Mombasa Restaurant business explode after Uhuru visit
Mombasa, Kenya: Baraka Restaurant in Mombasa’s Old Town has acquired new fame following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent impromptu visit for lunch accompanied by local MPs.
Patrons and the management are yet to recover from the excitement that gripped them when the President came calling unannounced and exchanged bear hugs with shocked diners.
Saada Hamid, a director of the restaurant, says they are considering renaming its VIP Lounge the ‘Presidential Lounge’.
“I received a call from Mvita MP Abdulswamad Sharif that the President and his entourage would be visiting in 30 minutes, so we should get prepared,” Saada said in an interview yesterday.
Hardly half an hour passed before the presidential motorcade pulled up at the eatery.
“I knew an important guest would be arriving because the bosses asked me to prepare the lounge, but I had no idea it would be the President,” said Ruweila Saadat, a senior assistant to the director.
Ruweila supervised service when the President came calling for lunch at the eatery.
“He just walked in like any ordinary citizen and warmly greeted all of us by hand. He is a very cool guy,” Ruweila said. “Natamani aje tena (I wish he’d visit again).”
The Standard on Sunday was informed that even the president’s security detail was sociable with the staff at the restaurant.
“They did not stick out like sore thumbs as you would expect, with bulging guns and menacing looks. They were downright friendly,” Ruweila said.
Due to the suddenness of the visit, nothing special had been prepared for the President and he had to make do with whatever was in the buffet trays.
“We served them chicken biryani, mutton biryani, a platter of mixed vegetables, beans in coconut sauce, chicken tikka, chapatti and an assortment of snacks,” says Ruweila.
The restaurant offers Swahili as well as Arab cuisine at fairly reasonable prices, ranging from five shillings for a hamri to Sh400 for chicken biryani, which is one of the most expensive meals on offer. However, meals eaten in the VIP area cost between Sh100 and Sh150 more.
The President and the leaders accompanying him were seated in an inner lounging area adjacent to the main dining section. This ‘VIP area’ is furnished with sofas and cushions in the traditional Arabic way, and is used by guests to relax over coffee after a meal. The rest of his entourage occupied the main eating area, which is furnished with rattan tables and chairs.
“He didn’t eat much, although he tried almost everything. He seemed to enjoy the tikka and chapatti the most, as well as the tamarind juice,” Saada said.
The President even stayed awhile after the meal, and took photos with the staff as his people settled the bills. He later told the crowd gathered outside, “Chakula ni poa” (The food is delicious).
Since the presidential visit, the director says her phone has not stopped ringing. “I have even been called by people from abroad, who want me to confirm whether what they have been hearing is true,” Saada said.
“This is why we are considering renaming the lounge ‘Presidential Lounge’ to honour the presidential visit to our humble establishment.”