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THE DISH: Kenyan bars could learn a thing or two on decor and service

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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I think Kenya has a long way to go when it comes to pubs and décor. The problem here, of course, is that Kenyans are so used to locals.

Well, let me rephrase that. It isn’t really a problem – it’ a preference.

And so, because we like the slightly grimy and accessible nature of locals, not to mention the cheap liquor, we’re never going to demand more of our bars in terms of style, for that simple reason – when the pub looks nicer, the price will go up.

I think there needs to be a meeting of both, where a bottle of beer is reasonably priced and there’s still a maintenance of a homey, comfortable feel.

I admit it – I’m not a fan of locals. They rarely have something I like to drink, and I rarely appreciate the nonchalant service – which, again, many Kenyans don’t mind (which is why we generally have such nonsense service in most places, but I’ve spoken about that in previous articles, so I’ll flog the dead horse another day).

The counter at Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGAThe counter at Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

This week, I went to a bar in Phoenix, Arizona, called Windsor, and I really liked it. You know that kind of bar that you can see someone put thought into?

It felt like a meeting between a cigar lounge and an Irish pub – I say Irish because it had a bartender with a long red beard, an accent and a penchant for good beer.

The leather couches were thick and soft, the lighting was dim, but not too dim – enough for a good night out but not so much that you’ll lose your date.

Did I mention the music? They were playing a range of music that delighted my slightly aged heart, from Motown to Led Zeppelin.

The wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGAThe wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

But possibly my favourite thing about this place (outside of the blessed elbow room – don’t you hate it when you can smell what someone just ate and feel what kind of underwear they’re wearing because they’re standing so freaking close to you and there’s nowhere to breathe?) was the wall that was leading to the bathroom.

The bathrooms are shared, and so usually there’s quite a line. On the way to the bathroom, there’s a wall that’s covered in art – specifically, old cassettes from all the wonderful genres of music that they play at Windsor, covering the wall.

I’m talking used ones, some written in felt tip pen, like the way many of us did as teenagers.

I found a Michael Jackson tape on the wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGAI found a Michael Jackson tape on the wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The appeal of this is two-fold – one, the hit of nostalgia you get as you’re walking by looking for some of your favourite artistes (I immediately looked for and found my Michael Jackson) – and two, personally – the first radio show I ever hosted was called Cassette, on USIU Radio, because it played old school music.

It was a relaxed night – especially after I had the fish and chips with the tastiest Savoy cabbage coleslaw I have ever had. There was a touch of pepper in it that may have been what made all the difference.

The meal was good – the fries were in plenty, and the fish was a bit less than what I would have expected.

My perfectly mixed cocktail – the No. 63 – made from, among other things, Kentucky bourbon. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGAMy perfectly mixed cocktail – the No. 63 – made from, among other things, Kentucky bourbon served at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The fries were a touch salty, to be honest – I’m not sure if that’s a prerequisite in the States, but they do, obviously, pre-salt their food a lot – just ask McDonald’s – probably because they’re saving money on condiments (at most fast food places, you have to ask for them to add tomato sauce to your meal. Go figure).

The salt was balanced out by the two perfectly mixed cocktails I had – the No. 63 – made from, among other things, Kentucky bourbon. And that’s all I’m saying about that…