Vegan food at Nairobi's Ethos Restaurant

Ethos Organic Café and Restaurant

Ethos Organic Café and Restaurant in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: John Fox | Nation Media Group

I was frying my usual bacon and eggs Sunday morning breakfast, when my younger son, Jan, wandered into the kitchen. ‘Oh Dad’, he said, ‘There’s no better taste than bacon!’ Now, the significance of that remark was that, a few years previously, he had become a vegetarian like his wife and all her family.

For me, many years back, I had an experience that could well have made me a vegetarian, too. It was when I visited the Lobatse Abattoir in Botswana, which at that time was the second biggest slaughterhouse in the world.

I had watched how magnificent long-horn cattle slumped to the ground when they were stunned; how they were butchered, cut into blooded pieces by men with long knives; how a cow’s head trundled towards me down a conveyer belt; how I thought the horrors were over when sides of beef were hanging up as in a butcher’s shop – until I saw that they were still pulsing. I told myself that if I didn’t eat a steak that evening I might never eat meat again. So I had my steak.

However, I still have occasional twinges of guilt when eating meat, and I can well understand and appreciate the statement pinned near the door of the Ethos Organic Restaurant and Café in General Mathenge Road: ‘We care about the environment and want to offer healthy, alternative ways of plant-based nutrition, in order to create a sustainable future by limiting climate change consequences.

We also care about the animals of the earth. We believe that, like us, they have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans or not.’

Nevertheless, when I went with my vegan (eating a plant-based diet) wife to the restaurant for brunch last Sunday, I was delighted to read that they had ‘full English Breakfast’ on the menu. But my wife damped my enthusiasm by pointing out that I hadn’t read the small subtext: ‘Mtofu sausage, beans, vegan bacon and eggs’. Somewhat disappointed, I still decided to give it a go.

The sausage tasted real; the eggs tasted almost real; the beans and tomatoes were real – but the bacon was not like what I fry on Sundays. I presume that such imitation dishes are to attract meat eaters to the vegetarian or vegan ranks. Next time I go to Ethos, I will have one of the not-pretending plant-based dishes on offer.

Looking at the online menu, and taking my wife’s advice, I will have either the vegan tikka pizza, the coconut curry and Mwea rice, or the shawarma plant-based. Which reminds me of a time when I thoroughly enjoyed vegetarian cuisine. It was when, on my very first consultancy assignment, I was staying at the Lodhi Hotel in New Delhi, which was reckoned to have the best vegetarian restaurant in the city.

But back to the Ethos. In its furniture, its facilities and its many activities, it has the feel of a lively community centre as well as an organic café and restaurant. There are books to read, board games to play, and even a guitar to strum. For its activities, there are Board Game Nights every Tuesday, Movie Nights with films and documentaries every Wednesday - both from 6pm till late. From Thursday till Sunday evenings, you can enjoy kama kuku burgers and craft beers. Events have included open mic evenings, chess training for children and Paint and Sip art sessions with cocktails for adults. The café also has a counter selling bread and pastries from The German Bakehouse as well as tofu and craft beers from the menu.

The Ethos address is the Harmony Centre at 43 General Mathenge Road. Website:; for bookings, ring 0111809200.