Having read about Pallet Cafe, I had added it onto my list of places in Nairobi to visit, especially after learning that many of their staff have hearing impairments.
Located in Lavington along James Gichuru Road, Pallet Cafe is a rustic outdoor café set up under a gazebo. The path leading to the café was lined with metal tracks and the ground is gravelly rendering it passable but with a little difficulty.
As Ekta and I were led to our reserved table, we had a good look at the place. The décor is quirky and cute with chandeliers made from old reusable bottles hanging from a translucent roof and simple wooden furniture. Metal barrels have been repurposed to create little sofas upholstered in colorful kanga fabric. Set in a verdant garden, the café is flanked by a kitchen, a music school and a curio shop in a make-shift container on the premises.The staff, dressed in black attire, are all hearing impaired but through simple sign language and apt attentiveness offer some of the loveliest service ever.
As our server gave us the menu, Ekta and I poured over it trying to decide what to eat. The front page of the menu has basic sign language on it which can be used to order mostly coffee. The menu covers a range of food preferences from pastries and breakfast dishes to salads, tacos and burgers to sandwiches, wraps and tacos to a selection of zoodles (zucchini noodles). They even make their sauces such as BBQ Sauce, Salsa Verde, Tamarind and Dates Sauce, Red Pepper Mayo Sauce, Dates and Honey Sauce and Hot Chili Sauce in-house. A special menu is placed out front with daily specials and kids also get their own dedicated menu.To quench your thirst, you can choose from a range of teas and coffee, smoothies, juices and milkshakes.
As we waited for our food, the founder, Fazul Hussein, sat with us briefly, telling us about the place. Inspired to expand his hiring policies, he wanted people living with a disability to have an equal opportunity to employment, and thus a large majority of his kitchen employees and wait staff have hearing impairments.
The ordering process at the café is quite simple actually. As soon as customers come in, they’re guided to a table and provided with menus. Given that the waiters cannot hear, they tend to be 100% alert, constantly scanning to see if customers require attendance. When a customer finally decides on what they would like, they signal over to a waiter to take their order. The customer can point on what they would like on the menu using codes assigned to each meal or drink. Alternatively, they can write their order down on a pad of paper, which the waiter constantly carries, together with a pen.
We chose to order by pointing on the menu as our order was quite simple. But we were highly encouraged to have conversations with the wait-staff, who are excited to help customers learn basic sign language. I’m not exaggerating when I say this but they were literally the sweetest.
Since it was a hot day, Ekta and I both ordered Iced Coffee. Smoothly blended, the Iced Coffee was the perfect pick-me-up drink you need on a sunny lazy Saturday afternoon. To eat, Ekta got a Beef Burger, while I specially requested for the Pallet Breakfast. They usually don’t do breakfast outside breakfast hours but made a special exemption for me as I had been especially looking forward to it.
As we waited for the food, we noticed how cute the table decor was from the charming salt and pepper shakers to the adorable table number holder.Ekta’s Beef Burger comprised of a prime cut beef patty with roasted red pepper mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, mixed salad, sour pickles and a slice of sweet roasted bell pepper. Served alongside some golden crunchy chips, Ekta devoured this burger voraciously but was ultimately defeated by its enormous portion.My Pallet Breakfast comprised of two poached eggs served on a bed of pan-fried potato hash browns and boiled asparagus, seasoned with black pepper. It came with a side of guacamole and herby pesto. The eggs were flawless with nice runny yolks that added a creaminess to the crispy potato hash browns. And pairing the dish with their Hot Chilli Sauce, it was the perfect match. Having craved hash browns for a while, this meal just hit the spot for me.After this scrumptious meal, Ekta and I went to play with some precious Rottweiler pups at a friend’s place.Honestly, with charming décor, pocket-friendly prices, delicious food and impeccable service from empowered staff, Pallet Cafe is here to change Nairobi’s scene in a new and memorable way. And I can’t wait to go back to this cute little café!
DISCLOSURE: We received a discounted meal, but, as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.
Photos by Ekta Patel