An art exhibition you can eat in
The connection between food and art has a long tradition, and this restaurant in Malindi is bringing that to life by displaying incredible art collections making sure customers don’t take their eyes off the wall as they partake of the savoury Italian cuisines, also presented like works of art
Harriet James @harriet86jim
I love pasta and I love art too. So when my host Lawford’s hotel in Mlindi, Kilifi county, Francesca Biancacci Lawford invited me to sample the Italian cuisine at Baby Marrow restaurant in the town, I was ecstatic.
Another thing that made me jump up to my feet was when I heard that the restaurant was also an art gallery.
For one, having paintings create an excellent conservational piece and assists in keeping the tête-à-tête flow and enjoying the company that you have.
We arrived at 7.30 pm and because of the curfew put in place as a measure to keep Covid-19 at bay, this restaurant, which is usually full at night, was empty, but the waiters together with the owner Maurizio Mogavero were alert waiting to serve us.
The restaurant is located on Vasco Da Gama road and I loved its intimate setting with a makuti thatched roof.
More striking was the bold contemporary art, which has made the restaurant stand out for not just being a dining place, but a gallery.
There were pictures of African women created by an Italian artist, Giampaolo Tomasi as part of his series dubbed “I Saw African Women.”
He desires to create images of women who are bold and understood by the whole world.
We were given the menu, but since I have this habit of always requesting that the owner or the waiter recommends their favourite food for me, we were told that we would enjoy pizza with parma ham and that’s what we ordered.
And no good food goes alone without some great white wine and in this case, my host ordered Carstel Firmian, which is said to go well with Italian cuisines.
A little chit chat as we waited for our food, I got to know amazing things about Maurizio. He tells me that he has travelled to 54 countries across the globe.
Among the countries he visited for the first time was Kenya in 2007. After years of globe trotting, Maurizio went back to his home country to settle and start business, but the economy was bad in the country at the time, and the business he had invested in failed miserably.
His friend told him that he could make money in the hospitality sector in Malindi, and since he loved the country when he visited the previous year, he packed his bags and came over to start his new life as a restaurateur.
After 10 long years of not quitting, his business has thrived attracting customers, resident Italians and locals alike.
Maurizio says he desires to offer excellent service, but sometimes getting the ingredients for Italian dishes is a challenge and importing them is expensive.
For instance, parma ham comes from a region in Italy called Parma and it’s a bit expensive compared to other types of ham, due to its long curing process.
When my pizza arrived, all I could do was savour every bite, especially now that I had been told of its origin.
I found it a little bit sweet and salty with a succulent taste and it filled my mouth with a satisfying sensation.
For the main course, I ordered black spaghetti with squid (a sea animal that belongs in the same family as the octopus) for the first time while my host opted for shrimps with curry.
To be honest, I was anxious about trying it out. From afar, the black spaghetti looks creepy and my host kept asking me whether I would be comfortable having it or I should just try out something else. I declined a replacement and started digging into the meal.
So I learnt that the squid ink is what gives the pasta it’s gorgeous black colour, and voila, you get the black coloured pasta.
The taste too surprised me as it was salty and had a fish flavour. I thought my teeth would be stained black after the meal, but weren’t.
I am told though, that if it stains your white clothes, you might need some bleach to get it out.
For dessert we sampled sorbetto, some kind of ice-cream with a touch of lemon, which my host tells me is for cleansing the stomach.
We got back to the hotel before the curfew, and all I could think about was the memorable dinner at the restaurant, which not only offfered culinary creativity, but also a permanent art gallery.