When the Norfolk Hotel first opened in 1904, Kenya, or British East Africa as it was known, was a hunting ground for big-game hunters and The Norfolk Hotel was a favourite watering hole pre- and post expeditions.
Wealthy visitors from Europe, escaping from freezing northern winters, and younger sons of the British gentry seeking their fortunes in a new land also formed the hotel’s upper crust clientele.
Today, Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel continues to be the place to stay in Nairobi.
What about the décor?
The distinctive Tudor architecture stands out as a reminder of Kenya’s colonial past. The neat central garden is filled with palms, colourful tropical flowers and decorated with a display of old carriages.
In the common areas, furnishings are a blend of tropical chic, contemporary African and traditional English.
Think winged chairs and plush carpet in the library, sleek clean lines with African wall hangings in Tatu restaurant and low ceiling fans, cane furniture and potted palms in the airy street-facing Lord Delamere Terrace.
What about the rooms?
There are 165 rooms and suites are tastefully furnished and accessorised to five-star standards with plush carpet, elegant traditional European-style furniture, tasteful soft furnishings and flat-screen television sets.
Top of the range are the two luxurious Karura Suites located in the historic Karura wing, which was named after Sarah and Abraham Block who founded the hotel. The suites have courtyard views and large terraces.
What about food and drink?
There are six restaurants in the hotel. Take high tea in The Tea Room, sip a gin and tonic in the Lord Delamere Terrace or sink your teeth into a steak at Tatu.
The contemporary American steakhouse specialises in dry-aged premium Kenyan Angus beef and coastal seafood. Cin Cin Wine Bar serves international wine and hors d’oeuvres.
What is there to do?
The hotel has a heated outdoor swimming pool and a health club with gym, sauna and steam room. But there’s plenty to see in Nairobi.
The hotel’s recreation team can arrange excursions including tours of the leafy upmarket suburb of Karen, named after Danish writer Karen Blixen who wrote Out of Africa under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen. Karen Blixen’s old home is now a museum.
Karen is also home to Rothschild giraffes at The Giraffe Centre and cute orphaned baby elephants at wildlife orphanage and rehabilitation centre for elephants, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
What’s the bottom line?
Fairmont The Norfolk, Nairobi, Kenya, tel: +254 20 265000. Rates begin at USD$220 a room plus tax and service charge.