It was Friday and I was wondering what I would do for this week’s Going Places. I checked an EatOut email and read, ‘Looking for a laid back weekend plan?’ Well, yes, I was. After a few days of spaghetti, beans and boiled chicken, cooped up in a NGO compound in Garowe in Somalia, and after a long and rather fraught flight back with seven security checks – three in Garowe, two in Mogadishu, one in Wajir, and the final one in JKIA – I was ready for a relaxed Sunday brunch.
Among the ten ‘fantastic Sunday brunch restaurants in Nairobi’, EatOut listed Pablo’s at the Four Points by Sheraton in Argwings Kodhek Road in Hurlingham. I hadn’t been back there since it was inaugurated some years ago as the Best Western. That event was at the rooftop lounge and bar, and it must have been in June or July because it was cold – very cold. Not the right setting for the inevitable round of speeches. And it was dark, so there was no chance to appreciate the view across the city.
This time I went straight to Pablo’s on the ground floor. The hotel’s EatOut entry describes it as a ‘contemporary styled main dining area.’ Well, yes, so it is. It is so ‘contemporary styled’ it could be in any business travellers’ mid-range hotel around the world – from Ahmedabad to New York. The Four Points by Sheraton website talks of ‘global going local’ – I would suggest it is more ‘local going global’.
There are now a number of these utility hotels in Nairobi… Isn’t that so? I guess the average business traveller doesn’t have the time for exploring local culture, but wants only a comfortable bed, free WiFi, and so-called ‘international cuisine’.
There is something very special about Nairobi’s old luxury hotels such as the Norfolk and the Stanley. Inside those you know you are in Africa. And I used to appreciate the homeliness and quirkiness of the small Hurlingham Hotel that was only a few doors away from where the Four Points is now.
I guess I am so grumpy because I didn’t enjoy my meal. I chose the outdoor seating area of the restaurant, but the music was still too loud. And it was the back-in-the-throat and American-accented crooning that my Dad used to say was like a cat in pain. And there were two guys the other side of the restaurant who were shouting at each other in order to hold a conversation.
The waitress brought me the lunch menu and I was so fixated on having a proper Sunday brunch that I asked if there was an all-day breakfast. So she came back with the breakfast menu, and I ordered the conventional fried eggs, bacon, tomatoes and a cake of mashed potatoes. I asked for the eggs to be medium fried, thinking that would mean the white firm and the yolk runny. But they came hard-fried. And the bacon was leathery – I guess it had been left in the heating tray since the proper breakfast time.
So I decided to change places. I went up to the top floor. Not for the gym but to sit in the poolside lounge and have a café latte and take a look at the view. The change of places changed my mood. It’s nice up there.
The view to the west and back down Argwings Khodek Road is towards the greenery of Kilileshwa and Lavington. Looking out to the east you can challenge yourself trying to work out the names of the new buildings in the city. I am old enough to remember when the Kenyatta International Conference Centre was the tallest building. Last Sunday I had to look quite hard to pick it out among the cluster of towers that now dwarf it.