Radisson’s New Park Inn

I first saw the Park Inn from the rooftop lounge of the Tune Hotel – a shiny black rectangle, it stood out in Nairobi’s skyline. The Park Inn has its own rooftop lounge and bar – which is perhaps its best feature. But more of that later.

It is Nairobi’s newest hotel, having opened on 23rd May. Well, I can’t be sure of that – not the opening date, but whether it is actually the city’s newest hotel. Because new ones seem to be springing up all over the city like mushrooms on Viagra.

From the websites I gather that our Park Inn is an offspring of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which is one of the world’s largest hotel companies – with an expanding portfolio of more than 1,440 hotels in operation or under development. Its brands are many: Quorvus Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Plaza – and Park Inn by Radisson.

I looked at what the websites say about the Park Inn brand. They call it ‘upper midscale’. How about that for PR speak? I guess the key phrase is ‘moderate costs’. Does that mean moderate prices? I saw that the Park Inn here has an introductory offer of Ksh.12,000. I guess that positions it well in the mid-range of Nairobi Hotels.

Anyway, I thought I should go and have a look for myself. It was Sunday lunchtime. I was hungry. So I went first to the ground-floor and extraordinarily-named Live Inn Room Restaurant. By the way, the décor on the ground floor is all clean-cut and contemporary – with all things squared and pastel-shaded.

I went for the fish and chips. The menu calls it a ‘traditional’ dish. Now, that would be a good test, since I come from that part of Britain where a plate of fish and chips is certainly traditional – where the fish is crisply battered, the chips are rough-cut, the peas are mushy; they are spiced with salt and vinegar and, ideally, served on greaseproof paper or wrapped in yesterday’s soggy newspaper.

It brought back memories of Sunday family outings when I was a child. Our nearest seaside resort was Skegness. It is on the East coast, and its winds blow in off the cold North Sea. Its logo is a frolicking fisherman, fully clothed in oil-skins and thigh boots. Its motto is ‘Skegness is so bracing’. One memory is of sheltering from the rain in a doorway along the seafront, watching fish and chip papers float past along the flooded gutters.

But I digress… When the fish and chips came at Park Inn they were not so far off the British standard. They were even served on a small square of greaseproof paper, lining the plate. But I had to ask Angeline, the waitress, to get me some vinegar – which she smartly did. And then I indulged myself with a dessert of sticky toffee and date pudding.

It was time, then, to look at the rooms. Collins took me up and showed me, first, the standard room. It is OK, and what you would expect from an ‘upper midscale’ room. The bed is wide and firmly comfy. The bathroom (shower-room, rather) is neatly clean.

The amenities are a safe, complimentary bottled water, complimentary tea and coffee provisions, direct-dial telephone, flat-screen TV with an interactive entertainment system including pay-TV, free wireless high-speed internet, hair dryer, air conditioning unit, and a mini bar – stocked only on request. (It seems you can’t trust anyone these days!)

The website says the rooms are ‘trendy’. I guess they mean especially the rectangular neon-strip that surrounds the bedhead. Collins showed me how you can change its colour from blue to green to yellow to pink. No. No. It seems, to me, more suited to – trying to be polite – a courtesan’s boudoir. Maybe I am out of date with what makes for trendiness. I must be out of step, because I learn that the Park Inn won the Best New Hotel Construction & Design at the 2016 Africa Property Awards.

Collins then walked me across the corridor to show me one of the superior rooms. It was very much the same, except it had more space and two easy chairs, not one. And that would have been the end of my visit – and I would have missed something special.

Collins said, ‘I must show you the Attic Roof Top Bar’. So he pressed the Up button in the lift and we rose to the 11th floor. This is the jewel in the Park Inn crown; tastefully furnished in dark grey rattan chairs – offset with a large red painting on the grey wall. And the view of the city is amazing. Not a place for a Sunday lunch – but I will be back to enjoy it one evening soon.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation