When you come across the simple white on black sign on Wampewo Avenue that says Prunes, it takes a moment to process. Elegance in design is not something Kampala is known for – boldness, color, motion, yes. But this is different. This is careful simplicity and thoughtful detail. This is elegance.
Prunes Restaurant and Cafe, located in Kololo, opened in July of 2012, a project of Ghada Ghotmeh, a young, buoyantly energetic woman originally from Beruit who, by the time she opened Prunes, had been in Uganda less than a year. A former equities and derivatives trader in London and Dubai, she needed a challenge after moving to Kampala with her new husband. She decided to let her love of coffees and desserts propel her into the restaurant business.
The coffee at Prunes is good, a blend Ghada selected herself, and the cupcakes are divine, a recipe she has long used in her own kitchen at home. In fact, every part of Prunes reflects her hands-on guidance. She oversaw the renovation of the house-turned-cafe, created the menu herself, and led the interior design.
It’s this last element, the design, that immediately sets Prunes apart for new customers. The black walls of the small indoor dining area feature whimsical white doodles, bare-bulb lamps hang in lines and clumps from the ceiling, and everything, from the menu to the chairs on the patio, follows a careful black and white motif with bright red accents. The theme, says Ghada, is ‘curiosity’. Attached to the dining area are Retail and Reading areas that carry on the theme, and next to them the Trip Room, its walls covered in photographs. Even the restroom walls are covered in various translations of ‘toilet.’
Brunch is a Prunes specialty, and many customers order it all day long. Especially recommended are the Eggs+3 and the Popeye’s Choice. For lunch and dinner there is a good selection of salads and sandwiches, all abiding by Ghada’s rules for her food: fresh, healthy, and delicious. But if you’ll take my advice, try the daily special. These are dishes that Ghada works on with her chefs, mixing her love of the best restaurants in London and New York with her years of cooking with her mother. I went for lunch on a Thursday and ordered the special: Ginger Steamed Whole Tilapia.
When the dish was served my table filled with the sweet and spicy smell of fresh ginger. The fish, a beautiful specimen, was topped with green onions, slices of steamed ginger, and a dusting of crushed red peppers. I could hardly wait to dig in. The meat was unbelievably tender and wonderfully infused with the subtle seasonings of the dish. Served with rice, it was a big meal, but I practically cleaned my plate in the enjoyment of it.
When I was finished Freddy, a Prunes staff member who said he does a little of everything at the restaurant, asked how my meal was and graciously accepted my compliments. The staff seemed particularly engaged and personable. Part of this could be the recent opening, but much is likely due to Ghada’s focus on thorough training and empowerment, giving the staff the tools they need to do their jobs well. It also seems she chose good people to surround herself with.
Prunes was still very new at the time of this writing, and there remained a feeling, hard to detail, that things are still gelling, that they are not quite what they will be. Staff are still finding their rhythms and getting comfortable in their roles, Ghada’s eye for well-designed detail has not yet transformed the whole compound. Still it competes with some of Kampala’s favorite cafes, a good sign for what’s to come. When you sit down for a brunch or a special at Prunes, remember that, as good as it is, it is, most likely, only the beginning.
Hours: Monday to Saturday 8am – 10pm, Sunday 9am – 8pm
Address: Plot 8, Wampewo Avenue
Phone: 0772 712 002