- Tucked away on the 9th floor of the TradeMark Hotel in the upscale Nairobi suburb – Gigiri, Hero Bar was recently named 70th among the world’s best bars in the extended list of 51-100 bars.
- The ranking, which is essentially the Michelin star for bars around the world, is the first time it has arrived in a sub-Saharan country, South Africa having taken the lead in previous years.
Tucked away on the 9th floor of the TradeMark Hotel in the upscale Nairobi suburb – Gigiri, Hero Bar was recently named 70th among the world’s best bars in the extended list of 51-100 bars.
The ranking, which is essentially the Michelin star for bars around the world, is the first time it has arrived in a sub-Saharan country, South Africa having taken the lead in previous years.
Hero, featuring samurai spray-painted walls by Lithumized, comic book superheroes doing everyday things and littered with Marvel Universe memorabilia, first opened to the public in September. 2019, before being closed in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and the resulting restrictions took effect.
“We were quite young, trying to stay relevant and ride the wave at this point. It was hard to sell, especially with sushi and cocktails, and the expat market was not there, we had to redefine our strategy to take this further, “said James Kariuki, manager of the Hero Bar.
“We closed for a few months and during that time we decided to be more accommodating in terms of menu offerings and for the bar we wanted to introduce the cocktail culture to Kenya so that there not only have Long Islands and other classic cocktails, but rather something fresh, something new, ”he adds.
Japanese cuisine with local flavors
The Japanese-inspired bar reopened in June of last year on a much smaller scale with a limited clientele as per guidelines from the Department of Health. “When we reopened, we packed ourselves better so the locals could enjoy it.
With our drinks and food, we try to be unique. This is not what you regularly find in a traditional Japanese restaurant. One example is that we have lamb and beef in our sushi, which is not the norm, ”explains James.
Soon more and more local enthusiasts began to gather in droves to experience the mesh of Hero Bar’s Japanese-inspired cooking techniques with Kenya’s love for all things meat, drizzled with a mixture. well thought out cool flavors in ice drinks.
“It was a group effort,” said James, adding: “This process involved everyone, including bars this far from the UK, who came for mentorship like the Scuffs Bar, also listed in the Top 50 bars. They came to help us improve our mixology. Today we have a lot of herbs in our cocktails. You don’t have to drink while it’s bitter, we can have a nice touch while guaranteeing the quality.
Looking at the menu, which is always published as a comedic volume with company-themed stories told through the main characters, a customer would see herbs and spices like mint, thyme, rosemary, ginger, cinnamon, fruits like pineapple and lychee.
They’re currently on volume four of the Hero menu, so the regular customer will find something new every time, leaving the taste buds guessing, avoiding the boredom that can come with routine and usual orders.
When asked what the judges of the 50 Best Bars in the World 2021 saw in Hero to add them to the extended rankings, the soft-spoken bar manager said, “What they saw was creativity, passion, motivation and the dream of growing up.
They deepen our cocktails, not just the ambiance and the good service we provide. It’s a very well thought out process, there is chemistry involved, it’s not just about mixing drinks, there is a lot of science that we apply.
The drink they chose from the list was Madafu Sawa where they had a picture of Batman sitting on a coconut. “
World’s 50 Best Bars is the highest achievement for bars.
“For us that’s a big deal. It’s what every bar looks for or should aspire to,” said James adding: “This is the highest honor you would get for operating a good bar in cocktails. “
“They haven’t particularly had a drink, and they don’t tell you when they’re coming either. So I can’t tell you when they came. We were just here to work and then the director broke the good news.” , said one James, smiling.
Speaking to his team, James said: “For the bar team, you see that the 2021 best bartender in Kenya from the Diageo competition comes from this team, his name is Kelvin Thairu, also the 2019 winner of Remy Martin. cocktail master winner Jameson is also at this bar, his name is Chris Mburu. “
What is the secret of his team’s success? “In short, they come and are able to express themselves, when they come as bartenders with passion, they find enough space for you to think about, enough material for you to learn and use to achieve greatness” , explains James.
Alcohol consumption has increased overall since the start of the pandemic, according to publicly available data. James attributes this to “greater exposure, even as more and more people become accommodating to unusual drinks. There has been a healthy increase.”
And speaking of health, all of their fresh ingredients come from sustainable farms and EABL alcohol #ticker: EABL.
Since the pandemic and with the increase in local tourism, some establishments have reaped big profits by focusing on changing consumer trends.
“It’s a reflection of a people more accommodating to the cocktail culture. Now people allow us to play with premium brands. Initially they wanted their brands to be polished, but now they are asking to try them. things differently, ”says James.
In conclusion, James said, “We intend to be pioneers, to be here for a while, maybe we want to eventually have an extension somewhere, a school for bartenders, a creative space where young minds can. speak out.”
“We’ve tried to take an alien concept for food and we’ve made it our own through what we do with sushi,” said James adding, “in terms of drinks, which we’re now very important to, I wish more people would experience it in another dimension the same way you would be served in London, that’s how they would feel here, ”he concludes.