali restaurants around the city even though Pronto’s rice definitely makes for a much better serving.

 

Rating: 6/10 

Article Categories:
Nairobi

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of