The ‘Nairobi life’ experience is changing fast with new, cool spots to shop, eat and browse popping up all over the place. Fail to refresh your social media feeds and you will miss out. Honestly, it’s hard to keep up.
I’ve been on a kind of fool’s mission to find the best croissant in my hood lately and to my surprise, there’s a massive number options right here on the doorstep. In fact, there’s a heck of a lot that is new in Karen lately, so I’m going to give you a bit of a rundown of what I have only just discovered (as usual, am way behind the curve…). Yes, we still have the Karen Blixen museum, the Giraffe Centre, Sheldrick elephants and the Karen Country Club but there is so much more…
Quest for the perfect croissant in Karen: The jury is still out!!
- I recently discovered the Bbrood bread shop on Magadi road. It’s worth a small trek to find it (head down Magadi behind Galleria and it’s tucked behind a Total petrol station). Delicious spelt and rye bread, ciabatta, rolls and the biggest/most oversized, melting ‘pain au chocolat’ imagineable. Yummy plain croissants too.
- My next discovery was Alexandre Bakery in Karen, oddly hidden in an office park behind the Karen Riding School and Karengata offices (Marula Lane opposite Marula Manor). I know about Alexandre at Yaya and their cakes are mouth wateringly delicious (vanilla and strawberry recommended). Very tempted to order one for my next special occasion (4,000 for 1kg cake) and I couldn’t leave that shop without a couple of eclairs. So naughty.
- Brioche coffee shop within the Watermark office park on Langata Road is a new outlet but to be honest, I am yet to buy a croissant from there. They looked good though.
- I have to admit that old favourite Artcaffe in Hub and Karen Crossroads mall do have legendary ‘pain au chocolat’ and let’s not forget their almond croissants… while stocks last.
If I had to make a final choice, then I think that Alexandre Bakery might just have the edge.
The Hub Shopping Mall, Karen
Okay so we all know about the fact that the sparkling, new The Hub shopping centre is open (and we also know A LOT about the crazy road works right outside) but there are new shops and food outlets opening up inside there all the time. Sometimes I can’t face the intrusive security checks that are required prior to entrance to any shopping centre in Nairobi. The other day, a security guy actually starting fishing around in my handbag while checking the car?! Since my bag was due to be checked again when entering on foot, I thought that this was a bit much?! Is it just me or will I never get used to those damned security checks? Intrusive or what?
Favourite Hub hangouts:
- Yup, it’s still Carrefore. I make a beeline for those ‘Carrefore products’ little blue signs, then spend 10 minutes weighing up whether I can justify spending more for that taste of French luxury. (how many times have I picked up salami, then put it back…?)
- Restaurants: I tried out Picasso Tapas restaurant last Friday night. Food was good. Not stunning but good. I appreciated the cool DJ but the place was quiet, so not much dancing sadly. My favourite place to eat is probably Ocean Basket. Artcaffe layout is drafty, but good on a sunny day. Zucchini salad bar and juices were yum but service slow.
- Kids: My daughter loved the ‘Funzone’ kids/gaming area for her last birthday get together and I am eternally grateful for the school uniform shop (even though it’s almost impossible to find. FYI, it’s on the second floor next to the management office). Word to The Hub – where is your information desk?! Or at least orientate those security guards.
- Gifts: I like to gaze dreamily into the windows of the luxe jewellers and happily browse the gift shops. Last week I spent ages in the Madora perfumery and cosmetics shop and found a couple of birthday pressie options there.
- The Camping shop, Nike/Reebok store and Nairobi Sports House have outdoor activewear covered.
Have you discovered the Hardy mall shops yet?
Most Karen residents know about this but downstairs is HPS supermarket (direct relation to the famous Karen Karen Provision Store, or KPS, who stock things like real English mustard and marmite) and Newscafe restaurant, who don’t half serve up a good Caesar salad (other Newscafe branches in Sarit Centre and opp Yaya).
Then upstairs there are some excellent gift shops The Shop, Safari Essentials, Pink Skink and a fab new bookshop to open soon (related to the big book shop in Village market, formerly known as Westland Sundries – odd name.) Go up again more level and there’s a pleasant roof terrace, a branch of Nothing Like It Spa (hair and beauty salon), plus a dance school. And the best bit? No security checks (yet!). Right now you can just pull up in your car and enter unencumbered and uninterrupted. Heaven.
Just around the corner is Langata Link, which also has a great gift shop and Tin Roof cafe.
Check out the Little Gallery and Esprit Gallery on Nandi Road and the even newer Polka Dot gallery located next to the Souk (opposite The Hub). The latter are also running art workshops and lectures occasionally. Worth checking in on both of their social media pages.
Did you know?
There’s going to have to be a whole new post on eating out in Karen, but before I go, did you know about the fab fish shop ‘Captain’s Quality Seafood’ next to Alexandre bakery behind the Karengata offices off Marula Lane? Sushi quality salmon and tuna, prawns, calamari and lots more. My small salmon steak was delicious.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything (which I’m sure I have)
Security-check free pit stop shopping:
- Karengata gift shops and café
- Hardy Mall
- Karen Provision Stores –(but beware those city council parking attendants in yellow jackets- safest to park in the chip-coin car park behind Que Pasa).
- The Purdy Arms – Saturday farmer’s market, restaurant, gift shop, hairdresser, climbing wall, archery.
- Marula Studios – home of Ocean Sole – recycled flip flop gifts.
- The Souk (book shop, cafe, leather belts and jewellery).
- House of Treasures – home decor
Even faster pit stops:
- Shell petrol station, Karen. mini-market, chemist and Java
- Kabwagi shops – Foodies mini market and the fabulous Links pharmacy upstairs.
- Karen corner – flowers and veg.
Online grocery shopping:
Featured image credit: Unsplash, Alisa Anton