La Cucina is the Italian restaurant at the Kigali Marriott, located on the opposite side to Iriba Bar. There was a bit of a wait between when the hotel opened and when La Cucina finally opened its doors, so for ages it seemed shrouded in mystery. When they finally did open it took me awhile to try it out for the first time. I was at Marriott constantly because it became my favourite place in Kigali to work from, but it took me awhile to finally wander down the hall to La Cucina because I was always parked up with my computer and cozy at Iriba Bar.
But when I did finally cross over to the other side, I was impressed! The restaurant is very open, airy, and spacious. I’m not exactly an interior design aficionado, but I think it looks great and I like that it has a separate room for people to have a meeting or want a private space. There’s also some seating outdoors but there’s no shelter so it’s not so great when it’s sunny outside and it probably more of a spot for dinner dining on a beautiful Kigali night.
I have to admit that my first trip to La Cucina was so long ago that I don’t really remember the meal so well. When I do a review I like to go to a place twice, but since I don’t spend as much time in Kigali these days, it sometimes means that my meals are spaced out way too much. I do remember having a rather glorious Caesar salad but, sadly, it’s not on the menu anymore. They do have a few other interesting salads instead, including one with chicken breast, apricots, sun dried tomatoes, and walnuts (Rwf 9,000) and another with honey and orange poached shrimp on mixed greens (Rwf 11,000).
It’s the steak that brought me to La Cucina on this most recent trip. I’ve slowly been eating my way through the city in aid of my best steaks in Kigali article and La Cucina was another stop on this tasty list. I arrived a bit sick of steak, to be honest, but I was won over by this meal. The filet steak was perfectly cooked and the bed of mushrooms it was sitting on where amazing – and I don’t even really like mushrooms! At Rwf 17,500, it’s one of the more expensive steaks you can have in Kigali but it was delicious and gigantic and I took half of it home for lunch the next day. The steak that keeps on giving!
La Cucina also has great selection of interesting pasta and risotto (Rwf 11,000 to 13,500) dishes. For meat eaters you’ll have a choice between a t-bone (Rwf 25,000) or fillet steak (Rwf 17,500), rack of lamb (Rwf 18,000), rosemary grilled baby chicken (Rwf 13,500), baked capitan fish (Rwf 15,500), a mixed seafood grill (Rwf 25,000), and baked salmon (Rwf 25,000). Some of these dishes are among the highest priced meals in Kigali, but considering the quality of their ingredients and the fact that La Cucina is in Kigali’s fanciest hotel, I’d say the prices are around what hotel guests would expect to pay. The menu is slightly reduced at lunch but there’s still an excellent selection.
Their pizzas range in price from Rwf 8,000 for a margherita up to Rwf 12,500 for one with baked salmon and arugula. I haven’t yet tried their pizza but it gets good reviews and prices are on par with most other places around town. Where this place really sets itself apart, I think, is the wine list. They have a good selection of wine by the glass which is something that’s hard to find in Kigali. Plus for people who want to splash out on a bottle, there’s an even larger selection. They have one of the better cocktail selections in Kigali including the classes and a few creative Marriott specials (Rwf 9,000).
I would come back to La Cucina just for the bread basket alone. I was actually sitting at my table, sipping my wine and thinking about how a restaurant like this should really offer complementary bread – and then it appeared! It’s definitely the best pre-meal freebie in Kigali with a selection of super-fresh bread along with pesto and tomato dipping sauces. I nearly scoffed the lot before my meal even came, but I exercised some restraint and instead only ate half. I have so much self control.
For dessert, they have a few options but the tiramisu here is something special… though I think it might need to come with instructions. It’s the usual tiramisu, layered and topped with cocoa and served inside a small bowl. Beside it is a ladyfinger cookie and beside that, a mysterious cup of espresso with cream on top. The espresso would not be so mysterious if it didn’t have a spout on the cup. What is the purpose of this spout, I ask you? Is it meant to be poured over the tiramisu? What is the meaning of this spout?!? I’ve tried the pour over technique and I find the whole thing to be a bit too swampy. I prefer to just drink the espresso, eat the tiramisu, and go on with my life. But that spout… why is it there? Perhaps I will never know.
Service was flawless and the vibe here is really relaxed, especially at lunch. The tables are nicely spaced so that you don’t feel like you’re on top of other diners. Because that would be weird. I chose a table at the back and spent a couple of hours enjoying my meal, sipping my wine, and getting some work done. Though it’s one of the nicer restaurants in town, it’s relaxed enough to feel like you can bust out your computer. I’ve also been at night which has a bit of a more formal vibe, but it’s still very chilled.
I’ve always enjoyed my meals at La Cucina. Sure, it’s a bit on the pricey side for Kigali, but when you consider that Marriott is the fanciest hotel in the city, it’s not that bad. Plus the quality of the food and wine are excellent, the service is professional, and you can always count on having a reliably delicious meal here.
Hours: Daily, Noon – 3pm, 6pm – 11:30pm
Phone: +250 222 111 111