The Kwa Haraba Arts Cafe has a pleasant outlook across to Nyambadwe Hill. For the sunny and warm day today I have the right mix of sun, shade and breeze with some chilled music emerging from the cafe behind me. As the location is at the back of the building looking out, we are away from the noise of Glyn Jones Road on the other side. It's the right combination for a good first impression.
For some time I have been meaning to visit the Kwa Haraba Arts Cafe in the centre of Blantyre. For the location, I think it hits the spot for a quiet and relaxing drink and perhaps some reading or writing.
Talking of reading, one of the first things I noticed was the full bookshelf. I asked and seemingly they are for sale rather than reading with your coffee. Having stocked up on coffee before I left home this morning I have opted for one of their exotic fruit juices.
If I decide I like this place then perhaps I will work my way through the menu. The fresh juices certainly look interesting, and for a town that is so dominated by Coke, Fanta and Sprite (and Carlsberg), this is a welcome alternative. I have gone for the 'Tropical Paradise' which when looking at the ingredients of the other drinks, is certainly the most conservative option.
Spread around the other juices I see mixes that include beetroot, mint, ginger, cucumber, spinach, moringa, peanut butter (!), honey and more. Another day I will need one of their Botanical Boosts and at another time I'll go for the Monkey Business. As its not time I have hardly yet glanced across the menu to analyse their salads, pasta, sandwiches and pizzas.
What impresses me most however here is the chilled atmosphere and at the moment here I have got the perfect breeze.
What might be worth grabbing hold of, before it changes, is the solitude. If you live in Blantyre you can never go into town without bumping into someone you know (nothing wrong with that). At the moment I can not see any other people and my car is parked at the back here on its own. All I can see are the works of art sitting outside in the sun, and beyond them Nyambadwe Hill and Ndirande Mountain. Although I like my current exclusivity, I think that this place has the right ambiance for groups of friends to meet and chat.
Of course, it is true that I have bumped into someone I know. The waiter here worked somewhere else before. It seems that almost every waiter, waitress and barman in Blantyre knows that I am practising and maintaining my limited Chichewa...
So what of the art? I can see various styles exhibited outside and within the cafe. There are curios, masks, pottery, canvass, table cloths and more...even some items of furniture. Some things you typically see at Mua Mission or Dedza Pottery have made their way here. As far as the paintings are concerned I see some familiar styles but I also notice something else I have been hoping for, a painting that looks like it could be somewhere on Mulanje Mountain. I quite like the way the tables and chairs are splashed with paint.
What's near here? Round the other side facing the Main Street is a spice shop. We are near the FMB Bank and not far from Veg Delight, PEP, Malawian and Ethiopian Airways and very close to the junction of Zalewa Road and Glyn Jones.
What sort of thing is this cafe good for? My impression is that it is a good place to read or write in peace and quiet. That is my most likely use of it. Otherwise a nice place to meet a friend for a drink or perhaps a break from the bustle of the town or a good point to stop if walking from town to Doogles if you are a visitor there. I imagine it's a good place for lunch if your work nearby but this is the morning as I write, I don't know how busy it is midday. I suggest for people staying not far away at the Mount Soche Hotel it might be a nice change of scenery for a drink, bite or laptop session. I don't think it is the best option in town for children. If you have one or two not very noisy children it might be ok for a while but a lot of children running around in the smallish space here would alter the ambiance of the place.
All in all, I am glad I tried it. Try it yourself.
After writing this and then wandering around taking a few snaps I realised that I have been 'here' before. I remember the art collection from a couple of previous locations where they were based.