Nairobi Restaurant Week is so close you can almost smell it, but how does our city’s biggest culinary celebration compare to other cities across the world and where did Restaurant Week even come from?
Unless your birthday is around the corner or you just won the lottery, January doesn’t rank high on most people’s favourite month of the year list. For the most part it feels like waking up from a hangover and rushing to work with only two drops of coffee in your system. However, once you make it past the first two weeks, you start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The alluring aroma begins to draw you in and you begin to taste the flavour in your mind, savouring each bite until it hits you – Nairobi Restaurant Week is here!
Back for its fifth consecutive year, the annual Nairobi Restaurant Week runs this year from January 25th to February 4th, with over 70 participating restaurants across the city offering special prix fixe lunch and dinner menus. Certainly more than enough time for your taste buds to discover Nairobi’s vibrant culinary scene at a discounted fee.
If you’re reading this and wondering what this is all about, here’s a brief description: launched in 2014, Nairobi Restaurant Week is an annual celebration of the city’s dynamic restaurant industry. Throughout this period, participating restaurants serve special 2 course lunch menus ranging from Ksh. 1000 to Ksh. 2500 and 3 course and 5 course dinner menus priced from Ksh. 2000 to Ksh. 5000. To top it all off, you get to enjoy a complimentary drink or special discounts on your food bill at select outlets.
This year, it’s a lot different. Downloading the new EatOut app onto your phone will allow you to browse through different restaurant NRW menus, claim your complimentary drink, redeem discounts or call your restaurant of choice to make a reservation.
As incredible as the restaurant week concept sounds, we can’t take any credit for coming up with the idea. In fact, EatOut Kenya adopted the concept quite late compared to other cities around the world. Restaurant Week was thought up in 1992 by Tim Zagat, founder of the Zagat rating system and Jim Baum, a top restaurateur in New York City. Their sole purpose was to create an annual week-long lunch-only experience that would attract tourists to the city’s restaurants, offering a special $19.92 price point across all five boroughs of the city.
The two planned the first Restaurant Week to coincide with the Democratic Convention in NYC – a week filled with new guests, mostly reporters, looking for dining options. The week-long event was such a success, New York City has witnessed it grow from a one-week event to a 4-week one. Needless to say where New York goes others follow, and it didn’t take long for it to become a nationwide phenomenon.
The concept of restaurant Week rapidly evolved from an exclusively New York celebration to a worldwide trend, with major cities adopting and sometimes putting their own spin on the concept. From Paris to London, Madrid to Tokyo, Kampala to Lagos, these days it’s harder to find a major world city that doesn’t host its own version of this popular food festival. While it is impossible to predict where the future of Restaurant Week is headed globally, one thing for certain is that here in Nairobi its popularity is not going to wane anytime soon, at least if the restaurants remain dedicated to the cause. There’s so much Nairobi has to offer, we just have to reach out and taste it.
Suddenly, January doesn’t seem so bad after all.