RESTAURANT REVIEW

Where to go for the best baguette in Nairobi

It incorporates France in Africa without losing either culture

In Summary

• Le Grenier à Pain 'tastes and feels like France but is made and served by Africa'

Baguettes.
Baguettes.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

If you're looking for the best baguette or croissant, which tastes and feels like France but is made and served by Africa, then Le Grenier à Pain is the place to visit. 

A simple living room challenge saw hospitality professional Yan Welffens go on a quest to open a restaurant that incorporated France in Africa without losing either culture.

Three years later, Le Grenier à Pain sits at the heart of Westlands, taking the French on a tasteful journey back home, while inducting originality into the Kenyan market. 

Its 46 staff are all of Kenyan origin and have undergone unique training to equip them with the know-how of dealing with the diversity of its customer base.

Welffens explains that he wanted to have 100 per cent local talent preparing the meals, so he could incorporate the best of the European and African culture into the restaurant. 

"We started out with two staff, a pastry chef and baker who went to France for a month to receive training before we opened," he said. The two received training at Angers, Paris, where the original restaurant sits. 

Imagined and created in 1998 by Michel Galloyer, Le Grenier à Pain currently has over 30 branches across the globe. It won the best “Baguette de Tradition of Paris” award in 2010 and 2015. 

Welffens opened the first of its kind on the African continent in Kenya back in May 2016.

The restaurant has a neutral ambience, which is purposeful to enhance a sense of calm away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. 

"We wanted a space where you could come in and you're not bombarded by advertising messages or aggressive visual art, and I think that's why people like this space," he said. 

To handle the cultural differences, the staff is trained through a script on how to personalise their services for each customer. 

"When you come in, they will greet you in French then English, and then they have to introduce themselves and ask for the guest name. They are also trained in etiquette, where for instance, if a couple is sitting, then they ask for the lady's name first," he said. 

This is aimed at making the guests feel recognised, and it helps the staff offer personalised service for when the guests come back. 

"If we have your name and, say, the staff is here after six months, then they will see you and know what you like and how you like it," he said. 

The restaurant makes the most out of fresh local ingredients from scratch as it strives to create French quality standards. 

However, overpricing of certain ingredients and difficulties in importing locally unavailable ones makes running the business hard. 

"We want to use the products locally available but they are too expensive," Welffens said. "To get the right pricing, the government has to facilitate the importation of some products."

Despite this, Welffens wants to expand the business and bring a similar concept to up to 12 countries in Africa.

Welffens describe his target market as small but still big enough to justify the business.

The restaurant also has a takeout branch at Gigiri.