Craic Lounge: The Unexpected Nyumba ya Rumba

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Malls have been sprouting across Nairobi like weeds. For every ten slay Queens there’s one mall.

Some are far apart, and others are just next to each other competing for attention. Some have been demolished while others are waiting for their fate. But what remains is that as entertainment spots in malls, few live up to the name. I was disappointed at Two Rivers. Their only club had been shut down. So I had to fight with kids for space at Urban burger because, World Cup.

Also when at a mall you expect the clubs there to be, well, upscale. Of course, they are paying two kidneys and a liver for rent so drinks will be expensive. I might as well enjoy the ambiance. After all, the likes of Mercury have set a standard.

Coming to Southfield Mall (not to be confused with the demolished one on Lang’ata Road opp. T-Mall: that was South End) wasn’t my idea. Silas Nyanchwani floated the suggestion and since it was closer to my home and lighter on my pocket I went with it. It wasn’t my first time here. The first time was a date that didn’t happen. I was stood up. And by the way, Silas took time getting here I almost thought he’d stand me up too.

Right after the bend when you exit Mombasa road and join airport north at Cabanas (use the lower exit), Southfield Mall is a few feet away from Nakumatt Embakasi. A shiny brand new mall that laughs at the ruin of Taj Mall and scoffs at the collapse of Nakumatt. Craic Lounge is on the first floor. A smooth escalator rides up and you’re welcomed into an open roof style bar. There’s a lonely backdrop at the entrance. I don’t know if anyone ever comes here and decides to take photos but hey, it floats their boat.

Being a Thursday they are belting rhumba from their speakers, a band is setting up and a raspy voice occasionally sneaks out of the speakers as the lead (I guess) tests the mic. The crowd is an awkward mix. Right across me on the counter are two ladies. One with blonde top hair tapered to the sides in a fade and the other wearing a perm. The one with a perm is a few shades of melanin darker and has red paint on her lips. She’s oozing confidence. She’s beautiful. Her friend has her back to me so can’t really say much about her. The guy right next to me is in a dark trench buttoned up to the chin. He’s bent into his phone peeping through some black rimmed, round glasses at whatever. Two bartenders are at the counter. All around me everyone else is in company. Maybe Thursday date night.

Craic isn’t big. One eye sweep and you’ve covered all its edges. If someone sneezes across the room you’ll hear someone else on the other side say “bless you”. But what they’ve done with space is elegant. They have an island counter. For the lonely souls. They have two bars and a keg station (which was not working when we were there). Yes, they have keg. But only the educated ones; tusker lite and Guinness. The music is well distributed and even on a Thursday, you can barely hear it from the ground floor. They respect their neighbors.

Since its small orders come fast. Faster if you sit by the counter. The guys there don’t chat you up. They let you nurse your alcohol in peace. After all every in has their reasons for being here. The only time you’ll interact with the staff is when they try to sell you a biting. I always say no,  though, as a rule. Bar biting tends to be either undercooked or overcooked and annoyingly smaller.

I feel though that  The lack of a local feel means you also get charged mall prices. Somehow they have to cover rent and your wallet is their first pit stop. But what this also means is that you might run into the neighbors’ wife and maybe Shiko Kaitanny during Wednesday Karaoke. But I guess that is its appeal.

Overall 7/10

It tries. Plus they serve popcorns on saucers to revelers. Would’ve loved peanuts but since it is free I don’t complain. Oh and it is freshly made. 

IThe Weaver’s Band play there tonight. craic

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