Chaine: Kampala’s Fine Dining Culture Club
I attended my first Chaine dinner when I was very new to Uganda. I was told to wear a formal gown, and be on time. I arrived promptly, excited to be with my new friends out at a glamorous evening. I arrived smartly dressed and sipped cocktails with other guests on the patio of The Pearl of Africa restaurant at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
It was a beautiful balmy Ugandan evening and everyone looked relaxed and glamorous. The sound of laughter rang out amongst the clinking of champagne glasses, and too soon we were called to our seats to begin our meal.
As we entered the restaurant I began to understand that I had never been at anything like this before. The décor was soft and elegant, the waiters dressed to the nines, and there were assigned seats by table number, done to enhance conversation and networking for each member.
As we sat I marvelled at the menus which were presented in the form of a miniature hanging scroll reminiscent of medieval times. Every last detail was perfect, and what I discovered that night, is that Chaine is not just an evening out, it’s an experience. That evening I forgot that I was in Uganda, I was transported to Europe for a few blissful hours. It was an escape, and I fell in love with everything about the Chaine experience.
Chaine des Rotisseurs is an international society of like-minded members who share an appreciation for fine wine and incredible cuisine.
Founded in 1248, and present in over 80 countries, they are the world’s oldest international gastronomic society. The focus of the group is to bring together both amateur and professionals in and around the hospitality industry to encourage an appreciation of food, wine, and the table.
As a first time guest at Chaine, I was enchanted by the attention to detail, and gladly followed the rules implemented to allow everyone to have an equally enjoyable evening. The dress is formal, the cocktail hour starts half an hour before dinner and if you arrive after dinner has begun, you will be turned away. There are to be no cell phones or trips to the bathroom during courses, only during the intermission. If you are a member you are requested to wear your membership adornment and if you are guest you are just asked to enjoy.
There are typically seven courses with accompanying wine, each wine has been chosen specifically to enhance its course, and may not be switched. This is not an environment where one can ask for a wine spritzer and the sauce on the side. The chefs spend weeks planning each morsel of every dish, and it’s generally considered impolite to make adjustments. These requests are all done to enhance each members experience and are an absolute pleasure to follow. The Chefs have your best interests at heart as they create spectacular cuisine. This is fine dining at its best, and it is generally understood, that if you would like to participate in a gastronomic event, you are willing to submit yourself to the very able hands of the Chefs and organizers.
Tonight is the Christmas event also hosted at the Serena, though the events do move around town. The Sheraton and Serena Lake Victoria are popular destinations. The theme of the evening is “Night of the Chefs” Each member Chef is creating one course. There are six courses and six chefs, each with their teams as well as the waiters all making for a very full kitchen! But as crazy as the kitchen may be, we the guests are blissfully unaware as we arrive for our evening of gluttony. Having now been an attendee for several Chaine dinners I am pleased to see old friends, as well as meet new ones, as I revel in the holiday spirit of my Christmas cocktail. I peak inside to see an array of shimmering silver, soft black, and holiday red as the waiters rush about in final preparations.
One of the most wonderful things about Chaine dinners, are the people. Rarely are any two people at one table from the same country, and even less rarely have they met before.
If you come with a friend or date, you will of course be seated together, but the rest of the group will be strangers soon to be very good friends. There is no better way to get to know someone then to share a meal with them, which makes Chaine fantastic for networking. If you work in the hospitality industry you want to be here.
This evening’s meal commences with a flourish as waiters walk swiftly into the room. They walk in a figure eight crossing between one another with expert precision. There is one waiter for every two people, allowing for each waiter to carry just two plates. Everything is timed. The waiter arrives soundlessly behind you and waits for the cue to place your plate in front of you. In unison you see the white gloves and red coats placing the dishes as if in a choreographed dance, first dipping right, then left. They stand and wait several beats before walking swiftly back out.
I look to my plate and quickly consult the menu. The first dish is prepared by Chef Kumara Dhanushka of Sheraton and is titled Mediterranean Style Lamb Terrine. It’s served with dry grapes, goat cheese and cucumber cream in horseradish ice-cream. Delighted, I dig in. I quickly determine this particular terrine isn’t for me, never mind, I am on to the horse-radish ice cream. The cool creamy delicacy lavishes on my tongue dissolving into a heat that plunges into my eyes and nose, clearing my pallet for the next taste.
I laugh to myself as I silently thank my Ugandan boyfriend for allowing me to attend these events solo. He would be absolutely miserable! What to me is a culinary adventure is to him an evening of torture.Ugandans aren’t known to be adventurous eaters – at least not my friends – but the fact that Uganda is the place that I am enjoying some of the most unique food I have ever eaten is no mistake.
With groups like Chaine, it is clear there is an appreciation for fine dining here, and as the Chef’s from some of Kampala’s best restaurants can tell you, if the food is good, business is good.
Each month we welcome a new restaurant to this ever growing city, and more and more people are looking for fresh, well prepared, cuisine. Gone are the days when there were only 3 good restaurants in town, now we are spoiled for choice. Beer gardens, Japanese food, Ehiopian and Italian, where do you want to travel tonight? Transport yourself through food to these incredible cultures, and make a point to try something new. And if you are a connoisseur, or even just an amateur with a taste for adventure, look up your local chapter of Chaine, it may be just the thing for you.
To keep up with the Chaine Dinners, follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChaineUganda