If you’re a connoisseur of Indian food in Kampala then you already know about Coconut Shack. This small restaurant is tucked into the corner of a shopping centre just off Barnabas road downhill from the Italian Supermarket and just uphill from International Hospital Kampala. And, it’s the only place in the city where you can get authentic Goan cuisine in addition to delicious Indian dishes from other parts of the country.
Goa is a region in the west of India touching the Arabian Sea. For this reason, Goan cuisine features seafood and coconut more heavily in their dishes than in other regions of India. If you like Indian food you will find Goan food not much different but with a bit more emphasis on heavy, creamy sauces.
The wait staff at the Coconut Shack are cheerful and friendly and greet the regulars which frequent the place. They also kindly ask how much spice you would like in your dishes when you order so you can have the flavour without the heat if you so desire. Hot towels for hand washing prior to the meal and heated lemon water for washing hands after eating are also a nice touch.
There are 4-5 tables wooden tables and chairs outside under umbrellas which face the parking lot and Barnabas Road. But, given the lack of traffic on both it’s possible to have a nice meal without choking on exhaust. Inside there are more tables under muted orange and yellow lighting.
Like most Indian restaurant menus Coconut Shack’s is divided into vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Be careful though because it’s possible to get to the starters and want to go no further. Papadam are a must and come out quick from the kitchen covered in spicy chopped tomatoes and onions. Fried or roasted they cost a paltry 1,500 UGX. If you’re feeling more adventurous try the Chilly Paneer (18,000) or Masala chips (8,500). Aloo Tikky are also delicious at 10,000 and are small potato pancakes lightly fried and served hot. Non-veg starters are pricier from 6,000 for a meat samosa to 18,500 for Chilli pork. In between you have fish Pakora, chicken lollipops, shammi kebabs and fish fingers.
Vegetarian mains focus on potatoes, lentils and paneer many of which are cooked in thick, rich, creamy sauces. The paneer palak is arguably the best in Kampala. It’s hard to make a case for which lentil (dal) dish should be given preference – the Dal Tadkewali, Masoori, or Makhani – all cost between 14,000 and 18,000 UGX and are all flavourful and rich.
If you believe that a meal isn’t complete until you’ve had meat there’s plenty on the menu for you as well. Standard non-vegetarian Indian dishes are between 17,000 and 20,000 UGX including chicken masala, butter chicken, and fish masala. You can’t go wrong with the mutton rogan josh which is ground mutton, again, in a rich tomato based gravy.
Nan lovers will be in heaven as there’s sixteen types of nan, roti, raratha, chapatti and kulcha all ranging from 4,000 – 8,500 UGX. All the nan is made fresh and served hot with plenty of whatever topping you’ve chosen. The chilly and cheese nan is a favourite as is the tandoori roti.
If you’re not feeling adventurous you can stick to rice, biryani and pillau as well as the standard Kampalan steak and chips, or chicken and chips.
In general it’s a perfect for a low-key evening where you want good Indian food without the fuss of driving into town. If you’re trying to complete the circuit of all the Indian food in town then at least one visit is a must but don’t be surprised if you find yourself coming back again and again!