Good restaurants are thin on the ground in rural Kenya. The two doctors who were here in Embu before me would drive two hours to a restaurant outside Nanyuki called the “Trout Tree”, just for Sunday lunch. Well, anything is better than rice, beans, cabbage and chapattis after a while. We had already planned to stop here for lunch on our way back from our safari at Ol Pejeta.
We got there quicker than we had anticipated at 11.30am, too early for lunch. A large group of safari tourists were already moving down to the restaurant. “Why don’t we go for a walk until 1pm and reserve a table once this group has moved on?” I suggested.
The restaurant is built into a massive tree. It overlooks the trout farm. In the forest surrounding the farm, there were troops of colobus monkeys. The staff of the restaurant fed the monkeys at midday so they would come for lunch at the same time as the customers. They were a good tourist attraction. A few tree hyraxes (about the same size as a large rat) visited the diners on the top floor of the restaurant.
The maitre d’ was rather flummoxed by our request to be shown some walking trails. “There are none here. This land is all owned by farmers. Why do you want to go walking anyway? Why not sit in the bar and wait for your table?” We didn’t believe him and walked up the steep drive to the main highway. Across the road, we could see a rough track.
We followed the track up to a radio tower on the hillside, enjoying the clean air and sunshine. We could hear voices in the woods but no one came to chastise us for trespassing. By the time we got back to the treetop restaurant, it was 1pm. The big group of Safari tourists were just leaving. I quizzed them about the food and they recommended the trout. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?
We settled into a prime location and waited for the waitress. Service was extremely slow. It started off badly when my Danish colleague saw Carlsberg beer on the menu and ordered an ice cold bottle. It was not available, so he had Guinness, but was concerned about its provenance as the label had come adrift in the ice chest where drinks were kept. He wasn’t impressed by the smoked trout pizza, either. He kept us amused by reading out bad reviews from TripAdvisor as we waited for our food.
I asked for plain tap water and the waitress refused to give it to me. She said, “If tourists drink our water and get sick they will blame the food at the restaurant.” I told her that I live in Embu and drink the water from the tap, but she still refused to serve me. However, I had some wholesome vegetable soup, followed by the grilled whole trout with garlic butter and chips, which was very tasty.
We ordered tea and coffee with home-made biscuits but were given fresh fruit salad instead. After pointing out the mistake, the waitress said we could have it on the house, free of charge. But what about our tea and biscuits? It took a long while to get lukewarm water and tea bags. By this time it was almost 4pm, time to get back to Embu before darkness fell.