I love a good outing at a local bar but lately I haven’t been doing much exploring. With all of the new Kigali restaurants popping up over the past few months, I guess I’ve been a bit preoccupied with trying to keep up to date on those reviews and, as a result, I feel like I haven’t sat down for a beer and a brochette at a local place in over a year. Madness!!!
Well, things are about to change because I feel like I need more brochettes in my life. Plus, I keep noticing new local places popping up and I’m always eager to explore to see if I can find Kigali’s best brochette, aka benz, or nyama choma.
Piano Bar is one local place that’s certainly not new, but it’s been on my list for a visit since I wrote an article about pub crawling in Nyamirambo a couple of years ago. I visited it during the day and was impressed with the open courtyard filled with palm trees and told myself that I had to come back one day to check it out in the evening. Well… that evening finally came and I was pretty happy I made the effort to return here.
Piano Bar has a bit more character than the typical Primus-painted local bar. It’s got a pretty unique setup with that open courtyard filled with tables under the stars and trees. Then there are about five or six side rooms which look a bit prison-like and uninviting from the outside but are actually really cozy. Instead of having walls up to the ceiling like most private local bar rooms, they only go up a bit of the way which gives you privacy without also giving you the feeling that you’re doing time.
Across the courtyard is a larger room which several tables and TV screens. They were playing Champion’s League football while we were there so I’d assume this is a good place to come if you’re hoping to watch European soccer. The main bar is well-stocked for a local place with plenty of spirits and a good variety of cold beer. The bar is an interesting feature of the place with giant bar stools that look like they’re placed a little far from the bar itself. I’m not sure how practical these stools are and I suspect they’re made for giants, but it gives the place a cool look, if nothing else.
Probably the most frustrating thing about eating at a local place in Kigali is that the food can take an eternity. Waiting an hour and a half for a few brochettes is something that’s happened often enough to scar me and make me wary of planning a dinner at a local place. It’s totally fine if the motivation for the trip is exploring a new place while drinking cheap beer, but if you arrive hungry then things will usually end with frustration as you continually ask the waiter where your food is.
Piano Bar was a pleasant surprise! While I was certainly in for chilling and drinking some beers, I also arrived pretty hungry and I was expecting that hunger to continue for at least an hour after ordering. Amazingly, our food came out in about 30 minutes which has to be a new experience for me. The quickest ever? Maybe! Sure, we were the only people in there eating and we didn’t place a huge order, but we did ask for several different things and I was nervous it would take forever. But everything came out all at once and in good time and we were very surprised and happy.
Overall I was really impressed with the food here. The aka benz was a bit of a let down and the overcooked meat looked like the charred remains of what used to be a big, rather than a plate of succulent pork. But, despite being pretty tough and overcooked, the flavour was ok. The goat brochettes were also really good but some of the pieces were a bit too tough to chew. The chips were nice (crinkle cut!) and the best of all were the fish brochettes. Nicely seasoned, cooked really well, and with onions, tomatoes, and peppers placed along the brochette to mix things up a bit. Most importantly, they’re generous with the mayonnaise and they serve seriously good homemade pili pili.
We also attempted to order a friend banana but ended up with one of those horrible boiled ones. I still don’t understand why anyone would ever choose a weird, flavourless boiled banana over a super delicious fried one, but I always seem to get served the boiled ones. I really should learn the words for ‘fried bananas’ one of these days because I love them so much and despise the boiled ones. This place also does grilled who chickens for Rwf 8,000 but we felt like we had enough food so we’ll have to save trying that for another trip.
Piano Bar really impressed us with the food and the atmosphere. It wasn’t busy while we were there, but we really liked our little semi-private room and the service was really quick and friendly. Best of all, our meal of an order of fries, one order of aka benz, two fish brochettes, two goat brochettes, a yucky boiled banana, and nine Skols came to a total of Rwf 14,500. That’s under Rwf 5,000 per person for a good meal that ended with a nice beer buzz. A total bargain and another reason I love exploring local places.
I’d also recommend Piano Bar as a good place to come if you’re into playing pool. They have a room off to the side of the bar that actually has enough space around the table to extend your pool queue which can be a rare find in Kigali. I would not recommend Piano Bar as a place to pee if you’re a woman. But that’s a pretty standard thing for Nyamirambo bars. To give them props, they did have toilet paper at least. I guess it was the mysterious floor flooding that put me off a bit.
Overall, Piano Bar is a great little local spot. We went on a quiet Tuesday night but I can see it having a really nice atmosphere when it’s a bit more full. But still, it was a great place to go for a catch up with a few friends and some quiet beers.
Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below!
Hours: Daily, 10am to whenever customers leave
Phone: 0782 243 723