‘When you come to Hemingways,’ Richard Kimenyi said, ‘It is an experience.’ Richard is the General Manager of Hemingways Nairobi. I had lunch with him there last Monday. I had been invited for a tasting of what dining experience the hotel is now offering after its re-opening the previous Wednesday.
I wrote about Hemingways Nairobi some years ago. They call it a boutique hotel – which, for me, means a rather small place – but I was struck by its spaciousness. It may have only 45 suites, but they are large and they look out over acres of lush Karen lawns and woodland. The buildings are American plantation style; the lounges have a Hollywood theme; the wide terrace has a swimming pool stage left.
There is also spa and a gym. Staying guests enjoy a dedicated butler who will – let me quote from the website – ‘know that you prefer Earl Grey to Assam with your scones, and will remember which trousers you like pressed flat and which ones need a central crease’. Yes, Hemingways Nairobi is a place where you are pampered.
I was certainly pampered at lunch last Monday. First, it was a pleasure to have the company of Richard. He has had a rigorous training in the hotel trade – in Germany, Israel and the UK. And he has a wide and strong experience of hotels in Kenya, including the Norfolk, Nyali Beach Hotel, and the Mount Kenya Safari Club. Now, he is obviously in his element managing Hemingways Nairobi. I reckon, despite the twinkle in his eye and a flair for telling stories, he must be a stickler for standards.
… But I am supposed to be talking about the food. What was laid on for me was a sampling of the Sunday Jazz Brunch Tasting Menu, expertly served by the waiter, Charity, with appearances by the ebullient chef, Archie, to check out my views and assess my likings.
Let me whet your appetite. First, there was the ‘Arlington’ Smoked Salmon and Avocado, served on an English toasted muffin, with Hollandaise sauce and grilled tomato. It was followed by a most unusual (for me) French Cream of Mushroom, flavoured with truffle essences. (It was served and drunk like a cappuccino). Then came a more conventional Chicken Caesar Salad, with pulled chicken, lettuce, croutons, anchovy garlic mayo, egg and parmesan.
The main course was what I had been anticipating because, on my first visit to the hotel, I had much enjoyed a fillet steak prepared on the hotel’s special Josper charcoal oven. This time, the steak was just as good but, known as the ‘Surf and Turf’, it was elegantly served with a lobster tail, Hollandaise sauce again, garlic mash and buttered vegetables.
The finale was the Jazz Brunch Trio of Desserts, with melting-in-the-mouth sweets of tiramisu, wild berry cheesecake, and crème brulee. What a lunch! And all in a beautiful setting.
Last Sunday, the first after the re-opening, 117 people went for the Sunday brunch. It used to be a buffet, but not now – because of safety considerations. The ‘new-normal’ COVID-19 precautions are very strict. All 134 employees are regularly tested for the virus. Safety protocols have been established for every department. All surfaces in public areas are regularly cleaned and disinfected. All meals are served covered. There are no printed menus; they can be scanned with your mobile phone from a card on every table or read off poster menus brought to your table by the waiter. Temperatures of all visitors are checked at the main gate, and anyone with a too-high reading is not allowed in and advised to consult a doctor.
The Sunday brunch costs Ksh.4,500. But, as I hope I have shown, the menu is extensive and out-of-the-ordinary. Oh yes, the price includes a glass of Prosecco or Bloody Mary. The ambiance is priceless.
Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation