Trendy and airy Uhuru

The ambience is airy and in vogue at the new Uhuru on Albert Cook Road. Inset is platter of food at Uhuru Restaurant. PHOTO/A. KADUMUKASA KIRONDE II

What you need to know:

  • Restaurant Review. Uhuru Restaurant opened in 1962 and this year, they are celebrating their anniversary of 62 years.
  • They are at a more convenient location too.

Uhuru Restaurant has been around since October 1962 at the time of Uganda’s independence and will coincidentally be celebrating 62 of existence in October this year. 

In October 1962, there were no fancy restaurants such as the ones that abound today. By and large, there were just a handful of relatively high-end eating joints worthy of mention that were centred mainly in Kampala and its environs.  

At any rate, the burgeoning middle class and newly appointed public servants were not exactly the types who were into fine dining or gourmet food. Dining out meant going to one of the government-owned hotels under the ambit of the well managed and regarded Uganda hotels who owned a string of properties in the country. These included Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe and Speke Hotel in Kampala. 

Admittedly, the food was of no particular distinction with a strong bias towards English fare as opposed to Continental. I recall the dining scene at those hotels offered a degree of luxury, albeit sterile ambience and a feeling of one having made it. We also used to go Crested Crane on Kampala Road which was more like a café with snacks and the like. Where Watoto Church is located used to be Norman Cinema and upstairs was La Quinta night club and bar cum restaurant that served food.

I also recall Christos on Kampala Road near the defunct Downtown Forex Bureau. There, we used to have the most gorgeous pastries.  One cannot forget Drapers (the former Crane Bank headquarters) on Kampala Road which was Kampala’s first modern department store which also boasted an elegant coffee shop on the second floor.

Then, a Chinese joint on Dewinton Road. What was dominant at that time were the Nalongo class of woteli that were a dozen, local and unsophisticated. 

Taking Kampala by storm
When Saad Abed, the father of Salim Saad Uhuru first arrived in Uganda from Yemen via Dar-es-salaam (Tanzania) in the early 1960’s, a joint such as his that served exotic fare hitherto not known or eaten by locals took Kampala by storm.  True that pilao had been a favourite among Muslims but given that they were a small somewhat parochial and insular community, outsiders never had a chance to taste their pilao or chapattis. 

To the credit of the late Saad Abed, he realised that if he could consistently produce good food daily. Ugandans from all walks of life would flock to his place. He was spot on and the family has never looked back.

With his wife, Farida Saad they acquired premises next to Nakivubo Stadium courtesy of Dr George Ssali. Dr Ssali was a substantial landlord in that area and that is how the original Uhuru Restaurant on Abbey Kafumbe Road came into existence. Having decided on that location, they came up with the name Uhuru which they felt was especially apt since they opened on Tuesday October 9, 1962. 

The bumpy road
Business was rather good during the Obote I regime and then the Idi Amin era. Prominent members of society such as Captain No Parking, Juma Butabika, Governor Nasur, and Moses Ali were regulars plus popular sports figures and a host of other Ugandans. There was a brief difficult period during Obote II when the country, and Kampala City in particular, experienced considerable instability.

Those were the days when we had indiscriminate dragnets such as Panda Gari and business was at a low ebb. Under those circumstances, dining became a rare luxury and for a while Uhuru shut down. 

The good times
With the advent of the NRM governance, business was on the upswing. New branches in the city centre were opened and with development new ideas that led to greater autonomy. Some years back, Salim parted ways with the main Uhuru Nakivubo Restaurant and go solo without being tied to the apron strings of his parents.  To date, he has two outlets with the main one in Eden Mall and the other in the CBD on Wilson Road.

New addition
Last week saw the opening of the latest Uhuru Restaurant move down about half a mile from Haji Sewava’s building to the spanking brand-new Eden Mall on Albert Cook Road. The new location is a lot airier compared to the former place as well as being semi alfresco while at the same time being modern. In this day of keen competition in the food industry, such details are important to clients and can only boost one’s business. 

The food is the respected and much-loved Uhuru fare leading with the iconic pilao for which he has become so well-known over time. Worthy of note and unbeknownst to many, back at the turn of the century in early 2000, before the advent of Glovo and Jumia, Uhuru was the pioneer in the delivery of food with pilao being his signature meal to the point where it became a household name in many an office within the CBD. In those days boda bodas were rare, far and few between. Nevertheless, ever the resourceful person, Salim assembled a fleet of boda riders who were fanatically loyal, reliable and proud to work for him. They knew their way around town and would make daily deliveries in droves in Kampala offices. 

Today, one is guaranteed that the Uhuru pilao spicing will be at par, consistent and never over done with the quality of the rice always of the best and the salt just right. Fish pilao comes with a delicious and large piece of deep-fried tilapia while the goat is served with two generous morsels of goat meat that is deliberately chosen from the leg; thus, obviating the ribs that are more often than not bereft of meat. Salim definitely has his act together and is here for a long time to come. 

The deal… 

The place: Uhuru Restaurant 
Address: Eden Mall, Albert Cook Road, Kampala
Menu: Pilao chicken Shs12,000, pilao goat meat 12,000, pilao beef stew 12,000, pilao fish Shs13,000, pilao liver Shs 12,000, pilao offals Shs5,000, vegetable pilao Shs 5,000, plain pilao Shs 6,000, buffet chicken Shs12,000, buffet goat meat Shs12,000 among others
Rating: Not to be missed 
Smoke-free zone: Strictly not allowed  
Damage: In these days of biting the bullet Shs30,000 will do nicely for two with a soft drink. However, if you are really skint go for the offals or vegetable pilao then half that amount will suffice.
Service: Good and attentive 
Ambience: Trendy and airy 
Parking: Inside the forecourt, ample and very secure  
What the ratings mean: These are purely the reviewer’s personal reaction to food, ambience and service with price being factored into consideration. The menu listings and prices are subject to change.