Chess Cafe is one of those places I really want to see succeed. It’s a tiny cafe located just off of the Car Free Zone in town in a simple building. It’s no-frills but cozy and super friendly. I’m told that it came to life with the help of a Swedish guy who wanted to help some young, enterprising, hard-working Rwandans start a small business.
Fast forward to today and Chess Cafe has a really great thing going. Their focus is on having a different vegan soup each day of the week that’s served with delicious, home made bread. The bread is excellent and the perfect dipper for the soup, turning it into a super filling meal. The soup changes up each day, so if you have a specific type you want to try, you’ll have to get in touch to see what’s being served. But the options are carrot, ginger, and avocado, mushroom, tomato, pumpkin, zucchini and curry, beetroot, and sweet potato.
On the day I went it was beetroot and, while that probably wouldn’t have been my first choice (I’m a sucker for tomato soup…), I opted to give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed! It was thick and delicious and I could tell that what I was eating was healthy and hearty. Though there are a lot more restaurants in Kigali with healthy menu choices than there used to be, it can still be difficult to find a meal that doesn’t involve fries in some way. Their selection of vegan soups are a great choice as a healthy lunch option.
If you’ve got your heart set on having soup, though, it might be worth calling ahead. Of the three times I’ve been to Chess Cafe, they only had soup on my third trip. It sort of became a bit of a failed quest to eat soup at the soup restaurant. I think one time, the reason was to do with a power cut, and I’m not sure what happened the next time. It was worth the wait because the soup is wonderful, but it’s always better to be able to eat the thing that you go in for, so maybe first check ahead for any unexpected issues that might have interfered with their soup production.
The cafe is quite small but they’ve done a good job to have several seating areas. There’s a patio out front, though there’s no shade so it’s probably only good on a cloudy day. Then there’s the front part where you can enjoy your meal while taking in the view of the busy street outside. Or you can head to the back where it’s quite private and a good spot to hang out with friends or with your laptop. I’ve had plenty of productive work sessions back there.
I love their whole soup concept and I can’t wait to try all of the different types, but what really keeps me going back to Chess Cafe is their desserts. Courtesy of Sweden, they have a couple of mega-chocolatey offerings. The first is their chocolate cake which, as I’ve been told by a Swedish friend, is actually called ‘mud cake’. If you’re expecting a spongy type of cake then that’s not this. This cake is gooey and stodgy and glorious. If you love chocolate, you will love this. It’s incredibly rich and probably perfect for sharing but I managed to wolf the entire thing down myself. I feel no shame. Ok, I feel a little shame.
The second amazing dessert is a more manageable size and it’s a perfect snack with a coffee. It’s called a ‘chocolate ball’ and it’s… a ball of chocolate! It’s sort of soft and coated on the outside with coconut. At Rwf 600 I think it’s one of the best value treats in Kigali. It seems small but it’s very rich and satisfying and a wonderful end to your meal, especially with a hot drink. I’m quite obsessed with the desserts at Chess Cafe and I would recommend trying them immediately.
Besides the soup and amazing desserts, they also have a selection of sandwiches, fresh juice, and smoothies. They’ve got all of the usual coffees and teas on offer and they make a mean iced mocha. I’m not sure what they do that’s different, but it’s yummy. They have non-dairy milk as an option so it’s a great spot for vegans, all round.
Another thing I really love about Chess Cafe is how relaxed and friendly it is. It feels like you’re having lunch among friends and it’s a place with a really nice vibe.Go check them out and support a small, Rwandan-run business that, I think, has a lot of great things going for it.
Hours: Daily, 8am – 8pm
Phone: 0784 734 365