A very interesting place has just opened in Lavington, Nairobi. It was Margaretta wa Gacheru’s recent article in the Business Daily about a new art gallery that alerted me. She said it was “tucked away” behind James Gichuru Road.
It is along Muthangari Road and a little way down the turn-off to Braeside School. You can’t miss the signboards. It’s hardly tucked away – it’s a gleaming white house, with the name “WAMA” painted on a small tower. It is set on a two-acre plot.
Wama is much more than an art gallery. Right now, it is a restaurant; two restaurants, actually – fine dining on the ground floor of the house and a beer garden. The opening for these and the gallery was on July 17. But the place is work in progress, and soon it will be a boutique hotel with a conference room, a spa and a swimming pool.
But all this is still not the most important thing about the place. My wife and I went for lunch last Sunday and we had a very long chat with Adam Sargeant, the CEO. He is a remarkable man, and he has a fascinating story to tell.
Born on a farm in Australia, he knows about practical work. From his studies and his jobs in England, Dubai and Kenya, he knows about business management and training and the hospitality industry. And now he has ventured into a very innovative social enterprise.
The Wama hotel and restaurant is devoted to a scheme for training young adults living with a disability – training them for jobs in the hospitality and service industries. First, there is a taster, which runs for two weeks, for the youngsters to find out if they have opted for something that suits them.
Then, there is a three-month course that gives them expert tuition, mentoring and practical experience of work in the kitchen, waiting at the tables, and looking after the hotel rooms.
Clearly, Adam has very good – and well-earned – connections in the hospitality and service world. He is confident that the trainees will find employment when their courses are finished. And so, along with the training scheme, there has been, and will continue to be, an effort to convince employers to remove any barriers they might have – whether in their work places or in their minds – about taking on workers whose disabilities don’t mean they aren’t skilled and productive.
Maureen, a pretty and confident girl with albinism, served us at one of the garden tables… Yes, I should start to talk about the restaurant. There is a temporary menu until the end of this month – but the offerings are many, varied and, like the menu claims, a fusion of cuisines.
My wife, Lut, is a vegetarian; she chose spring rolls, with grilled vegetables and chilli sauce. I fell for a description I couldn’t resist: smoked salmon, poached eggs and crispy bacon on potato hashes. Neither of us regretted our choices. We finished off with a lemon tart and a chocolate mousse. I think you might guess who had which.
Then there was the wine. Whether by the bottle or by the glass, there were many good ones to choose from. And the prices of food and wine were very reasonable. Talking of the wine reminds me that there is a round gazebo bar in the garden.
So, you can fine-dine in the house. You can climb the stairs to savour the paintings while your order is prepared. When the sun is out, you can take your food at the garden tables. Or you can sit with your drink and your friends at the gazebo bar and watch the Olympics on TV.
There is even more than all that on offer. You can find out by googling “Wama Africa”.