Ubumwe Grande is a four-star hotel in Kigali, located in the central business district next to the Banque Populaire du Rwanda and opposite the Grand Pension Plaza.
The hotel building is easily recognisable with its faceted triangular-prism shape and its signature cantilever shade structure rooftop.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Fiesta, is located on the first floor of the building and serves buffet-style meals, with fine dining options on request.
The hotel’s outdoor restaurant on the top floor offers an a la carte menu featuring a mix of classic cuisine with signature dishes; it also includes snacks and pizzas.
I settled for the main dining restaurant, Fiesta, where I prepared to embark on a sensuous journey across the realm of gastronomia.
The restaurant’s interior design is resplendent art deco. The black and white wallpaper with bold geometric patterns is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby’s set design.
The highly-polished lacquer tables matched the crisp white tablecloths and black and white bird’s eye patterned dining chairs. The lighting at the food station is provided by gold shaped pendant lights that hang from the suspended ceiling.
The relaxed ambience at the main dining area has made it popular. The attendant welcomed me warmly and ushered me to a table for one, for a late lunch.
Ubumwe is probably the only major hotel chain with a Rwandan as its executive chef. Paul Kamugisha has worked in five-star hotels for the past 13 years, and has degrees in hospitality and culinary arts from Nairobi and Singapore.
He says he is on a mission to turn East African dishes into culinary delights with his Rulindo goat stew and chicken plantain served at the Rooftop, which has become a hit with diners, and the classic Ivungure served during lunchtime at Fiesta.
I opted for the chef’s special, which was a full course meal. The starter was tacos and fish with avocado; the main course was chicken stuffed with spinach, and steamed parsley potatoes; the dessert was red velvet cake. This was served quickly and presented elegantly.
The fish with avocado was garnished with parsley with a generous sprinkle of pico de gallo, a Mexican salsa. The fish — tilapia — was tender and was a perfect accompaniment to the umami taste of the avocado.
The main course was served with a red wine sauce. This was quite a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
The chicken was juicy, and dressed in cream cheese. The red wine sauce provided a full-bodied flavour. The boiled potatoes were slightly sweet; they had been sautéed for a little while in butter after boiling.
Small portions of spinach, tomatoes and carrots were served on the side.
The red velvet cake was garnished with strawberry sauce and dark chocolate. It was sweet and rich in taste and texture, dense and moist. The slice looked like a picture from a cookbook.
“When you plan a menu, you look at who you are targeting,” Kamugisha explained. “At least 70 per cent of customers are African, and even the Europeans who come here want to eat African food.”
The rooftop restaurant offers a bird’s-eye view of the city and is especially scenic at night. You can see the lights from the street all the way into the neighbouring hills.
On one side of the rooftop, a few steps up, is the swimming pool area. It is an ideal spot for corporate or intimate cocktails.
And if you want serious privacy, the hotel suites have a built-in kitchen and dining area complete with cooker, shelves, drawers, table, glasses and crockery. This is ideal for long-stay clientele who may want to feel right at home in the city.