Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant

Nestled away on the Mombassa’s South Coast, just a stones throw away from the beach and 5 minutes from the resort we were staying at, we found Ali Babour’s Cave Restaurant.

We went to the restaurant in a group of about 30 or more people. We were the first batch to arrive at the resort for the wedding. At the entrance of the restaurant, there is a small foyer.

From there you can look straight down though a large hole into the bar below.

A winding staircase leads you through large openings in a rock face that end up literally in a cave.

Ali Barbour’s is a restaurant that is situated IN a cave! There is not a single flat wall in the place. This also does not seem to be a man made cave but rather a natural one. The only tampered surface that I noticed would probably be the floor.

The proprietors have made very good use of the space available placing large tables, small tables, and divan’s around the area arranged in an eclectic fashion. Uniformed layouts feel so clinical. The lighting was also ascetically placed in enclaves around the room and even openings in the cavern walls.

One of the coolest features in this eatery has to be the ceilings. As this is a cave, the walls curve upward and form low ceilings around the edge of the cavern and then vault towards the center of the room. The high roof in this area is actually a gaping hole that opens up a mind blowing view to the Mombassa sky. I do not know what they do when it rains but fortunately we did not have to find out that night.

One would assume that Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant offers Arabic or Middle Eastern cuisine. But in fact the menu here is what I would describe as continental. I really hate that word. Maybe I should call it Western or European with a hint of East African fusion. Traveling in large groups usually means moving slowly so by the time we actually got seated and ordered our food we were all quite famished. Everyone ordered a la carte but we ended up digging into each others food because it was all so god dammed good! The dude next to me started with these fried prawns.

Being a costal city, Mombassa offers some extremely fresh and delicious seafood. Taking advantage of that, I indulged in some uncooked oysters dressed in a local spiced garlic and cheese dressing. It was off the hook.

The Avocado Vinaigrette was…. Sour. Which I suppose is a good thing. I actually like avocadoes and I think you have to be a real dumb ass to screw up this dish. So it was good.

How do these ribs look? I can actually remember the flavor of the sauce and for lack of a better term, these ribs were finger lickin’ good. Let me tell you something about East and South African meat. It will kick the shit out of Japanese Kobe Beef any day of the fucking week. Yeah. I said it. That over pretentious slab of flesh stands nowhere close to the homegrown cattle that live and feed off the green African fields. This is natural meat with fat in all right places. Just like them African women. None of the organic crap bred in labs and force fed chemical crap. I swear I have eaten some of the best steaks I have ever tasted in my life on this trip.

I do not remember eating this meat. It looks like chicken to me and I don’t really do chicken. But the pepper sauce was awesome. In fact black pepper sauce is a specialty all along the Mombassa coast. Every place I ate at made a tantalizing black pepper sauce. In fact you will see more varieties and twists on the East African pepper sauce in future posts. You have no idea how difficult it is to focus on this post right now. I don’t even have a cook here. Fuck it, I’m ordering in right now.

This dish right here was a real crowd pleaser. My sister-in-law Ade ordered it and after she passed around a few bites I saw the brothers eyeing her dish like a pack of vicious hyenas. It was a lobster cooked in some local fashion. This was one of the fusion dishes on the menu. Ade did not actually even finish her dish but no one grabbed what was left. One of mates 2 weeks later actually admitted to me that had he known her better at the time he would have hit her up for the rest of it. 2 weeks later he still remembered it. That is how good the item was.

This chicken concussion looks pretty good too but like I said, I don’t really do chicken so I do not recall what it tasted like.

My sister was vegetarian so she got this baked item. I want to say it was lasagna but I remember something about aubergines. I am not really very friendly with the veggies either but she liked it so much that she forced a bite on me. Well I never really have to be forced to eat. So she actually just nudged it towards me. It was good.

My main course was the last to arrive. And writing about this right now is making me salivate all over my keyboard. Dude, when they brought my dish to the table I saw heads turn. I felt like a proud father who just witnessed the birth of his first masculine child. How could I be in one of Africa’s most well known coastal cities and not order the SEAFOOD PLATTER? Gad damn!!! Do you see that lobster? The fried calamari, grilled fish, barbecued prawns, and shredded crab?! I am so damn emotional right now. And the flavors of the marinade were perfectly light, not over powering the taste of the seafood. I really do not know enough adjectives to go on about this dish.

Dessert was a whole separate affair that I hade no space for. I am not really a sweet toothed person. I do enjoy the occasional chocolate cheese cake, tiramisu, and even some fresh fruits but I am not one of those freaks who gets all orgasmic over cakes. I saw these cooks playing with brass pans and firing big flames into the air. I am not a fan of fire either. I retired to the bar.

As people finished eating they slowly moved over to the bar. Some people stayed back to drink and others turned in. It was a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with and size up the other guests at the wedding. Spot the hot single chicks, the fun people to get pissed with, the stoners, and the disgruntle folks to avoid. Fortunately there was not a single one of the latter. I already got off to a shaky start taking pictures of all the food. People probably assumed I was some sort of freak enjoying a culinary fetish. There was lots of toasting and drinking and laughing. Once the light weights thinned out of the crowd a few of us even went down to the ‘40 Thieves Bar’ that was on the beach only 5 minutes walk away. I did not take any pictures there but it was a simple bar on the beach playing the standard top 20 hip-hop music. No luck for the reggae lovers. I however did indulge in numerous dark rum and cokes. I was trying to awaken the pirate in me. I succeeded.

Writing these wedding posts is turning out to be a real blast for me. I am sifting through hundreds of pictures and reliving all of the experiences. Looking back I realize I met some awesome people on this trip and I did share this blog with them although I am not sure if I ever bothered to write down the URL for anyone. But now I got a whole list of new places to visit and I think London has to be my first stop.


surri said...

the food looks good. Although all I could think about was heartburn!

kubolo bway said...

shists, and you expect me to eat my boring sandwich for lunch now and be satisfied?

Zuul said...

man, i want sum of dat food, but yes come to london!!!!!
Im still trying to find a cool reggae bar, got any suggestions?