Hemingways ... the name rings in the ears and brings tales of adventure, daring, intrepid travellers and more to mind. Hemingways Nairobi, located along Mbagathi Ridge in Karen, certainly does the name justice as it incorporates English countryside mansion architecture with a winning decor, a setting in the woodlands of Karen and then some more, considering the presence of a star rated chef by the name of Barry Tonk.
But first things first.
Once through gate security, a state of the art secure entrance, where booked guests need to give their name for admission while the car is being thoroughly checked, the entry into the foyer is impressive. Look not for a conventional reception, there is none. The guest is greeted by name, called in by the gate man, a key handed over to the butler who then uses an electric cart to drive guests to their suite, where they fill the registration form while, if so wanted, the butler unpacks the suitcases and bags, hangs up suits - and I guess dresses too though that was beyond my purview - and where needed takes items for a quick ironing job.
Once the signed form is handed over, the room's technology is explained and then the butler discreetly withdraws, without the hesitation seen in many other places indicative of 'tip me already' ...
The rooms are complete with all one needs, four poster bed with fluffy pillows, warm duvets needed for the cold Nairobi nights, a bathroom which offers couples each their own basin at opposite ends and, the ladies will love it, a walk in wardrobe with an automated light, which goes on as one steps inside it. Luxurious toiletries, soaps, shampoos, lotions AND bath salts are found in ample supply and anything, ANYTHING one may have forgotten, used up or lost along the travels, will be supplied by the butler on short notice.
A back lit minibar fridge shows the contents when opened and the availability of fresh milk in a jug, supplied by the butler on request, relegates the use of creamer to lesser hotels than Hemingways, And yes, tea supplied is of the Kericho Gold class, arguably the best quality of teabags on the market.
Extensive gardens invite for walks, a pond at the lower end of the estate is getting ready and the view into patches of forest and on to the famous Ngong Hills are underscoring the setting of this unique hotel.
Spa, gym and pool are available for treatments, work outs - with or without a personal trainer - and are much needed, considering what treats await a client in the restaurants.
Breakfast is an a la carte affair, where a guest orders her or his choice from the menu. There is nothing like for instance a dish of scrambled eggs, freshly prepared with say some slivers of smoked salmon and dill - not taken from a buffet where it perhaps has overstayed and the sheer sight of it already turns off the cravings of the palate. It gives time to leisurely read the newspaper, while order after order is delivered, although the freshly baked pastries and croissants are available from a table in the middle of the dining room, to go and pick as one chooses.
Lunch and dinner too are a la carte affairs, no buffets but swift service nevertheless and those sitting down for a meal at Hemingways are in for a treat. Chef Barry Tonks 'celebrates' food, not just cooks and serves it. A Michelin rated chef from the UK, he brought a new vision of cooking with him and extended the present food horizon in Kenya exponentially. His soups made instant friends with my taste buds and his meat, cut inhouse from specially reared herds in the Rift Valley, is so tender it can melt on the tongue. Eating a four course meal as I attempted is a serious overkill, considering that even the small portions, available besides the regular portions, are already large. Barry clearly believes in feeding his guests the best quality AND large portions, not the itsy bitsy tiny pieces of food spread albeit creatively over a plate like a painting but leaving a diner hungry for more ... here you get the best there is found in Nairobi , arguably for sure ,and plenty of it.
The foyer twin stair case leads to the upper level where the fine dining is located, the bar, some meeting rooms and the business centre and an elevator takes care of those with disabilities.
Downstairs in the main entrance lobby is an adjoining all day restaurant, a residents lounge with a huge fire place and outdoor terraces around a pond, where guests can be served anything from breakfast over tea to dinner.
Apart from the 'classic' key concept - personally I'd prefer state of the art swipe cards - the place, young as it is - still in the soft opening phase to iron out a few back of house issues and complete the landscaping around the pond - is already making an impact. When matured, it will no doubt be one of Nairobi's highest ranked boutique hotels, with 43 suites and 2 presidential suites small enough to earn that attribute. I left not wanting to leave but my waist line had started to expand over the few days I stayed and ate my way through the menu, that even a day more might have burst my trousers. Truly an exceptional addition to Nairobi's luxury hotel segment, out of town, away from the hustle and bustle of the CBD and yet, when the new highways and bypasses are ready, only a short drive from the airport or across the city.
Well done to Simon Hodsen, the General Manager, and his entire team. Expect me back soon for another dose of their unique brand of hospitality.
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