My memories of the Ugandan dining scene go back to the mid50s. Coming from a relatively privileged and middle class family, our father was the sort of person who would consider himself as being ‘enlightened’ and generally forward thinking.
We lived in Entebbe and most Sundays the rule than the exception was to have lunch at the wonderful and rather colonial Lake Victoria Hotel. In terms of gastronomic enterprise, the food could best be described as dull, conservative and predictably English. This would translate into roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, occasionally Irish stew would appear on the menu nevertheless, it was a welcome relief from matooke and a plethora of local food. Unlike today, eating joints in this era were far and few in between. Dining out was the preserve of those who were not terribly savvy or worldly and hotel restaurants were the in thing.
While dining out was chiefly an event that mainly took place in hotels, to a large extent their clientele was mainly Whites and top echelon Ugandan civil servants which led to the rise of the local woteli (restaurant) and prominent among these was Nalongo’s in Katwe. This is where the prominent politicians and local businessmen would gather.
Compared to others
Another well-known hang out for locals was Uhuru Restaurant in Nakivubo mews that is still around although the founder, the father of Salim Uhuru passed on some years back. What is significant about this joint is that it opened in 1962 and is still around though their cuisine is hardly what you would call Ugandan. More like coastal come Swahili and they have made their name with pilao.
One should not forget to mention City Bar Kampala Road near Cargen House. Ever since the 60’s until a few years ago City Bar was a place for the young well to do Whites and Asians who loved to play pool and billiards and no doubt it was also a hangout for some “night workers” and yes, wannabe hip Ugandans.
According to veteran journalist Nick Salis, the very building where Nalongos is situated used to be owned by one James Mitti Kabazzi former editor for the now defunct Eyogereza newspaper. Around 1953, Nalongos was the in place for the ‘In crowd’ and the only place to be seen for lunch and supper. Among those who used to frequent the place were the cabal dissident veteran politicians such as IK Musaazi, Dr Kununka whose surgery was next door, Paulo Muwanga, John Kakonge, Grace Ibingira, Milton Obote, Adoko Nekyon, and my uncle Peter Mpagi to mention but a few. However, I would be remiss in not mentioning Maxwell’s which at that time was also a favourite eating joint for the group though they went out of business years ago.
The present Nalongo Bukirwa, whose mother founded the place, learnt the ropes from her mother and between the kitchen and waiting on tables cut her spurs and decided that cooking and food was her calling. To this day she has no regrets. Sadly, infirmity has taken its toll of the grand old lady and she no longer holds forte in her place. However, one of her siblings has taken over and all is alive and well at Nalongos. In all likelihood, they will be around for years to come.
Rating: Worth a visit
Food: Strictly local
What we like: The earthy and gutsy style of cooking that never changes
Where: Off Ring Road, Katwe
Smoke-Free Zone: Not available
Price Range: Lunch for two with a couple of drinks at Shs 50,000
Ambience: Nothing to write home about
Open: Lunch everyday
RATINGS: Not to be missed, worth a visit, OK/so so, don’t waste your time.