Flying Air Kenya is rarely a joyous experience, lets face it. Of all of the airlines I fly out of Rwanda, Air Kenya is the most likely to make me want to shoot myself in the face. The flying experience itself is usually ok, but delays and all of the things that have gone missing from my luggage make me despair. Over many a transit through Jomo Kenyatta airport the only thing that brought hope to an otherwise miserable journey was Java House. My little beacon of happiness among a sea of uncomfortable sitting areas. That’s a lie… the little book stores with great selections of Africa-related books also brought joy. But mainly it was Java House.
So imagine my excitement at hearing that a branch of this restaurant would be opening their glorious doors here in little ol’ Kigali! Sure, it makes a trip through Kenya much less exciting, but that’s ok. I now have unobstructed access to some of the best milkshakes I’ve ever had, and that fills me with glee.
Java House has taken up residence in Kigali Heights, the flashy new mall and office space building across from the Convention Centre. It’s sort of a strange layout for shopping, but the roof space is perfect for a restaurant. They’ve set up in the corner of the second floor with plenty of partially covered patio space as well as a good amount of seating indoors. They have booths which is, of course, awesome. Oh and parents will be happy to hear that they’re one of the few (only?) places with highchairs for young kids. The atmosphere is nice and it’s always bustling with people.
So how’s the food? Well, Java House’s menu seems to have all of the crowd-pleasers and you’ll be able to eat here many times before you come close to sampling everything. Their menu includes a good selection of Mexican food and it’s actually pretty good. I think it’s because they totally nail the salsa, the guacamole is excellent, and they’re maybe the only place in the entire city that actually has real-ish sour cream. Meze Fresh try but theirs is weirdly runny. But Java House seem to have figured it out and it’s glorious and I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get sour cream to this city.
If you’re from Mexico or one of the US states that makes delicious Mexican food then you won’t be impressed, but if you’ve been living in Kigali for a long time and want to branch out a bit from the offerings at Meze Fresh then you’ll like it here. The roast pork platter (Rwf 7,300) is a tasty and could easily feed two people. The chicken quesadillas (Rwf 5,500) were always my go-to at Nairobi airport but in Kigali they seem to use a weird part of the chicken and the tortilla can sometimes be dry. They’re still pretty good but there are other things on the menu that I’d try next time… like the fajitas (Rwf 7,500) which are a rare find.
I’m not a massive breakfast person but Java House does breakfast very well and they have enough options to give any breakfast skeptic such as myself something they’ll like. It’s the best place in Kigali to come for breakfast by a long shot. They’ve got eggs every which way, bagels with cream cheese, yoghurt and granola, French toast (Rwf 4,300), pancakes (Rwf 4,300), a bunch of sausage and bacon-y options, breakfast burritos (Rwf 4,800 to 6,700), and even Huevos Rancheros (Rwf 5,900).
I wanted to try something here for breakfast (for review purposes, you see) and, since I dislike breakfast but love Mexican food, I opted for the Huevos Rancheros and was very pleasantly surprised. The eggs were cooked perfectly with a runny yolk and the refried beans and home fries were tasty too. I’ve never had Huevos Rancheros before in my life so I have nothing to compare the dish to, but I really enjoyed the this version. I actually think that Java House could turn me into a lover of breakfast. There are so many options and my first attempt was surprisingly good and I wouldn’t be totally against giving something else a try one of these days. Crazy talk, I know.
So how about those milkshakes? They really are some of the best shakes I’ve ever had. If you like them thick then you’re in luck because Java House’s shakes are basically a whole bunch of ice cream and a bit of milk and you have to wait for them to melt a bit just to get it through the straw. Just the way I like them. At Rwf 4,800 for the delicious double chocolate mocha shake, they’re pretty crazily priced. But if you have the money to blow on ice cream overload, you won’t be disappointed. These shakes are my new guilty Kigali pleasure. If they had mint ice cream and mixed that with chocolate ice cream for a mint-chocolate milkshake, my mind would be blown. I would become morbidly obese almost immediately. So perhaps the absence of mint ice cream is a good thing. Related… all of their ice cream can be packed in a 500ml tub for takeaway (Rwf 4,200) for you to gorge on in the privacy of your own home.
The desserts here border on the obscene and when I ordered the brownie fudge sundae (Rwf 4,400), I most definitely should not have asked for all chocolate ice cream. That was a great life mistake and I know better now. I love chocolate but that almost killed me. I was sweating as I finished it. I’m not even kidding. If you’re going to take on this monster of a sundae on your own, I beg of you, put some vanilla ice cream in there to break up the chocolate overload. Even the most chocolate-addicted people will thank me for this advice. Better yet, find at least two good friends and share because no one person should ever have to consume such a heaping mound of dessert… not matter how delicious. I’m truly not sure how I survived that eating experience. Related: I have very little self control.
As with every other section of the menu, there are a whole bunch of salads to choose from. A friend ordered the Caesar salad but wasn’t too impressed, especially with the, and I quote: ‘weird croutons’. I don’t know what that was all about but if you want to try a different salad, there are about 10 choices ranging from a garden salad (Rwf 3,900) all the way up to the more interesting-sounding strawberry chicken salad with poppy seed dressing (Rwf 5,800).
They have as many sandwiches and wraps as they have salads with the halloumi avocado (Rwf 6,000), thai beef and mango (Rwf 7,400), and pulled pork sub (Rwf 7,400) all on my list to try. Sandwiches are pricey but they come with chips and a salad and there are also options to turn the meal into a soup/salad/sandwich combo meal.
Prices at Java House are surely on the high side but the servings are absolutely massive and many of the dishes could easily be shared between two people. Service is the thing that I’ve seen people complain about quite regularly here though all of my experiences have been pretty good. There was the coffee that took 30 minutes to materialise but otherwise things have been quick and the wait staff have always been friendly. Us Kigali-dwellers are usually quite patient when a new place opens up… expecting there to be kinks to work out. I think, at least in my own personal experiences, Java House are moving in the right direction.
I feel like this has been a pretty glowing review and I have to admit that I feel sort of lame singing the praises of what is basically a chain restaurant. While I’m probably going to spend more of my time and dollars at nearby Inzora and Magda Cafe and get most of my salads at Turambe Shoppe, I can’t deny that Java House will get my business every time I need to consume sour cream or a frighteningly large milkshake and I’m happy to see it open its doors here in Kigali.
Hours: Daily, 7am – 9pm
Phone: 0788 381 132