Graze Steakhouse


by Sophie Gitonga  (Resident Foodie)

It’s been an awkward time for meat lovers like me. We are being asked to leave what the WHO would describe as an abusive relationship. Recently, the WHO didn’t mince words when they declared that red meat was bad for humans. Not bad because of love handles and clogged arteries. No dear friends,  cancer bad, right up there with ciggies and radioactive waste.  I glossed over that report and took the same position as the Australians; screw the WHO. Life is too short for tofu burgers.

As confirmation of my smugness towards this health advisory, I’ve gladly accepted an invitation to the Graze Restaurant at the Sankara Hotel. A beef paradise if I ever saw one. Sitting pretty on the hotel’s first floor, it’s fashioned after an American steakhouse; smart, cozy and dimly lit. It has my kind of décor; black and white photos mounted on one wall, a stack of wood pieces on another and my favourite, the menu scribbled on the blackboard. I have a thing for blackboards- gives the impression that a lesson is about to be had. I’m meeting my friend here and I spot him on the balcony, delicately balancing his seething cup of lemon and honey tea as he chats up the manager.  The dusk and the votive lights give an ethereal feel to the place.

Ken the sous chef joins us at our table. It’s a slow night so he can afford to hobnob with the diners.  He’s worked in the industry for 15 years, having hopped around some really swanky restaurants before landing at the Graze steakhouse. He knows a lot about meat and imparts some of his knowledge with us. The meat served here comes from Morendat, the happy cow farm in Naivasha. If you believe in reincarnation and you think there’s a chance you might come back as a cow, then Morendat is where you want to end up. The Morendat breeds are a genetic soup of black Angus from Scotland and our local Borana and other smaller obscure breeds, resulting in hardier and stockier animals.  The cows here are fed a steady diet of corn, lucerne and molasses until they are sufficiently plumped and then they are led away to a gentle death that involves a stun gun and a neck massage. OK, I’m not sure about the neck massage but I think that should be a hallmark requirement of a zen death. The carcasses are then taken to what I would call the beef morgue where they are hang and left to dry-age for about twenty one days. The process leaves you with a tender and more flavourful meat.

Ken receives 800kg a week of his Morendat beef which he then portions to various cuts and sizes. He has these cut pieces on a tray display and brings them out to beef cut novices like me who don’t know the sirloin from the flank.  I’m torn between chateaubriand and the rib eye. Weighing in at six hundred grams, the chateaubriand is a formidable cut of meat with a hefty price tag of 3250/- cash money! You need to be sure that your card is activated before you opt for this one but Ken assures that you get your money’s worth.

I go with the less intimidating, three hundred gram rib eye steak. The best part cut of meat according to Ken. Both savoury and juicy, it’s a fail-safe steak that anybody can make.

Here’s how Ken is going to make mine. He will take my meat, season it generously with salt and pepper then place it in his Josper, an oven and grill combo. Josper is the brand of equipment, not the pet name for his oven as I had thought. You know how men name their cars or motorcycles Eileen or Alice, well this is not the case. Anyway, back in the Josper, the meat is sealed, grilled and smoked at the same time, giving it this unique aroma and flavor. Depending on level of doneness desired, it spends anywhere from five to fifteen minutes in there. He will feel the centre of the meat and then prod it with his kitchen thermometer making sure that it’s the right temperature. And then is removed and left to rest at room temperature for another five minutes. For these high quality cuts of meat, Ken recommends rare to medium-rare doneness.


I don’t get the point of ‘cooking’ your meat rare. To me it’s like walking up to a live cow and just taking a bite out of its ass. Medium -well for me please, as close to cremation as you can get and then back it up a little bit. If he’s miffed by my suggestion of charred steak he doesn’t show it.  I choose pepper sauce and butter drowned mushrooms as my sides and Ken nods obligingly.

My dinner companion says he’ll have the chicken. Folks, this is why we can’t prosper. If you go to a steakhouse and order chicken then you are setting your country back at least a generation. He explains that eating beef leaves him feeling like a boa constrictor after a kill- lethargic and engorged. It takes too long to work its way through his system, he protests. Does he not chew his food? I wonder to myself.

The bread is served while we wait for the main course, and while pretty, it’s a distraction. It will take up our limited stomach space so we ignore it and segue into an interesting conversation about pretty girls who get totally smashed on 4 cans of Redd’s. My impression of it is that it’s a placebo, like fermented porridge. You are not actually supposed to get high on it. And then what is it? A beer? A fizzy cousin of champagne? A cider? Whatever it is, I think they should have left it to cook a little longer before they canned it. And then there’s the conversation part, social drinking is in large part about the conversation, sometimes deep and sometimes benign. How deep can you get though when your drinking buddy is on Redd’s?

Joy of joys, Ken interrupts our musings with our dinner. The beef and chicken are served on wooden and slate board. I’d like to try this serving style at home but my relatives from the village probably think I’ve fallen on hard times if I served them on chopping boards. My meat comes with additional bones that have been sawed in half exposing the marrow within. Ken just keeps winning and I wink my approval. Our side dishes are served in miniature cast iron pots, so cute they make awesome party favours. My mushrooms are served whole and they are truly gorgeous. I pop them into my mouth, closing my eyes in total bliss.

My rib eye steak is a thing of beauty and garnished with rock salt. The first slice is quickly followed by a second and a third before I realize that I’ve been holding my breath. The flavor is so good it grabs you by your shirt lapels and draws you in like a saucy wench. I take a good enough stab at my steak, eating about half of it before I raise my white flag of surrender. I’m stuffed to the gills and appreciative of Ken’s handiwork. Later, he invites us to his kitchen where he introduces us to Josper and the order of Chateaubriand that he has prepared for another diner. I feel like I should have my picture taken with this meat. Wow, is all I can manage.

Screw WHO.


Cover Image credit; Kenya Buzz

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  1. Sirloin steak at either Sierra or News Cafe might change your mind about sirloin steaks. Also, eating a steak rare is like eating your eggs sunny side up. I once ordered it just to sound complicated and shock on me; it was still raw bwana! You cannot argue that you cooked the damn thing and expect me to believe you.

    That said, bachelors like me do not hang around such places often. So we make our own Tea Masala Beef Stew (recipe discovered courtesy of an accident in the kitchen)

  2. ‘If you believe in reincarnation and you think there’s a chance you might come back as a cow, then Morendat is where you want to end up’ #deadnburied. You always have a good way of relaying your messages.

  3. I love meat. The one thing that I loved about that place is you know where the meat is coming from. You don’t want to spend a whooping 3k for 600grams of meat and end up with a mad cow disease.

  4. Red meat = carcinogenic.
    WHO also warned against unprotected sex in the 90’s during the HIV pandemic. But noooo, others just had a shower after because I don’t know, WHO know nothing.
    Now where are they and where’s WHO? You write well foodie!

  5. Interesting read I must concede, however the warning from WHO still stands makes me remember the famous quote from Hamlet…”To eat or not to eat….that is the question?”

  6. I literally salivated…yum-eee I’m with you on the meat and cancer debate.some pple get lung cancer and dnt smoke.I’ll take my chances.

  7. Ahaha
    Well, now I want meat.

    Brilliantly written.
    Her writing is much like a great bottle of wine: matured and sophisticated..having you savour every drop – turning and tasting it in your mouth to fully revel in its beauty.

    Good job!
    I’m a big fan.

  8. Chef Ken!
    Good writing Sophie Esquire. I like mine medium to well too but someone I know asks you to hold a candle under it and not too long at that…

  9. Oh my goodness…wish i had written this myself…this is simply stunning…almost Dickensian turn of phrase…ahhh dammit..brilliant

  10. You write very well. I love your turnof phrase and imagery. Add clarity ofthought there. You knew how your story would end, there is no guess work here. You must be a perfectionist?

  11. I am not crazy about meat, and was beginning to take WHO seriously, but after reading this,am like WTH..let me order steak with the most complicated name! I love this piece.

  12. Screw WHO totally!!! I have eaten a few times at Graze and even the very thought of the place sends my heart into a flutter, much like when i watched my first love walk in through the door at the age of 10. It ROCKS!! It is the closest experience I have EVER had in Africa to my culinary orgasm whilst eating a steak in Rio, Brazil. (Infact now I have to make a booking for Friday….damn you!) Welcome to the Graze club Biko. Screw WHO!!!!

  13. When something can be read so effortlessly, great effort has gone into its writing ~Enrique Poncela
    I am LOVING this swanky resident foodie. Brilliant

  14. Excellent,excellent,excellent!!! That is why Sophie is my top 5 writers on this blog. I mean they way you write about food is *clapping*

  15. Excellent,excellent,excellent!!! That is why Sophie is my top 5 writers on this blog. I mean they way you write about food… *clapping*

  16. 21 days! Now that definitely is malicious (or is it malignant?. My beef is slaughtered in the morning and is gone by evening

  17. Sophie Gitonga, you had me laughing there. My two and a half year old son would agree with you.
    ‘Mama Joe’, he says, pointing at his teeth, ‘hii meno ya Joe’.
    ‘Meno ya Joe ni ya kula nyama’.
    Loved your writing:)

  18. Interesting read. PS those castigating the writer’s stand on the WHO issue should know that in the end anything and everything can kill u. Its all about portions, even stuffing yourself with veggies must have some form of carcinogenic effect

  19. Go easy on him… Maybe he should have written “-to paraphrase Hamlet’s famous quote-“. But no harm methinks. The unlearned me.

  20. I could see the restaurant,and Ken and the hear the musings and taste the food,not that i am a meat person,i’m 5 minutes away from committing to vegetarian lifestyle so no,don’t screw WHO.

    Sophie you can write mami. Biko,this one’s a keeper,definitely up there i the list if my fave writers

  21. The article which you have published is definitely worth a read, and the points mentioned can be agreed upon. A good information about meat, long time that I had steak, I heard you get the best ones in Kenya, its pure and amazing.