When Republika closed it’s doors temporarily in April to more from their Kiyovu location to Kimihurura, it was dark days for me, my friends. My weekly Friday night plans were thrown into disarray and I was deprived of their food for months. How rude of them to do such an awful thing to me! But all is not lost, for they’re reopened finally at their new location (in the old Flamingo building next to Papyrus) and it’s been worth the wait.
The atmosphere in the new place is great. Knowing the layout of the old Flamingo restaurant, I wasn’t convinced that it would work for a place like Republika – but I was wrong. They’ve knocked out a few walls, added a few more, created a nice bar area, and they have their usual Republika terrace that we know and love. There are plans to add a top terrace as well but, for the moment, there’s no view yet at the new place. When that terrace gets finished, though, it will be one of the best views in the city. That terrace is one of the main reasons I went to Flamingo and I’m excited to see how it all comes together.
The owner, Solange, will float around the room greeting customers and asking how they’re enjoying their food. This isn’t just her going through the motions of being a good host, Solange is genuinely interested in feedback and will do her very best to make corrections to anything that hasn’t gone quite as planned. She’s welcoming, genuine, and, for me, she really makes a trip to Republika feel like I’m at home in her kitchen which I love. At the end of our meal, Solange came over with a notepad asking for our feedback – and so we gave it! I’m already a huge Republika fan and I was just so happy to be back there after a hiatus of six months so my feedback was obviously glowing. But my four friends who aren’t yet a part of the Cult of Republika were also very impressed.
I’m exceptionally boring and order the same thing every time I go to Republika – brochettes. I mix it up a bit with the type, tending to stick to either fish (Rwf 7,000) or chicken (Rwf 7,000) but the goat and beef are really good choices too. I think the fish brochettes are the best in the city and the others are right up there as well. I recommend subtly persuading a friend to order a different kind of brochette so you can do the one-for-one switcheroo. Republika serves two large, luscious brochettes per meal which makes it a perfect opportunity for tradesies.
I had a team of fellow diners with me who were very happy to offer feedback on their meal. Between us we ordered a veggie burger (Rwf 6,000), beef strips in garlic (Rwf 8,000), the brochettes plates, and sides of curried mixed vegetables and french beans. The veggie burger was deemed to be ‘good but not awesome’ and Solange was on hand to take our feedback on board so I expect she’ll work on perfecting it. The beef strips in garlic and all over the other garlic-y dishes got a ‘very good’ review from us and those of us who ordered the brochettes were very impressed.
You get a side of rice or potatoes with your meal and, as the creature of habit that I am, I always opt for the ‘potato puree’ which is a fancy way of saying mashed potatoes. Order a side of kachambari (the delicious Rwandan salsa) and pile it onto your potatoes for an exciting little kick (but pick out the green chilies unless you like things super spicy). This has become an essential Republika potato-eating-strategy for me and my fellow diners were happy for the tip. Try it! And, last tip, take some of that homemade pili pili and mix it up with the mayo (and ketchup too, if you’re feeling crazy) for a delicious dip for your brochettes and potatoes that can be as spicy as you like.
One thing I never order at Republika is dessert and that’s because I’m vehemently opposed to fruit, crepes, and vanilla ice cream as dessert. Yes, vehemently. If there’s no chocolate on it, it’s not dessert (in my humble opinion) so I’m never tempted into it. Well on this trip my fellow diners (who are vanilla ice cream fans) ordered ice cream and crepes (Rwf 5,000) and I had a little taste and… ok… I guess it was tasty. But, more importantly, Solange seemed to take my dessert feedback to heart so maybe one day they’ll have something a bit more tempting on their menu for us chocolate lovers.
Back in 2010 when I first arrived in Kigali, Republika had a really great deal on Friday nights where beers were discounted, wine was about Rwf 2,000 off per half caraffe, and the brochettes meals were all about Rwf 2,000 cheaper as well. This meant that Friday night at Republika was locked in on my weekly Kigali party schedule. The bill was cheap and the atmosphere boozy, making it a great start to a night out. Sadly, Republika’s Friday night deal ended a couple of years ago and I was sad. But! The new location has added a couple of deals nights into the mix that I can predict they’ll become quite popular.
You can look forward now to happy hour(s) on Saturdays with discounted drinks between 6 and 9pm. As of the date this article was published, Draft Mutzig (Rwf 1,500) is buy one, get one free, bottles of local beer are Rwf 1,000 and Heinekin is Rwf 2,000. A 1L carafe of wine is Rwf 10,000, half carafes are Rwf 5,000 (and they’re huge) and bottles and wine by the glass are also discounted. There are also food specials and cocktails for Rwf 5,000 that change weekly and are detailed on the board as you walk in. Mondays are suddenly a great night for eating out with drink deals listed on the board and, most importantly, a whopping 20% off the food menu. That, my friends, is a bargain.
I obviously love the food here, the service is super friendly and attentive, and the atmosphere is one of my favourites in Kigali. One of the only complaints I ever hear about Republika is the speed of the food. My housemate waited awhile for her meal on a busy Saturday last week and, while I’m not sure how often this happens, it happens enough for it to be mentioned fairly regularly by people I know. Hopefully Republika can solve their food-speed issue. I know that it’s something they’re aware of and are always trying to improve. Or you can just do what I do… assume your meal will take about an hour and plan accordingly with an early arrival to drink wine and munch on their free (and delicious) bruscetta bread while you chat, enjoy the lovely atmosphere, and wait for your food to arrive. It really is worth the wait.
All up the new Republika location didn’t disappoint! They’ve maintained the same welcoming atmosphere, the menu is the same as at the old place and the standard of the food is high and exactly what I’ve come to expect from them. Throw in the drinks and meals specials and we have a winner! With the reopening of Republika, Kigali’s food scene just got a whole lot happier.
Check them out and let me know what you think in the comments below!