Nyeri County may not have ideal eateries that serve pizza and the like, but it has unique food joints that attract customers from far and wide.
If you visit the county and fancy traditional meals and well-roasted goat ribs, there are two iconic locations that cook great food, if the number of people flocking to the premises is anything to go by.
For more than three decades, these establishments – Tumus and To Go Is To See bar and restaurant – are renowned for the type of food they serve and the portions.
To Go Is To See is located a few kilometres from Nyeri town. Here chefs do not use cooking oil.
It is renowned for its kienyeji chicken and mukimo (mashed potatoes mixed with corn and traditional vegetables), boiled bananas and potatoes. Occasionally, they serve nyama choma and other accompaniments.
The owner, Ms Jane Wairimu, has been in the business for 34 years and has seen people from all walks of life come to enjoy delicacies from her kitchen.
“Mukimo is one of my best-selling commodities. We have people placing orders outside the township and even when the prices of potatoes shoot up, it’s one of the delicacies we have never failed to prepare,” she said.
Dishes served here are largely boiled. Chicken is served either plain or in a platter of the boiled bananas and potatoes and spinach for Sh950.
“We serve the chicken full with either of the meals the customers pick. My sole aim is to ensure that people eat healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Customers who frequent the restaurant say the serving is satisfying and “pocket-friendly”.
“The chicken is yummy and pocket friendly. You cannot afford to miss this if you are visiting Nyeri,” said Mr Gilbert Kariuki.
Ms Mary Wambui, another customer, said: “If you are in Nyeri and fancy a kienyeji chicken dish, this is the place to be. Sometimes it's ready, other times you have to wait in line for a few minutes because the orders are many because the chicken meal is in high demand.”
Ms Wairimu, of To Go Is To See, says that in the last 34 years, she has closed down the business only once – for two months during the Covid-19 pandemic that almost brought the establishment to its knees.
“There are people who operated their bars beyond the stipulated time during the pandemic and when they were being punished I was equally penalised,” she said.
Fearing that she would lose her loyal clientele, she sat outside the premises and assured them she would reopen after 60 days.
Outside Tumus bar and restaurant in Giakanja township in Tetu, cars jam the parking lot as people arrive in droves for delicious roasted mutton, chicken and ‘bomb’.
‘Bomb’ contains minced meat, intestines cut in small pieces and soup that are stashed in some parts of the cow that are edible and grilled.
After getting the meat from a slaughterhouse checked by a vet, cooks start preparing meals early and they are ready by 10am.
“Mostly people flock here for the juicy goat meat and ugali. They travel from far to enjoy the delicacies,” said Mr Mathew Wahome, who worked at the establishment for nine years.
The roasted meat is sold in parts, mostly ribs and the limbs. A kilo of each goes for Sh500 while a full kienyeji chicken sells for Sh700. They are served with accompaniments such as ugali, mukimo and chips.
Mr Harrison Nderitu, another worker, said the key reason the businesses have stood since the 1980s is consistency in meal preparations.
“From January to December, the food will taste the same,” he said.
Prominent people such as Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri have visited the restaurant to enjoy their meals, as well as celebrities such as Churchill, Professor Hamo and musicians.
“I am always thrilled to work here because it has given me the opportunity to serve some of these people that are high-ranking and other senior people in government,” he added.
Though Tumus is a famous diner, Mr Nderitu said the high cost of living has prompted a decline in the number of people visiting.
But its charm remains. “This is one of the best places to enjoy a meal of roasted meat and chicken,” said Ms Janet Chege.