Hotel insider: Hemingways Nairobi, Kenya

Located in the city’s affluent neighbourhood Karen, one couldn’t feel much more sheltered from the realities of modern-day Nairobi.

Hemingways Nairobi in Kenya. Courtesy Hemingways Nairobi
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The welcome

After clearing the compound’s tight security checks, I pull up at Hemingways, an impressive colonial-inspired country manor, painted in cooling white and peppermint green, built in 2013. I’m met at the spacious, chandelier-punctuated reception by my butler. Check-in is fast and efficient, and within minutes, I’m relaxing in my magnificent suite.

The neighbourhood

Located in the city’s affluent neighbourhood Karen, one couldn’t feel much more sheltered from the realities of modern-day Nairobi. Sitting 15 kilometres west of the city centre and 30km from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Hemingways acts as both a luxury respite for tourists on the way to/from safari and as a hub for local business meetings.

The scene

Unlike the writer with which it shares its name, Hemingways is long and thin, split into six two-storey interconnected wings, arranged in a lazy arc overlooking tranquil gardens. The quaint air is decidedly nostalgic; take tea on the terrace and feel the decades roll back.

The room

I'm checked in to the Karen Blixen Suite, named after the Out of Africa author. The home famously occupied by the Danish author, from 1917 to 1931, sits five minutes (2km) around the corner, and is now open as a museum. My lodgings, meanwhile, are in a junior presidential suite stretching across 160 square metres. It's the kind of hotel room that you can get lost in – I count space for 17 seated guests. The decor is a mix of contemporary and classic, with looming dark-wood ceiling beams and an imposing four-poster bed, alongside modern furnishings and a brash, showroom-sized flat-screen TV (plus a second, more manageable, retractable screen hidden in a treasure chest at the foot of the bed). The room boasts two balconies with decent views of the lawns, a walk-in wardrobe, humongous bathroom and a kitchen area that I really don't see getting much use.

The service

Room service is friendly and efficient, and the reception staff are professional. However, dining is a mixed experience.

The food

Lunch from the limited international room service menu is adequate but unremarkable. However, dinner in the restaurant is a pleasure. The menu is heavy on steaks with some seasonal seafood specialities, pastas and other staples. Breakfast on the terrace is let down by a small selection and chaotic atmosphere.

Loved

Each of the 45 rooms is dedicated to a notable figure or landmark, with the wings split by themes including Hollywood, explorers, leaders and authors. So you can ask to stay in rooms paying tribute to Humphrey Bogart, Vasco da Gama or even Ernest Hemingway. Inside every room is a mini-shrine of photos celebrating the room’s titular figure.

Hated

Breakfast is a shambles. It takes three orders and 20 minutes to secure a morning coffee, and things go downhill from there – orders arrive sporadically and incomplete, while staff buzz around like ineffectual flies.

The verdict

Hemingways may offer a calm, elite escape to passing travellers, but at these prices, guests really have a right to ask for more.

The bottom line

Double rooms at Hemingways Nairobi (www.hemingways-nairobi.com) cost from US$750 [Dh2,755] per night, including taxes.

This review was done at the invitation of the hotel.

rgarratt@thenational.ae