Hemingways Nairobi: Our full report
Opened in 2013, in the green suburb of Karen in southwest Nairobi, Hemingways Nairobi has the feel of a country ...... house retreat, complete with a butler for each room, and has quickly established itself as one of the capital's best luxury hotels.
Hemingways Nairobi is part of the same small group that owns the long-established beach hotel Hemingways Watamu and the safari camp Hemingways Ol Seki Mara in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy.
You enter the hotel off the avenue of Mbagathi Ridge – one of Karen's most prestigious addresses – and drive onto the forecourt of a building that might at first glance have been lifted from a South Carolina plantation. The grand, double-storey entrance lobby is light and airy and you'll be quickly welcomed by passing staff. Through the back of the lobby there is a high-quality gift shop and lounge areas, dotted with potted palms; these are overhung by revolving fans and gentle swinging punkahs (ceiling paddles) to keep the air cool and the mood gentrified and rather retro. The basic colour scheme throughout is white and pistachio green. The main dining room is off to the left and all meals are served here, with guests either eating inside or on the verandah. Up a grand sweeping staircase is an area for “fine dining”, with a single dining table which can accommodate up to eight diners. This leads on to a spacious bar with comfy leather armchairs and a balcony overlooking the lush gardens.
On the sunny, southwest-facing terrace behind the main central areas, a large fountain and water feature are surrounded by plenty of well shaded chairs and tables and no shortage of waiting staff to serve you drinks and snacks. The terrace has views down across landscaped lawns to a lake and woods at the bottom of the grounds. To the left, on the south side of the grounds, is the heated swimming pool, with access into the spa and gym area. Good-value day-room stays are possible at Hemingways, giving you access to all the same facilities.
To the right, the plot is flanked by the rooms – all of them large enough to be suites in most hotels – which descend in six staggered wings to the bottom of the grounds. Each wing has a theme – Kenya; rivers; explorers; leaders; safaris; and Hollywood – with rooms named and hung with pictures and ephemera accordingly: for example, William Holden and Meryl Streep in the Hollywood wing.
The 23 “executive rooms" on the first floor have vaulted ceilings, an area of 80m² each and a southwest-facing balcony. Those closer to the central areas of the hotel are higher up and therefore have the best views of the neighbouring polo stables and the Ngong Hills sunsets. The 20 slightly less expensive “deluxe rooms" on the ground floor are similar in nearly all respects, and also have an area of 80m², but don't have the same views or ceilings. In addition, there is a junior presidential and a presidential suite.
In every room, polished wood, pastel walls, large, mosquito-netted beds, plenty of pillows and cushions, and cut flowers all deliver a reassuring sense of comfort and style. Standout features of the rooms include: fans as well as air-conditioning; king-size beds (2.25m, 7ft 4in); large TV screens that rise from a chest when required; good-sized room safes containing 3-pin UK-style electric sockets for secure charging of laptops and phones; well lit walk-in wardrobes; and minibar fridges that include fresh milk for tea and coffee.
Beyond all the thoughtful touches is the discrete, permanent presence of a personal room butler whose role includes checking you in and out of the hotel; the option of unpacking and packing your luggage (and pressing anything that didn't survive the journey uncreased); waking you with tea or coffee; serving meals in your room if you'd like to take them there; and generally acting as an all-round personal assistant.
Although it is ornate and quite heavily styled, the sense of glitz at Hemingways is balanced by great attention to detail and thoughtful customer service. There's a strong sense here that the staff care about their guests. When you add in the very spacious, well-fitted rooms, nicely presented high-quality food and the assets of a good pool and a first-class treatment spa, the combination makes it one of Nairobi's best bases for a pampered, luxury stay.
- Nairobi, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 1 night-plus
- You need to allow one hour for the transfer to/from Wilson Airport, and two hours to/from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). At night and at weekends you may be able to do these journeys in roughly half the time.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- The food at Hemingways is excellent. The first chef at the hotel, Barry Tonk, who has worked in Michelin-rated restaurants, installed a charcoal-fuelled Josper grill-oven, and the kitchen rapidly acquired a reputation for its superb beef, sourced from the Morendat farm at Naivasha, where the herd is 25 per cent Boran, 25 per cent Simmental and 50 per cent Angus.
We also really enjoyed the breakfast at Hemmingways. A spread of fruits, cereals, delicate pastries, cheese, ham and yoghurt precedes a full cooked breakfast and a range of hot dishes including roast potatoes and chicken wings.
- Each of the southwest-facing rooms at Hemingways has its own balcony with striking views of Karen Blixen’s beloved Ngong Hills. Stylish cushions and cut flowers add a luxurious feel to the rooms and a private butler takes care of your individual needs, 24 hours a day.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Children are welcome, but the atmoshere is adult.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- High chairs and baby cots are available.
- Generally recommended for children
- Parents will feel more comfortable staying here if their children are well-behaved and getting towards their teens or older.
- Power supply notes
- There is 24 hour electricity and guests can charge all of their electrical equipment in their rooms.
- Mobile phone signal is fine, and there's wi-fi throughout the hotel.
- TV & radio
- There are large, flat-screen TVs in every room.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Bottle water is provided.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Good medical care is available within minutes of the hotel.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- Hemingways Nairobi is gated and fenced and has 24-hour security.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers dotted around the hotel and the staff are trained in how to use them.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is available at extra cost and an express service is available if necessary.
- There are electronic safes in all of the rooms.
- Accepted payment on location
- All major currencies and credit cards are accepted, including AMEX.
Other lodges in Nairobi
Alternative places to stay in this same area.