Authentic African cuisine isn’t quite so easy to find in Singapore, but there’s a café and lounge serving exactly that just off Keong Saik Road in the Chinatown/Outram area. Named Kafe Utu, the joint is the brainchild of Kurt Wagner, who had spent most of his childhood living in different African countries including Liberia, South Sudan, and Kenya. These experiences – and a dream to bring their colours, textures and flavours to Singapore’s café scene – were what led to Kafe Utu’s founding.
Nearly every aspect of Kafe Utu is informed by its raison d’être, beginning with the authentic African cuisine. Expect dishes hailing from Monrovia, Marrakech, Malindi, and beyond, all served with a focus on freshness and authenticity. Dishes such as the Swahili fish curry and West African charred aubergine stew with angus beef cheek don’t just represent African food though. They also showcase the diversity of the continent’s cuisine and, by extension, its cultures.
To complement the food available, Kafe Utu also serves a carefully curated range of coffee and alcohol. The former is best represented by the Ubuntu house blend, which is blended and hand-roasted in small batches with beans from Uganda, Mexico, and Brazil. It’s strong and heady, with notes of cashew nuts, brown sugar, red wine, and dark chocolate, which is accentuated by the extra creamy Hokkaido milk that Kafe Utu uses exclusively.
Diners who tipple, on the other hand, should try the Procera Gin at the Utu Lounge on level two. This African gin is hand-distilled in Kenya, and infused with African Juniper berries harvested from the slopes of Mount Kenya, alongside botanicals sourced from all across Africa. Cocktails crafted with Procera Gin and other liquors are also available.
No dining experience is complete without a well-designed space that reflects the food and drinks being served. Thankfully, Kafe Utu’s décor has this in spades. For a start, the doors, panels and mirrors sport traditional Lamu and Zanzibari motifs, all hand-carved by a master craftsman from Malindi on the Kenyan coast. The water glasses and glass casks, on the other hand, are Nairobi imports hand-blown by craftsmen at Kitengela Hot Glass. Even the eight-metre banquette in the café is from a single African Mahogany tree.
With its casual, relaxed atmosphere and diverse food and drinks, Kafe Utu promises broad-based appeal, whether to casual diners or foodies alike.
Kafe Utu is located at 12 Jiak Chuan Road, and can be contacted at: 6996 3937.