Review of Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi 1
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The first in three-part Kenyan travelogue, Gina Baksa heads for Nairobi and a stay at the iconic Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel

Landing in Africa to be greeted by her life-affirming, body-warming sunshine is always a joy. Azure sky, red dust, lush vegetation and the ever-present buzz of traffic and people. Our car is waiting to take us to Nairobi’s most iconic hotel, Fairmont The Norfolk. Haunt of the Happy Valley set, Churchill, Hemingway, Roosevelt; princes and politicians, the original vision of hotel baron Abraham Block is now privately owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal and managed by Fairmont.

Located directly opposite the University and Kenya National Theatre, Fairmont The Norfolk was Nairobi’s first luxury hotel (opened in 1904) and still stands a proud sentinel of a by-gone age. Well located in lush private gardens, The Norfolk’s 170 rooms and suites are well protected. Security is tight. Massive grill gate slides across the driveway entrance; bags and bodies are scanned before we can reach the cool spaciousness of the veranda and reception inside.

The Cin Cin lounge bar just off the vast lobby area features a selection of paintings by local artist Coster Ojwang. Curated by William Ndwiga of Nairobi’s acclaimed Little Gallery, Coster’s landscapes and portraits are vivid with colour.

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Walking past Lord Delamare Terrace, Tatu restaurant and the T Lounge, I’m soon in the quiet, shady courtyard garden with its palms and green grass. It’s hard to believe I’m in the centre of a city of more than 3.3 million.

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My room is a gorgeous Deluxe Veranda room in the two-storey 1937 wing that overlooks this peaceful green oasis. Spacious with a separate lounge area – and beautiful Kenyan roses, a lovely touch – and even a terrace for breakfast. Air-con is efficient, there’s a capacious power shower and the design is modern yet retains its 19th-century glamour and charm. For further luxury choose either the Karura or Signature Suites with elevated views of the courtyard.

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We have massages booked for our group, so I happily doze on a sun lounger by the heated outdoor pool (warmest pool ever) before my aromatherapy session. There’s a well-equipped gym here at the Pambo Health Club, but I haven’t the energy!

Surrounded by high hedges and trees, the pool area is overlooked by adjacent buildings, but this doesn’t interfere with my relaxation. Hotel cat Regina appears for a cuddle, before vanishing into the foliage.

Exploring the hotel post massage bliss, I discover the T Lounge, serving traditional English High Tea and Snacks, and the Cin Cin bar – great staff and service – with its outdoor terrace.

We have lunch at the adjacent Lord Delamare Terrace. An all-day dining restaurant specialising in Pan-African cuisine with a strong Kenyan focus. There are myriad stations and super food. Breakfast is served here too. It’s a large space but very comfortable and relaxed.

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Cin Cin served up superb G&Ts before dinner at The Norfolk’s award-winning Tatu restaurant. An inspired menu of local specialities and international favourites, I had a superb salmon ceviche in coconut milk, with avocado and red radish for starters. As well as a taster of crispy fried crocodile (surprisingly tasty). Meat features highly on the menu here, as you’d imagine, with superb choices from various steak cuts, lamb shank and ostrich burger. I opted for the ostrich burger for mains. Again, a surprisingly tender cut cooked in caramelised red onions. Our 2013 Catena Alta Malbec was a medium-bodied delicious accompaniment to the meat dishes. Book ahead for a fabulous chef’s table experience under the expert eye of Head Chef Aris Athanasiou.

Sleep that night was deep and very welcome. Heat and altitude – I’d forgotten Nairobi is at 1,795m – made me weary and the reminder to pace myself.

It’s a rosy-fingered dawn (I’m up early) the following day with a backdrop of excited birdsong and a subtle hint of the heat to come. A magical time to enjoy breakfast in my room. Coffee excellent. Huge fruit bowl, excellent scrambled eggs and delicious local jams with croissants.

Editorial Team

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