Delightful smoke wafted across the open terrace from the grill at the far end. Our appetites were whetted even before we could see what was on the menu. A two-man band serenaded the crowd to relaxing Jazz music. It was half past midday and the restaurant was already filing up, a testimony to the traction that the Sunday Brunch had gained. We were at Picazzo Restaurant & Lounge, a Spanish eatery at The Hub in Karen. Our mission was to sample their newish brunch offering, something that the mister was not keen on. Being a creature of habit, very few things give him a boner and eating at a Spanish Restaurant is not one of them. However, the familiar smell of roasted meat calmed his nerves, and mine too. I knew I would be spared the usual admonishment over why I always go for complicated when we could stick to what we knew worked for sure.
I can’t blame him though for being skeptical as our first experience at Picazzo was underwhelming for him. This was when The Hub was still at its infancy. Like the peculiar Kenyans we are, we were more than happy to join in the snaking vehicle queue at the entrance if only to discover what the newest mall in town offered. By the time we got through the security check and found a parking slot, we were starving. And when I suggested that we check out the Spanish Restaurant upstairs, he was not amused. Luckily, I was armed with my arm twisting skills so the next thing he knew we were seated at the patio, the kids playing with the cutlery, him wondering why he let me have my way (again) and me excited to try Spanish Cuisine.
He grabbed the menu and quickly schemed through it then turned to me.
“What will the kids eat?” He demanded.
“Are you worried about the kids or yourself?” I smiled. “I am sure there’s something for everyone.
It wasn’t that the food was uninspiring, but the Spanish menu was quite foreign to us. We struggled to find familiar meals especially for the kids who were much younger then (one and four years old). I selfishly didn’t mind getting everyone to try out new dishes. After analysing the menu for longer than necessary, I asked for the Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes with a drizzle of mayonnaise), Chicken Croquetas and Chicken Wings, and he ordered for the Beef Fillet. The Bravas were piquantly tasteful, but (obviously) too spicy for the kids. The chicken wings were flavourful but kids being kids, they were not interested in them. The fillet was grilled to perfection but the portion was only enough to feed half a person. Your guess is as good as mine, we had to pass by another restaurant on our way home, one that would take care of the boring bunch! The mister promptly reminded to keep my culinary adventures to myself.
Fast forward to two years later, I was pleasantly surprised at how the restaurant has reinvented its offering to accommodate both the foodies and the abstemious. This particular Sunday had all the promises of a beautiful day right from the onset. At 8.00am, I peered through the window to a sight of shafts of light breaking through the gaps in the clouds. It was going to be a hot day, but a wonderful one nonetheless. I slipped on my white jumpsuits and donned my kids in dresses. The mister rocked a white Superdry polo shirt and blue jeans. Surprisingly, Ngong Road was clear of its typical Sunday traffic and getting to The Hub was easy. We found a parking slot right in front of the mall and walked past the open square then up a flight of stairs and turned left. Picazzo was at the far end of the corridor. A beautiful poster stood at the entrance, detailing the day’s offering.
Picazzo is described as a piece of Madrid in Nairobi, and it’s not hard to see why. The restaurant has charming indoor and outdoor seating spaces, with a cocktail of high and low seats and tables meticulously set out on both spaces. The indoor area is colourful with stunning aesthetics, from resplendent wall paintings to hanging lights and bottles of wine painstakingly arranged on some of the walls. It makes for a great space for evening catch up with friends over wine or whisky. Given that it was a sunny afternoon, we walked straight to the terrace to the smell of grilled meat and the soft sound of jazz. A beautiful green lawn sprawled outside, framing an artificial mass of water.
Lydia, the manager, gave us a brief tour of the place. We were thrilled to know that they had a kids play area with a minder on one end of the restaurant. It was an enclosed space with numerous toys including bowling pins and balls, puzzles, blocks, colouring and drawing books and stuffed toys. My kids were in play heaven and were already getting acquainted with the toys as Lydia carried on with her brief. I took advantage of their excitement to remind them that they would only get to play on condition they finished their meals.
The Brunch selection was sufficient and familiar. There was a live pasta station which was my (and Xia’s) favourite. I watched how creamy chicken pasta is prepared and realised why my weight always piles over the weekends. Nonetheless, it was delectable making the calories worthwhile. Next to the pasta were hot pots with typical English Breakfast components including sauté potatoes and baked beans which I didn’t bother serving. On the opposite side, there was a waffle station that Xena happily led me to.
“Mama, come I show you what I will have.” She tugged at my hand.
“This chef is going to make me a waffle.”
I was surprised with her choice because as far as I was concerned she had never had them before.
“That’s interesting. Have you ever tasted a waffle?”
“Yes, when I went with my daddy to Mombasa.”
I wondered what else I didn’t know about her.
Her waffle was glazed with honey and chocolate syrup and for a minute I wished I was six years old with not a worry over expanding waistlines and hips. She was done so fast it felt like she inhaled the waffle. Then she dug into Xia’s pasta.
The mister helped himself to some beef stir fry which was also freshly done at a live station and proceeded to fill his plate with prawns and beef from the grill.
Once done with their meals, the kids happily scuttled to the play area leaving the mister and I to enjoy bottomless Sangria and Mimosas and some adult conversations. At quarter to three o’clock, our hostess reminded us that brunch would be closing shortly and we should help ourselves to whatever we wanted before then. We had had enough to eat, but the desert was tempting. I rounded up the kids who surprisingly all settled for the passion fruit cheese cake while I had the sweet melons which were so good that everybody dug in and Lydia had to bring us more from the kitchen. Right after they were done, the kids ran back to the playroom.
“So what do you think about the brunch?” I asked the mister while motioning the waitress for a refill of the mimosa.
“I dare say it has stolen my heart. It defines simplicity.”
The foodie in me felt that it could do with more exciting inclusions for the adventurous eaters, something I pointed out to Lydia. However, the kids play area takes the cup. For about two hours, it felt good to be “26” and and on a date.
***To win a voucher for two for the Sunday Brunch, drop a comment below explaining why you think you deserve it the most. The winner will be announced on next week’s blog post.
Picazzo Restaurant & Lounge hosts the Sunday Jazz Brunch from 11am to 3pm at a cost of KES 2,200 pps for the brunch and soft drinks and KES 2,900 for the bottomless sangria/mimosa option. Kids under 12 are charged KES 1,000 and those below six get in for free. While we were guests of Picazzo, the review is entirely unbiased. ***