Kilifi resident Adam Kiboi suggests his top picks of places to eat for anyone heading down to the County.
1. Che Shale, near Malindi
Che Shale Hotel, 20 km North of Malindi, is pretty much the go-to option for great kitesurfing and ranks among the top accommodation options in the county. They however have another title; Che Shale has the best farm to plate seafood experience in Kenya. In an environment best described as castaway-chic and by a beach that is literally golden, tuck into an array of fresh juices, seafood pasta, steaks and more. They have an organic crab farm, a passion project by owner Justin, which provides massive mangrove crabs served in various ways blended with local flavours and spices. If you’ve never had soft shell crab fried until golden crispy with a dab of mango salsa, or the perfect crab cakes, this is the place to go. For more information call: +254 722 230 931.
2. Crab Shack, Watamu
Crab Shack on Mida Creek is proof that collective effort can result in great cuisine. Owned and run by the Dabaso Creek Conservation Group, access to the Crab Shack is via a 200-metre boardwalk through a mangrove forest. The boardwalk and restaurant support local community conservation efforts. The restaurant itself sits on stilts in the creek and offers stunning views of Kirepwe Island providing an excellent sundowner setting. Crab Shack can sit about 15 people comfortably so they do insist on making a reservation at least 24 hours ahead of time. The food is incredible and as their name suggests, your best option off their menu is, of course, their crab. The crab samosas, for instance, are delectable to the point of being sinful. For more information call: +254 725315562.
3. Salty's KiteSurf Village, Kilifi
Situated right on Bofa Beach is the famed Salty's Kitesurf Village Cafe, a sea facing restaurant and bar decked out with bean bags, comfy spots to chill and speakers for jammin’ to great music. It’s so amazing that you can get straight out of the ocean, towel off, and grab a quick beer and bite before heading back out. They source fish fresh from the Indian Ocean and get other ingredients from local farmers. They also grow most of their vegetables on-site and the menu isn’t fixed per se, as they focus on what’s most readily available or in season. However you can expect dishes based on East African cuisine with occasional touches of Mediterranean and South American flavours. For more information call: +254 794 449 196
4. Bahati Gelateria, Watamu
Bahati Gelateria on the bustling Watamu Road is touted as the go-to spot for the best artisanal gelato in East Africa. Opened in 2006, it is a small unassuming place surrounded by tailors and woodcarver shops but it is busy from morning to evening. You might find yourself in a queue due to their popularity but it’s well worth the wait. They use fresh fruit to ensure rich natural flavours in their products, and favourites include passion, lemon, coconut and pistachio gelatos.
5. Hosteria Romana, Watamu
Watamu Beach Road can feel excessively busy sometimes but once you step into Hosteria Romana, you may lose your bearings. It is reminiscent of a tiny Italian restaurant right down to the red and white tablecloths; proprietors Julio and Francesca have created the perfect ambience to enjoy their selection of pasta, seafood and pizza. Try the ‘Saltimbocca alla Romana’. Saltimbocca literally means jump in the mouth and that’s how the flavours of their veal wrapped in prosciutto works around your palette. For meat lovers, the best option off the menu has got to be the beef pizza. For more information call: +254 710 369039.
6. Distant Relatives Eco-lodge and Backpackers, Kilifi
Their Friday pizza night is a weekly event that also serves as a Kilifi community get together complete with good music. They have classics like the margherita as well as truly unique options such as their pumpkin avocado pizza. Another great dining option from Distant Relatives is the moonrise sail with dinner on a secluded temporary beach. A jolly Captain Issa will pick you up from Fumbene Beach for a sail down the creek while treating you to a delectable Swahili dinner cooked on the dhow. If you’d like to book the moonrise dhow cruise, check your calendar for the next full moon and call ahead; cast off is usually at 6pm.For more information call +254 746674038.
7. Wild Living Café, Kilifi
Wild Living Café, 1 km after the Kilifi Bridge as you head to Mombasa, was a much-needed addition to the establishments in the area. It serves the best pastries in Kilifi and provides a great spot for quick lunches. It is also a great spot to take your laptop and work over good coffee. Stop by the Wild Living Hub where you can get various ethical and organic products including clothing. The cafe is open from 8 to 11 pm every day. For more information call: +254 791 183312.
7. The Sands at Mandharini, Kilifi
This is set on a private beach with panoramic views of Kilifi creek and is part of a luxury housing development. Don’t let the luxury tag fool you though; the blend of coral faced walls, granite bar, modern decor and understated furnishing with a Swahili makuti roof balances beach bar comfort with informal dining. Their menu changes with what’s readily available ensuring fresh ingredients are constantly in use. You can however always expect house favourites like whole taffi grilled with a Swahili coconut sauce. “My favourite combination would be chilli buttered crab claws followed by garlic and ginger prawns finished off with a lemon sorbet. It is fresh, not too heavy and ideal for lunch in this coastal climate,” suggests General Manager Hugo Needham. This is predominantly a lunchtime venue but can also take dinner bookings if you make a reservation. For more information call: +254 719 164 664.
8. The Food Movement, Kilifi Plantation
This eatery is run by Warren Wilson, a man truly passionate about his food. Formerly a chicken farm, the quirky and rustic restaurant is surrounded by fig and baobab trees and one wall has a striking mural by 4shore design whose studio is right next door. The innovative dishes on the menu are constantly changing, and each is a carefully curated blend of flavours that one might either not think to put together or an entirely new take on a classic. They use fresh locally grown vegetables, free-range organic beef and fowl and freshly caught seafood from Kilifi Creek to create their meals. With menu options such as “Free range poached eggs served with caramelised balsamic onion jam, deep fried sweet potato balls stuffed with mozzarella and basil pesto.“ The Food Movement has got to be on your bucket list of places to eat. They’re open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00pm and take reservations via +254 711 284 347.