Tamarai

Tamarai Restaurant, Kampala

Ever with our finger on the pulse of the city, Living in Kampala has been one of the first to visit and review this new Thai restaurant and tea bar in Kololo. Finally opened on 15th August 2012, Tamarai has been in the works for months previous and has been sitting there on lower Kololo Drive tempting and teasing me with its huge intricately carved wooden doors and giant Buddhas.

Kampala is relatively bereft of Thai restaurants with the only contender now being the Metropole Hotel Oriental Simply Thai. This recent edition to the Asian fusion food scene, therefore, has been eagerly awaited…mainly by me.

Tamara, KampalaIt has, hands down, the most impressive interior décor of any of the Kampala restaurants – full of Buddhas, giant wooden elephants and luxurious cushioned couches. As you enter to your left you’ll find the tea bar (first and only of its kind in Kampala) and behind it the lounge bar – equipped with 2 plasma screens showing sports (presumably meant so that if you’re out as a couple,  the girl can sip fruity infused tea whilst gazing out over the garden and her date can position himself round the corner with his bottle of Tusker and the premier league.) Jokes aside, the tea bar is probably one of this place’s nicest features, offering fruity, green and black teas including Arabian mint and berry sensation among others. They give you the option of having them hot (6,000 UGX) or iced (10,000 UGX). I tried the maharaja assam tea, which was very refreshing. They also offer free wifi  so it has the potential for a very sophisticated meeting spot…or perhaps just a great place to write your book of haikus.

The food is, broadly speaking pan-Asian; mainly consisting of Thai staples but with some Chinese dim sum thrown in and Singapore nasi and mie gorengs. Dishes include such Thai favourites as pad thai (18,000 UGX) and curries including Masaman, red, green and yellow as well as some salads including papaya (14,000 UGX) and soups such as Tom Yum which are between 10-14,000 UGX as well as a selection of stir fried meat, fish and veg dishes. Prices for starters range between 18,000 and 37,000 and mains are on average around 24,000 UGX.

Drinks prices are 5,000 UGX for bottles of beer, 2,500 UGX for sodas and 10,000 to 11,500 UGX for a glass of house wine – which is pretty expensive so this is actually one of the places in Kampala where it actually works out cheaper to buy a bottle if there are a few of you. Prices for bottles start at 35,000 UGX and go all the way up to 130,000 UGX. I can personally recommend the South African Shiraz at 45,000 UGX.

Tamara, KampalaIn line with the luxurious exterior, as soon as you sit down for dinner, a lady materialises offering a fine minute shoulder or foot (!) massage at your table for 10,000 UGX. A few people in my party opted for this but from their facial expressions it looked like there were varying levels of enjoyment! Still, as someone who is shamelessly drawn in by gimmicks, I thought it was a fun touch.

I had a slightly mixed experience here food wise, which may just be teething problems and some poor choices. I went back for lunch after going for dinner and food was generally a lot better. Again may be a result of the whole days worth of extra practice or just because lunch is a lot less busy!

The Dim Sum mixed trio I ordered as a starter (24,000 UGX) was very. In terms of mains the beef Mussaman curry (24,000 UGX) was very tasty but the Pad Siew noodles (20,000 UGX) we ordered were pretty awful – suicidally spicy and tasting nothing like the classic soy sauce-based Pad Siew. A friend went for one of the other noodle options, however, and said it was very good so we may just have been unlucky. Others had a rainbow of curries (red, yellow and green) and generally reported that they were pretty good (yellow also being on the spicy side).

Only other real critique is the price – it’s probably one of, if not the more expensive meals I’ve had in Kampala (around 60,000 UGX for shared starter, main and wine) – this is largely the result of the fact that starters are the same price as mains and rice accompaniments are ridiculously expensive at 10,000 to 20,000 UGX. So if on a budget it might be worth putting some thought into your order!

In conclusion, I would recommend this place either if you want a very special venue for a fancy occasion or a nice place for an afternoon tea and chat. Food isn’t necessarily the best in town and is pretty pricey, but if you’re a fan of Thai food then (providing you pick carefully) you should be more than happy with this Kampala version and, in terms of décor and ambience, it’s second to none.

Hours: 10am to 3pm & 6pm to 10:30pm, Tuesday to Sunday
Address: Plot #14, Lower Kololo Terrace
Phone: 0712 744 883
Email: tamaraithai@gmail.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tamarai/130194887124989

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About Lucy

A Kampalite as of the start of 2012 - I'm really loving my time here and planning to stay for a while. I’m originally from London where I’ve worked for a range of NGOs and am now hoping to try my hand overseas, plus London is way too cold and grey and full of pigeons. I’m currently in search of interesting job opportunities and experiences here and elsewhere – until global warming kicks in that is and then I can head back to the UK as it should have removed the pigeons. Get in touch at lucy@livinginkampala.com.