It made me miss the wedding of Harry and Meghan. But it was worth it. Anyway, I couldn’t miss all the repeats. And the royal wedding was a splendid event, wasn’t it? Another reminder that the Brits are the best at putting on a national show of pomp and circumstance. But this one had a special significance, didn’t it, in bringing the royals closer to their multi-cultural peoples?
… But enough of Harry and Meghan for a while. The reason I didn’t see them tying the knot was because I had been invited to review Nairobi’s new Mövenpick Hotel and, especially, to sample the fare at its revolving restaurant, The View, in the hotel’s tower.
There are now 83 Mövenpick-managed hotels in 24 countries. The group is Swiss, but now with some Saudi shareholding. The late founder, Ueli Prager, said that the secret of running a business was uncomplicated and unpretentious: ‘We aren’t doing anything extraordinary; we are simply successful because we are doing quite normal things in an extraordinary manner’.
Well, that might be true of the long-stay residences, the hotel bedrooms and suites, the gym, spa and pool, the many conference rooms, lounges and bars. They are set out in typical Swiss straight and clean lines, though they have the more curvaceous shapes in the African art displayed around the hotel.
But what is quite extraordinary now in Nairobi is The View, the revolving restaurant 24 floors up in the sky. There used to be one in the KICC building, which was opened in 1973. I remember taking a photograph of the city from there not long after it opened… But I am getting ahead of myself.
Salome Jepkorir, better known to her friends and colleagues as Sally, the hotel’s PR and Communications Manager, gave us one of the best introductions to a hotel that I have ever had.
She took us on a tour of the complex, through the very well-equipped residences, back across to the deluxe, superior and executive rooms, and the main conference or banqueting hall that seats over two thousand. She walked us through the stylish Kijani Bar that looks down on the splendid outdoor pool. She showed us the mainstay Baluba restaurant. And she kept the special place till last.
The View is a certainly a special place. Not just for its view down and across the city but also for its cuisine. Mind you, I made a bad mistake at the beginning. I thoughtlessly chose for a starter the Beef Tartare, which was described as ‘raw beef tenderloin, mild, medium or fiery, served with brioche toast and butter, refined with Cognac’.
I don’t know what possessed me to go for that. Perhaps it was because my two companions had chosen the Smoked Salmon and the Onion Tart with Crème Fraiche — and I thought the variety would be good for the review.
But I couldn’t get out of my head the episode of Mr Bean where he treats himself to a lonely birthday dinner and also chooses the beef tartare. Somehow he manages to get rid of most of it in a plant pot, a woman’s open handbag, and even his own jacket pocket.
No doubt The View’s Beef Tartare was excellent but, as the Romans said, ‘De gustibus non disputandum est’ — about taste, there is no point in disputing. Which is something I have at last learned about the futility of trying to persuade non-cricket lovers that it is the best game ever invented.
The rest of my meal at the fine-dining The View was very fine. I had no compunction when my companions both ordered the Zurich Style Chicken to do the same. It was thin strips of chicken with mushrooms in a creamy sauce, served with potato rosti.
By then I was well satisfied, after manfully finishing off my challenging beef tartare and the delicious chicken dish, so I ordered a simple and refreshing lemon and lime sorbet.
But Sally had a surprise for us that I couldn’t resist. It was the Chocolate Fondue, with seasonal fruits. Imagine: chunks of strawberry, melon and pineapple covered in hot chocolate! So I now have a way of eating more fruit — something my wife often advises me to do.
It was a superb lunch. And the slowly revolving view from up there is really amazing. It is markedly different from the view I had from the top of the KICC building in the mid-1970s. Then, only the central business district stood out above the trees. Nairobi really was what its slogan claimed: ‘the green city in the sun’.
Now, tall buildings have sprung up above the trees in the outlying districts such as Lang’ata, Lavington, Hurlingham, Kileleshwa — and even Karen.
But we wouldn’t want to go back to those more sedate old days, would we? Not when we have fun places like The View to enjoy.
Jan Fox is a director at iDC