By MADAME CONNOISSEUSE
The last stop on my trip around Uganda is Jinja. After booking the next overnight bus to Nairobi, I am left with a few Ugandan shillings and about five hours to spare.
I ask the lady at the reservations counter where the best spot to have some Ugandan food is and she directs me to Highway Restaurant. I then hop on a boda boda and we skirt through the dusty roads which are under construction until the rider finally stops in front of a dingy spot.
If that is the kind of place a beautiful girl in Jinja would consider the best spot in town for local food, I can’t help but think that the men must be slacking!
I then describe the sort of cafe I would like to spend my remaining hours in town in, and a few moments later, the rider pulls up in front of Igar Restaurant.
A waiter promptly hands me a menu but when I find out that all the local food is on buffet, I don’t even glance at the laminated folder. The selection has boiled sweet potatoes and arrow roots, matoke, fried rice, ugali (which they call posho), sukuma wiki, chapati, fish fillet, peanut sauce, chicken, goat meat and beef. The waiter looks at my plate, visibly puzzled. My only starches are matoke and chapati.
He explains that at restaurants in town, it is commonplace to pile your plate with ugali, rice, fries, matoke and yams before you get to the meats and vegetables!
I am an avid lover of plantain and will buy raw bananas any chance I get. I had however walked into Igar with the stubborn notion that I was about to have the best matoke of my life. Without the stew or sauce, it was however very bland.
I knew I could have made better in my own kitchen.
Having spent the afternoon roaming around Jinja and checking out spots like Laftaz Bar where I had a Nile Special beer and The Office where I had plantain chips; Igar was actually one of the few spots in town that had free WiFi, a welcome change for someone who had been offline for several days.
When it was time to clear the bill, I realised that the food was about Sh900 a plate. I know I would have likely complained if I paid the same for Kenyan food at a buffet in Nairobi. Then again, I did ask for the best spot in town.
It also turned out that I had made some miscalculation and was therefore short by about Sh200. The waiter however trusted me enough to let me walk out before paying a single cent in order to go find the remaining money!
This is something that would hardly ever happen in Nairobi, but because of that trust, I was sure to return and clear the bill which was still waiting at my table some half hour later.