Next up in our World in London challenge: Kenya. After a lot of research, I found this restaurant in North Finchley, which offers Kenyan-Indian cusine.
Raj Patel, 46, is Indian, born in Kenya. When he moved to London, he was inspired to open a restaurant serving the kind of food his mother cooked, an infusion of Kenyan and Indian cooking.
He’s now been running Safari Club for eight years. The 70-seater restaurant also has a side bar with a big screen for showing sporting events, and a large garden which is really popular in the summer months. I spoke to Raj about what makes the food at Safari Club different.
“The key to Kenyan cooking is the spices. The spices are what make the difference. We use an infusion of different flavours in our Kenyan-Indian cooking. Everything we make is freshly cooked: don’t come here expecting fast food or anything like that. If you order a dish, it’s going to take 20 minutes, because we cook each dish using fresh ingredients, fresh spices, fresh vegetables. And that’s true with the meat too. We don’t use frozen products here. And you can taste the difference.
“The most popular dish is the Nairobi Chicken. It has a real kick to it, but it’s not too hot. It’s not hot like a vindaloo, it’s a better flavour. Even people who’ve arrived saying they don’t like curry, but have then tried the Nairobi Chicken say they like it!
I learnt cookery from my mum. She’s the inspiration here, so you get proper home cooking Indian-Kenyan style. And while I do more front-of-house work now, I’ve trained all the chefs who work here, they’ve learnt from me. I’m guess I’m just passionate about cooking.”
Raj tells me Safari Club can be a lively place at the weekend, popular with families in the restaurant section and guys watching sport in the bar. I asked if they’ll be showing the Olympics on the big screen, and if so, which country will Raj be supporting?
“I’ll be watching India and Kenya, and England (Team GB) too! I’ve been living here most of my life so I’m hoping to celebrate with all three! It’s sometimes tricky when you have England playing India and so on, but hopefully all three will do well.”
If you’re looking for a taste of Kenya in London, Safari Club is at 975 High Road, North Finchley, London, N12
Do you know where else you can sample Kenyan culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.