Food lovers, there’s an interesting new joint in town! Kafe Utu is situated in a shophouse on Jiak Chuan Road and is the neighbour to some of our existing favourites: Limehouse, Bar Cicheti and Esquina. The new spot, a dedicated destination for African food, is described as an “Afro Café & Lounge” and is a brunch, dinner and bar venue all in one. We’re always eager to test out the newest tables in town, so of course we went down to check it out.
The first thing that strikes you is the exterior of the building. Painted in a beautiful, warm red hue, it feels so inviting – and that ambience continues when you step inside. (Kudos to the friendly and passionate interior design and construction guy who we met during our visit!)
Downstairs, you’ll find the breakfast bar, which serves up specialty coffee using a machine and method exclusive to Utu, plus a few tables for casual dining. The café has three food menus offering a diverse range of East and West African food dishes: one each for brunch and dinner, and a lounge menu serving cocktails and tapas. Making your way upstairs into the lounge, you enter a cosy space complete with a huge leather sofa, wooden furniture, coffee table, artwork and lamps that feels more like a chic living room than a restaurant. It’s heartening to see so many authentic details in the space, with many of the furnishings sourced and shipped in directly from Kenya.
Let’s get to the food, shall we? The dinner menu offers starters and small bites called ‘Kidogo’, and mains (‘From Mama Africa’) including a selection of delicious-sounding curries and stews, salads and pastry-based desserts. For starters, we tried the fried plantain (a type of ripe banana hard to find in Singapore), rubbed in Liberian spices and complete with mango chilli marmalade dip ($16), Malindi croquettes (a stuffed ball of fresh cassava leaves, spices and cheesy béchamel, $12) and the buttermilk fried chicken served with three different types of chilli (ranging from bearable to a slow burn sensation! $18).
Among our mains was a West African charred aubergine stew with Angus beef cheek ($30), whose flavour combination was a match made in heaven. Fish lovers should tuck into the Swahili fish curry ($29), a savoury yet tangy coconut-milk-based curry with red snapper fish combining with flavours of tamarind, curry paste and habanero.
If it’s just a drink you fancy, Kafe Utu doesn’t disappoint. Beyond the lounge, there’s a petite alfresco balcony and bar perfect for cocktails (not too noisy so you can have a proper conversation and catch up with pals), as well as an upper floor that can be rented out for parties or intimate gatherings. One standout concoction is the Green Mamba, a mix of fresh cucumber, jalapenos, lime juice and cilantro-infused tequila ($16). Gin lovers, don’t leave without trying the special house-made gin infused with herbs.
After the meal, we left with bellies and hearts full, and were truly impressed with how the chef, who is Singaporean, was able to authentically capture the tastes and flavours of Africa. Whether it’s for a casual coffee or a dinner date, we’ll be back!
Hungry (or thirsty!) for more? Read these articles in our Wine & Dine section: