Going Twice Through The Blue Door

Two weeks ago, the evening before a flight to the UK to celebrate the wedding of my son, Jan, I was invited to attend a Rotary function at the Blue Door lounge in Nairobi. ‘Rotary? At the Blue Door?’ Jan exclaimed. ‘That’s not the sort of place for a Rotary meeting, is it?’

True. The Blue Door Is not the sort of place you would expect as a venue for Rotary. I guess the usual image of a Rotary meeting is an aging group of mainly men in suits and ties sitting for a lunch in somewhere like the Nairobi Club and listening to a guest speaker holding forth on some worthy topic. It would not be at all like the Beer Garden at the Blue Door – with an invitation for that evening from Rotary to dress ‘bold, elegant, courageous’.

Mind you, true to the Kenya style, there were lots of speeches. (Do the audiences really enjoy all these speeches – or is it only those making them who enjoy?) But what was impressive was that the women Rotary members well outnumbered the men. And even more impressive was the information about the range of community service projects – to do with health care, water and education – that the Rotary Club of Nairobi Lavington has been able to implement in its less affluent surrounding neighbourhoods since its founding only five years ago.

As for the Blue Door, I wouldn’t say that it is elegant, but it is certainly bold and courageous. Yao, the adjoining restaurant, is elegant. The well-travelled Mr Yao calls it a modern Chinese restaurant serving classic South-East Asian dishes with a contemporary European flair. Its cocktail lounge serves ‘London Shanghai’ cocktails, highballs, martinis and whiskies.

But I want to tell you about the Blue Door. As I have said, the function was in its Beer Garden. It is not really a garden, but there are some potted plants dotted around. And the benched tables give the proper atmosphere for sampling the ‘African inspired’ craft beers on offer. The barn-like room has a 6.4 metre high definition screen – for watching sport while you sup your beer. Mind you, for the function that Saturday evening the tables were arranged in a less regimental and more informal style. With the well-stocked and well-lit bar as a backdrop at the end of the room, the Beer Garden is an excellent event space.

Our own event wound up around 10 pm. I could see that many of the younger Rotarians had feet itchy to try out the ‘state of the art electric dance floor’ in the disco with one of the best sound systems in east Africa and a laser light display – as promised in the funky website. But even though the same website claims that the night club caters exclusively for the over 25s, I felt a little too old for making an exhibition of myself on an electric floor – whatever that means – and under laser lights.

But, since my plane was leaving late on the next day evening, I went back for a Sunday lunch and a less frenetic look-around. It was a much quieter place – this lounge and nightclub in Kenrail Towers of Westlands. There was only one couple in the main bar, and they looked like a left-over from the night before.

I was intrigued by the photographs on the walls. They were icons of my generation: the likes of the Beatles, Elton John and Eric Clapton. I felt very much at home. I ordered Smoked Duck and Bacon, with cherry tomatoes. I thought I should sample the craft beers. I had a Bateleur Bila Shaka Ipa Beer that promised a ‘crispy hint of spice and tropical fruit with a bitter finish’. It is not a bad description – but I couldn’t identify the fruits. Nor could I find an actual blue door. But I like the name.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation