For a long time, I have had my eye on Pharley’s Cafe at Spinners Web. Located in Kitisuru, the café is a fairly new addition to the Spinners Web shop, which sells an array of gift items, clothing, hand-woven carpets and wall hangings, handcrafted sculptures, jewelry and furniture,
After first arriving in Kenya in 1971, Jacqueline Resley started Spinners Web in 1985 as a showplace for Kenya’s spinners and weavers. Over the years, Spinners Web moved from place to place. The shop flourished at its locale on Peponi Road, establishing links with over 400 suppliers.
What was once conceived as a showplace for Kenya’s spinners and weavers, has evolved into a one-stop shop with a diverse range of handcrafted products. Today, Spinners Web, run by Jacque and her daughter – Inga, supports workshops across Africa – although the products on sale are largely crafted by skilled Kenyan artisans.
Last year, Spinners Web moved to its current home in a striking house in Kitisuru, designed by Jacque’s former husband, and renowned architect, Karl Henrik Nøstvik, who designed the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in 1965.
The space also now hosts Pharley’s Cafe, run by Tim Challen, a trained Manchester chef who has worked at the Hilton in Florida and the famous Ivy restaurant in London, spending years perfecting his trade before arriving in Kenya almost a decade and a half ago. He traversed the country working at establishments from Loisaba to Tamarind Dhow, and the menu and the food show his culinary prowess.
So, on one long weekend, I went to Pharley’s Cafe for a laid-back family lunch with my extended family. Once we got there, we were directed to an entrance near the lower parking area, as entering through the main house is not accessible. However, after getting into the restaurant courtyard after much difficulty, we were informed of another entrance through the top parking area, which made accessing the café easier.
Spinners Web extends beyond the main house in a glass-walled area, surrounding the central courtyard with a small garden with lush, green plants, a fountain and Pharley’s Cafe.
I was so glad the café and the shop are accessible as I was previously unable to visit Spinners Web at its previous location due to lack of wheelchair access.
The café has a small counter with a blackboard listing the day’s specials, alongside drinks and desserts. There were several large communal wooden tables and a small reading corner where visitors can pick up a book to read as they grab a bite or have a cup of coffee. Since we were seven of us, we took a whole table for ourselves, which was super spacious. The table décor consisted of a succulent tray, which you could also buy at the shop. So cute!As we decided what to order, I checked the drinks menu, which offers an array of coffees and teas, smoothies, fresh juices, kombucha and cocktails. I ordered a Mocha. Mmm, they make some good coffee.The kombucha and fresh juices were a big hit with the group too.We then ordered our meals. The food menu consisted of several brunch dishes, paninis, soups, tacos, pasta, pies and Buddha bowls, alongside cakes and brownies for dessert. There was also a children’s menu with dishes like Pancakes with Banana and Honey.
Dad opted for a Tomato and Roasted Pepper Soup, which he said was super filling and would be quite lovely for a chilly day.
My aunt and uncle opted to share a Green Goddess falafel bowl, which was composed of falafels, couscous, pickled cucumber, mabucha (a cooked tomato and roasted bell pepper spread seasoned with garlic and chili pepper), avocado, seeds and tahini dressing. I managed to try a little of the couscous with the spicy mabucha and it was scrummy.My cousin ordered a Plain Omelet, which he quickly scarfed down, alongside the chips he got on the side. My other cousin, who photographed for me, ordered a Caprese Panini, a sun-dried tomato, mozzarella, pesto and basil toasted sandwich wrapped in white parchment paper, served with a salad and fries. He quickly devoured his panini, exclaiming it’s delightful.Mom got a Ginger Power Buddha bowl, which comprised zucchini and carrot ribbons, tangy mango, chickpeas, roasted sweet potato, butternut, pumpkin, red pepper and a pickled ginger dressing. Super light, it was perfect for a summery day. I especially loved the ginger dressing and the crunch of the carrots.I ordered the Veggie Poached Eggs. Two poached eggs came on toasted bread topped with sautéed spinach and garlic mushrooms, all covered with a brie hollandaise. I love a runny yolk, and unfortunately, the eggs were not cooked to my liking; but since I complained after eating half of them, I refused their offer to remake me another portion which I really appreciated.We also enjoyed a portion of some rather addictive spicy fries.As if that wasn’t enough, we had to have some dessert. We got the Chocolate Millionaire’s Cake, the Peanut Butter Brownie and two Chocolate Eclairs. The oh-so-decadent Chocolate Millionaire’s Cake was super fluffy and moist. Light and airy, the Eclairs were perhaps one of the best I’ve tried.I really loved the Peanut Butter Brownie, a fudgy brownie covered with peanut butter, as the two taste profiles complement each other very well.Of course, when Diva came down for her summer holidays, we went back for a mother-daughters Sunday lunch to Pharley’s. To drink, Diva got a thick smoothie: Dark Chocolate and Banana Blaster which was really rich and delightful, while I had a Strawberry Kombucha to drink and Mom got some fresh Lemon and Ginger Juice.
While Diva got the delicious Green Goddess Buddha bowl which she loved, Mom and I opted to share a portion of those Soft Shell Mexican Tacos, which comprised of three wheat tortilla tacos filled with sautéed vegetable strips and served with tomato salsa and limes to squeeze. We didn’t quite enjoy the tacos as we found the tacos to be a little dry and that they needed some sort of spicy sauce to pull it all together.
And of course, we had to get those addictively-good spicy fries.
We had to get dessert again. Yes, we got the Peanut Butter Brownie and it was just as good, but we also got a slice of Carrot Cake. It was hands-down the best carrot cake I’ve had (sorry Java House) with nuts speckled onto the cream cheese frosting and the dried fruit baked inside, making it super moist, luscious and delectable. We enjoyed the desserts with cappuccinos.
With efficient and friendly service, Pharley’s Cafe has a great menu full of dishes ideal for a nice brunch, lunch or even a coffee date. The bright, airy atmosphere really helps create fun, chilled vibes as you grab a bite and shop. After a leisurely al-fresco meal, we certainly enjoyed browsing through the shop, adding products onto a mental wish list.
UPDATE: Unfortunately for us, Pharley’s Cafe has shut down in October 2018. Can someone tell me where I can find their delicious and simply moreish carrot cake?
Photos, unless stated otherwise, by Mikhil Shah