And then the moment I was waiting for had arrived…the mighty freakshake was here.
Okay, I’ll start from the start from the beginning…
One of my favorite coffee and lunch spots in Nairobi is the Zen Garden. I absolutely love their wheelchair friendly layout, their food and the green free space that create a serene dining atmosphere.
Started in 2007 by the sister-duo, Payal Radia and Shivani Radia-Patel, who also have a fabulous blog – PS The World is Our Runway, Zen Garden is a combination of three business units. There is the Bamboo Oriental Restaurant, a Pan-Asian inspired restaurant that seats up to 200 people daily, as well as Jade Coffee & Tea House, a child-friendly all day coffee house, with large conference facilities that cater to the growing corporate clientele in Kenya. The two-and-a-half-acre space can also host events in the Zen Square – a garden area ideal for events or special occasions such as weddings or birthday celebrations.
While Shivani focused on the business and marketing aspects of the restaurants, Payal and her mother focused on the creative aspects of the restaurants, based on their passion for food, interiors, and garden landscaping. This led them to add on to their original idea of just a small Pan-Asian restaurant, akin to a zen garden, the Bamboo Oriental Restaurant with the Jade Coffee & Tea House and the Zen Square.
And I’m glad they did because I love to often pop in for a quick cuppa or a nice relaxed lunch with my girlfriends at Jade. Or sometimes, I grab dinner at Bamboo (their sushi is amazing). Regardless of where you’re sitting, you can order from both the restaurants, except on Sundays when the kitchens get very busy. This is perfect as everyone can get the best of both cuisines. Imagine having sushi served alongside oven-baked pizza with fries and a milkshake!
Diva and I recently saw that they had updated both the Jade and Bamboo menus with the Jade menu with a now larger café selection. After a long struggle of finding a good time to visit (as the Jade Coffee & Teahouse is not open at night, although I really wish it was), we finally managed to go on a busy Sunday for a nice sister brunch!
We strolled in and immediately were led to our table overlooking the garden where a pink jumping castle was set up. Since it was a sunny day, the place was full of families.Zen’s seating is mostly outdoors on a patio overlooking the lush, green gardens. Bamboo also has an indoor seating area, which is nice when it’s cooler at night, while Jade mostly has seating under a canvas canopy on the patio. And I must mention the signature roses on each table are always so beautiful.
We were presented with the Jade menu. The Jade menu consists of a kid menu with items like Eggs and Soldiers and waffles that I have my eye on for my next time I have brunch there. The menu also comprises of a brunch section with choices like waffles, granola and a variety of egg dishes. Then, there is a selection of appetizers, salads, pasta, burgers and sandwiches, select specials and their famous oven-baked rectangular pizzas to choose from. I have tried their pizzas before and the thin-crusted, crispy pies are delicious. And of course, there were desserts on the menu, such as macarons and a variety of cakes, and the star of our meal – freakshakes. Diva and I had already decided on getting a freakshake, before we got to Zen.Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs so Diva and I had to fight the urge to order everything (vegetarian) off the menu. We settled on two dishes to share and to leave space for the massive freakshake. Diva had her eyes on their Loaded Fries for a while now, so we got that. And to not feel guilty for the indulgence with the freakshake later, I tried to compensate with the Black Bean Quinoa from the Tossed Leaves section.
The Loaded Fries arrived first. The fries were baked under sour cream, guacamole, spicy salsa, olives, and jalapenos and topped with gooey melted cheddar cheese. These tasted great, but under the weight of the toppings, the fries became limp, and the whole dish became soggy. This dish is also offered as loaded nachos, which I think would be better, as the crunchy tortilla chips will complement the creamy toppings.Next came the Black Bean Quinoa. Served in lettuce leaves for garnishing, the salad comprised of cooked quinoa topped with black beans and a handful of veggies including carrots, cucumber, sweet peppers, corn, and avocado. The salad was dressed in a delicious chili, lime and sea salt dressing. I love quinoa and the dressing alleviated this grain salad to another level, making it perfectly refreshing in the heat. I took the leftovers (yes, we still couldn’t finish everything we ordered) to work. It was both filling, as a great source of protein, and energizing.The Jade menu also offers a range of fresh juices, teas, coffees, milkshakes and cocktails. Diva and I kept our drink options on the lighter side to save space for the enormous freakshake, so I got still Mineral Water and Diva got freshly-made Passion Juice.
And then the moment I was waiting for had arrived… the mighty freakshake was here.Diva had ordered a chocolate freakshake – a milkshake topped with the week’s crazy toppings.Freakshakes, a hybrid mash-up of dessert and milkshake, have been all the rage since 2015, when a little Canberra patisserie, Patissez, graced the world with this sweet invention.
Our freakshake was a rich chocolate milkshake served in a mason jar topped with a piece of fudgy chocolate brownie, chocolate sauce and whipped cream with multicolor nonpareils (hundreds and thousands). On top of all that, the freakshake was decadently served with pink and white meringue sticks. The crunch of the colorful nonpareils and the meringue sticks with the velvety, airy whipped cream and the fudgy brownie coupled with the rich chocolate milkshake. Though I found the meringue sticks a little too sweet for my liking, I could see why freakshakes are popular! Definitely, a must-try if you can handle the sugar-overload.Since Dad was picking us up from brunch, I ordered him a Peppermint Mocha from the Jade drinks menu. The server mistakenly brought an Iced Mocha, which he switched to the Peppermint Mocha once we alerted him of his mistake. I love the Peppermint Mocha – the fusion of the chocolate, coffee, and mint flavors is incredible. I even sneaked a few couple sips of Dad’s coffee.
Dining at Zen Garden is usually pleasant and despite being busy, the servers were always ready to assist whenever needed, under the careful management of Grace.
When I asked Shivani what their future plans for Zen were, especially since the restaurants are popular and they just hosted the seventh Fashion High Tea, she revealed that they plan to launch Zen Gelato soon. Mmm, I can’t wait to try their gelato!
And with that, we trudged home to pass out in a food coma and a sugar high.
Have you been to Zen Garden? What are your favorite dishes? I’d love to hear below.
Photos, unless otherwise stated, are by Diva Shah