The recently-opened Living Room bar is set to become a hipper alternative to the half-baked glory of Harry’s Bar for Lilongwe’s expats and upwardly mobile Malawians. Its philosophy is to take the best of Lilongwe’s subtle diversity and put it all together in a friendly, relaxed café bar atmosphere.
We discovered it thanks to the manager of a small Belgian NGO, Kwasa Kwasa, who had sold his entire supply of homemade papaya jam to the bar, leaving none for us. Moved more by curiosity than our need for jam, we followed his directions and wound up behind an industrial estate. We turned around to leave and nearly missed it, tucked away on an unlit side street.
The jam isn’t the only locally-sourced are on the menu. The manager says that they try to buy as much as they can from the local community. So far, this includes their carrot cake, which is covered in caramel icing and served with fresh mint leaves, and the Malambe Magic: a virgin cocktail made from baobab, ginger and Sprite.
The menu also includes Thai red curry with succulent beef, vegetarian couscous and an eclectic salad bar.
A lot of thought was put into the interior, with its hand-carved wooden window frames, paintings by local artists and a bar made of stacks of old books. It’s this thoughtful design that really contributes to The Living Room’s welcoming vibe. An entire corner of the room invites you to sit in one of the plush armchairs and choose something to read from the adjacent shelf full of used books and African lifestyle magazines. The collection of board games adds a playful dimension to the experience, Scrabble being the most popular game.
Sheesha is available to smoke both inside and out on the roomy front deck.
It’s not unusual to see lone customers enjoying a coffee or gin and tonic, which is a credit to the management’s success in creating a thoroughly chilled out watering hole.