Artcaffè Excellence at the Westgate Mall

Artcaffe Latte, originally uploaded by andai.

This particular Saturday afternoon, I had some business that I needed to take care of at the Westgate mall. And since I hadn’t yet had my latte for the day, I thought I might as well kill two birds with one stone by picking up a latte while I was there. I knew that both Nairobi Java House and Dormans had retail spaces in this mall. And after my great experience with the Dormans coffee bar at The Junction mall the day before, the choice was pretty clear which of the two I intended to visit. By the way, I don’t know who came up with that expression, “kill two birds with one stone” but I can assure you that no birds (or animals for that matter) were hurt during my visit to the Westgate mall.

Just like the Dormans at the Yaya Centre, the Dormans at Westgate is located, not in a retail shop, but is run as a large espresso stand on the 2nd or 3rd floor court area of the Westgate Mall. By the way, the malls in Kenya tend not to have food courts like they do in the US so the lobby/court areas tend to look more like café or lounge type areas with seating. This is a similar concept to the Il Fornaio, the Italian bakery space at the Pacific Place in downtown Seattle if you are familiar with Pacific Place. The Dormans seating is actually pretty awesome and very comfortable. When I thought about it, I actually liked the concept because it looks very relaxing yet open and inviting. You didn’t have that closed, confined feeling that you might get if you were seated in a retail shop.

So the plan was to check out Dormans… alas, it was not ment to be… because… we just happened to stumble upon Artcaffè, coffee and bakery quite by pure chance. And though I really didn’t know anything about the place, just the fact that they advertised themselves as a coffeehouse caught my attention. I wanted to see what they were all about and how their coffee stacked up to Dormans and the rest.

The two ladies are the front, the maître d’hôtel, were really nice. Since I initially wasn’t too sure about the place, I told them they I simply wanted to take a look to see what espresso machine the place used. At least I could get an idea from this as to the type of baristas they had. I also asked them if they actually served espresso as opposed to regular drip or brewed coffee. One of them confidently told me that not only did they serve espresso, but their espresso was actually the best in town… no doubt. The way she said it made me think that this was probably not just some idle boast… and this really peaked my interest.

I noticed after a quick glance at the bar was that they actually have a La Marzocco all their espresso drinks were hand pulled using freshly ground coffee. I returned to the front to tell the maître d’hôtel, I now was convinced this was a place worth trying and that I would now take her up on her boast. I then noticed that right there by the entrance to the right, they actually had a really cool copper, almost vintage looking Has Garanti coffee roasting machine.

Dormans was going to have to wait for another day..

Artcaffe at Westgate, originally uploaded by andai.

I opted to sit at one of the high tables that were surrounding the perimeter of the interior, mainly because if I wanted to take any pictures of the place, I would be at a good vantage point… and also it would let me be able to get a good view of the surroundings. And so I was able to check out the place better. Artcaffè actually looks really nice.

The décor consists more of muted colors that remind me of a softer version of the Fonté Coffee Roaster’s Flagship store on Seattle’s 1st Avenue just south of Pike Place Market. I liked that they had the mix of the normal type of tables in addition to the high tables with high chairs. Then there is the bar seating for those who wanted to be close to the action, I do believe there was some upstairs seating too. There also is outside seating which I think is just right for Nairobi but for reasons explained earlier I chose to sit along the perimeter of the interior.

Despite the tag, Artcaffè, Coffee and Bakery, I would say that the place actually looks more like a really nice restaurant rather than a coffeehouse… but one thing for sure, it certainly do not look like any old bakery at all.

I must say that I really like the customer service they had at Artcaffè. Now the Dormans people at The Junction, especially Alex and Steve, were really awesome. However, the Dormans folks at Westgate were not so great… I found this out later after I had my fill of espresso from Artcaffè and went upstairs to see what the Dormans space looked like. I wanted to take a picture or two there but they were not very helpful.

In contrast to the Westgate Dormans people, the staff at Artcaffè were really awesome, and the manager, even though I didn’t actually get to chat with him, was really nice and flexible and allowed me to take pictures of the inside. I felt that this is what good customer service should be like, that even though they have certain rules and policies in place, they are also flexible and can adjust accordingly as needed.

We ordered our lattes. I wanted a double but in a single serving size. This I think was the equivalent of a double 8 oz latte. The lady who brought over my latte warned me, “careful, this is very strong” I had to smile as thanked her and assured her, not in a mean way by any means, that I would be able to handle strong latte. I actually thought that was really nice that she told me this. What was even nicer was the fact that when I asked her if I could take pictures and I told her why, she went and got permission from the manger to take as many pictures as I wanted… including that cool coffee roasting machine they had out front.

On top of that, I also asked her for a paper coffee cup that I could take a picture of, and unlike the Nairobi Java House folks how insisted that I would have to order a drink to go so I can get the cup, she actually went to talked to the folks behind the counter then came back a few minutes later with the cup and told me that I could actually keep it. I have to say that she was really awesome and probably my favorite of the whole trip!

I really enjoyed my latte. It was nice and strong, just the way I liked it and tasted great. Now I don’t know much about the blend they use for their espresso drinks, but what I do know is that they do roast their own coffee beans… and do a great job at that. I think their actual coffee roasting machine is in the back, at least I think that is what one of the ladies told me. And as I am writing this, I actually do plan on buying a bag or two that I can take back with me to Seattle and share with a couple of my friends who enjoy good coffee. I would also go as far as to day that if Artcaffè were to open a coffee shop up here in Seattle, I really thing they would do really well… they certainly would be on my top five local coffeehouses.

Overall I have to say that I really liked this place. Even though it is not really a coffeehouse in the traditional sense, they do have great espresso and I would certainly frequent the place if I lived or worked near the Westgate mall in Westlands, Nairobi.

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