Food & Drink

Atop One of Rwanda’s 1000 Hills: The Distillery Cocktail Bar & Bistro

My husband and I love ending our workweek on a positive note, which usually includes food, drinks, and good company. Since we have been in Kigali for less than six months, the desire to explore the city is still burning.

So, last Friday, we spontaneously agreed on a belated St. Valentine’s/wedding anniversary celebration at The Distillery Cocktail Bar & Bistro.

Getting There

The Distillery Cocktail Bar & Bistro is about ten kilometers away from the center of Kigali. If you aren’t using a private car, bear in mind that not all drivers are familiar with its location. However, the distillery is accurately pinned on Google maps, and it’s hard to miss the 1000 Hills Distillery sign once you have entered into the rural road, off KK 30 Avenue.         

The Distillery Cocktail Bar & Bistro serves up to 50 different cocktails, on and off-menu

The Welcome

The bistro is mindfully positioned in the 1000 Hills estate distillery so that you can relish the uninterrupted views of the city’s suburbs and lush hills from all outdoors tables.

Frank, our host and bartender

We reveled in the enthusiasm and kindness with which our host, Frank, greeted us, and felt the genuine hospitality right away. Even though we had made a reservation; upon arrival, and as most seats were still free, they let us choose our table — I am all about small acts of thoughtfulness.

The Ambiance

We arrived at the distillery just before sunset. I highly recommend this timing for the gradual nightfall, the alfresco tranquility, and the chirpy birds create a supreme setting to reconnect with nature.

Views from the Bistro

As the evening advanced, more people started arriving, until we became a balanced mix of friends catching up and couples on romantic dates. Even though the outside space filled up with about 15 people, tables are far enough from each other for conversations to blend harmoniously and create a socializing white noise. I particularly enjoyed the music, which was playing favorite pop tunes at the right volume. The outdoors fireplace, the handmade wooden furniture, and the dimly-lit space create an intimate, rustic atmosphere.

The Service

The staff’s movement in the place is swift but not harrying. The attendants are at your table exactly when you need them. Frank is knowledgeable about the food and the drinks, and doesn’t get tired of answering your questions. He even wanted to show us a book about the distillation, but maybe next time when we come back for the distillery tour.

Distillery tours available upon request

The Food

The menu is simple, limited to only a few options, and moderately priced as expected by a bistro. The dishes aren’t characteristic to a specific cuisine but are the result of many cooking traditions. The starters and five main courses are based on the same ingredients, which are freshly sourced from local farmers. We ordered the Mushroom Satay (10,000 RwF), which is the only vegetarian main course, and the standout Hot Rock Beef Filet (15,000 RwF).

The food arrived on time, which is to be expected considering the simplicity of it. The mushroom and vegetable skewers were beautifully cooked. The button mushrooms were juicy and the peppers, tomatoes, and onions crispy. I am not a big fan of peanut sauce, but it was working very well with the veggies, and I even dipped my homemade skin-on chips in it. The side avocado salad is ideal to clean your palate before finishing your meal.

Beef Fillet cooking on a hot rock, the oldest known cooking technique

Whatever I say about the Hot Rock Beef Fillet, I feel that it won’t make it justice. Hot rock cooking is the oldest-known cooking technique, and until today is among the healthiest, as it’s oil-free. I am vegetarian, but I can understand why people from all over Kigali adore this dish. While it’s being served, the beef is cooking on the heated rock. You must turn it, slice it, and leave it on the stone until it’s prepared to your preference. The beef doesn’t lose its original flavor and natural juices, is evenly cooked, and there’s no risk of burning it. Plus, you are enjoying a constantly hot meal, as the stone keeps a steady temperature for approximately 40 minutes from the moment it’s been removed from the oven.

The presentation is minimalistic, and the portions have the right amount of food, which doesn’t fill you up but leaves you with an ideal feeling of satisfaction. If you like spicy food, ask for the homemade Pili-Pili sauce.

There’s no mention of dessert on the menu, but after they cleared out table, they offered us coffee or ice cream. The coffee and chocolate serving was such a pleasant surprise for someone like me who in the sight of ice cream turns into a child.

Made-in-Rwanda coffee liqueur

The Drinks

The bar is exclusively supplied with Made-in-Rwanda, in-house triple-distilled malt whiskey, lightly spiced rum, vodka, and London dry gin. The menu has 16-cocktails — four for each base —  which are at 5,000 RwF. Besides, the bar serves Chardonnay and Bordeaux wine, which can be purchased by the glass or bottle, as well as local and imported beers. For the sake of my review (and the celebration of the weekend), I tried the citrus and spicy Gimlet gin cocktail, the Manhattan whiskey cocktail with vermouth and bitters, and the Old Fashion. I will come back for the rum-based hand-crafted coffee liqueur.

To learn more check out 1000 Hills on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

To book a reservation, distillery tour or upcoming specials: Visit website

All images used courtesy of 1000 Hills Cocktail Bar, Bistro & Distillery

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