Trophy’s has closed.
So, Kigali – it’s done. It’s official. I can stay here indefinitely. First came Bbrood bread – and I was intrigued. Next came Netflix – I was delighted. Once sushi at Kiseki arrived, I was just beside myself. Over the years, comforts from ‘home’ have been popping up all over our fair city. It’s been exciting to see Kigali grow, and look a bit more similar to neighboring Kampala, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam (while, of course, still maintaining a unique Kigali flavor).
A recent Kigali addition has taken us even further. Not to wax too poetic, but I think I’ve fallen in love. Yes, you’ve read that correctly – love. Trophy’s Sports Lounge, located around the corner from RDB, shakes, stirs, and creates the city’s best cocktails. Indeed, Kigali finally has a dedicated cocktail bar. Not a restaurant that has cocktails served alongside their menu as an afterthought, not a Waragi gin and tonic made surreptitiously at Sundowner, but a real honest to god cocktail bar. And they’re good. Really good.
I’ve visited quite a few times since they opened April 28th, 2017, and the cocktails have only improved. Located on the second floor of a small complex overlooking one of Kigali’s many beautiful cityscapes, Trophy’s markets itself as a dedicated sports bar and cocktail emporium.
Started by Joanna Mugisha, Bill Nyirimihigo, and Lamy Subira, Trophy’s comes from a group of friends with entertainment, design, and hospitality backgrounds. The team created Trophy’s due to a gap in the Kigali market, and a city in need of a good quality bar, excellent cocktails, and plentiful sports viewing options. I was lucky enough to meet with Lamy recently to try some cocktails and hear about where Trophy’s has come from and where it plans to go.
“January 19th, 2017 was when I was brought in.” Lamy explained that the process of creating Trophy’s only took about two months, but happened quickly because Bill, one of the co-founders, had been dreaming up the concept for years. One of their missions was to be known for their undeniable quality, and, with that in mind, the team decided to spend a full month training their staff on cocktails and service before opening. They even flew in mixologists from Uganda to assist in training and menu building, and all that hard work and planning is absolutely noticeable.
‘Before Trophy’s,’ Lamy noted, ‘there weren’t places to really get cocktails in the customized way we offer them, nor did Rwandans ever go out of their way to try cocktails.’ Trophy’s, as a result, has worked hard to create cocktail culture in Kigali. Over a sip of his white Russian, Lamy said, ‘It’s been challenging, but very exciting to see interest in our work grow.’
One of my favorite things about Trophy’s – that I hadn’t ever considered with other bars or restaurants in Kigali – is their age limit. You have to be above the age of 21 to enter the space. Born out of the founders’ interest in not seeing their little cousins or siblings drinking at their bar, Trophy’s has managed to maintain its age limit successfully for the last few months.
Trophy’s has also been working at marketing themselves as a pre-party bar, or a place to meet a friend for a drink after work or on the way to another event. They close earlier than other bars and clubs, and their last rounds for drinks is at 12:30am.
In addition to custom cocktails, Trophy’s offers both traditional menu options as well as Rwandan oriented drinks, as part of their mission to incorporate Rwandan flavors and ingredients into their beverages and ethos. Try the Amavubi Magic, a drink colored in a pattern of the Rwandan flag, or the passionfruit mojito that uses actual passion fruit.
My favorite cocktails, however, are definitely the Cowboy Kiss and Trophy’s Dawa. The Cowboy Kiss is a whiskey based beverage, comprised of Jack Daniels, lime juice, cinnamon syrup, and Label 5 whiskey. It is smooth, easy drinking, and generally delightful. As the menu’s primary whiskey offering, it’s perfect for both a night out as well as a late afternoon brooding session overlooking the skyline while doing your best Mad Men impersonation. On the other hand, Trophy’s Dawa, made up of spiced rum, cinnamon syrup, ginger extract, and lime juice, is really excellent for all occasions. It’s fresh, and the real ginger used gives it a nice kick.
All cocktails are Rwf 6,500, and though pricey, are very worth it. Their ‘buy one get one free’ deal during a 6:00pm to 9:00pm happy hour on Thursdays and Fridays, that renders cocktails only RWF 3,250 a piece, is an absolute steal.
Their offerings also include all the usual beers (including a few exciting ones! Stella Artois for Rwf 3,000 anyone?), liquors, and sodas as well as a full lunch menu. Trophy’s stir fry specials are their signature dishes, and customers can choose between vegetable, pork, chicken, and beef, with a salad, chips, or misuzu on the side. However, though my visits to Trophy’s are primarily liquid-based, my favorite thing on their food menu is their secret fish fingers for Rwf 6,000. Why so secret? Well, it’s not actually on the menu, but a little wink and nod to your waiter will make it happen. They’re absolutely delicious, and a great greasy accompaniment to cocktails. Don’t forget to order the sweet potato fries as an accompaniment.
In addition to, of course, serving high end cocktails, Trophy’s commitment to their sports bar culture is palpable. They recently showed the Mayweather fight, and formula 1, football, and tennis often occupy the many screens behind the bar.
Lamy, speaking about the future of Trophy’s, mentioned some pretty exciting events and specials to come. Expect rose bottle and sangria specials on alternating Sundays, with even more menu options and events in the works. And if you want to suggest anything else? Have any complaints or comments? Trophy’s is super open to feedback, and they’re really there for their customers – don’t be afraid to reach out.
Kigali, what do you think? Have you been to Trophy’s yet? Do you love it as much as I do? Are you ready to check it out now? Let us know what you think!