Hotel check: Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel

765

History

The Norfolk is all of 107-years-old. It is an iconic piece of property and very much part of Kenya’s history. The town and later the modern city of Nairobi grew up around the hotel, which still has its own private tropical gardens. It was completely renovated by its new owners, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, in time for its centenary in 2004. The history of the place beggars belief, and thankfully there is a new coffee table book for sale in the lobby that tells all.

What’s it Like?

The entrance is out of another world – street-side, but far from the madding crowd. Just the look of the place tells something of its history. But don’t be fooled – this is after all a Fairmont property and some modern touches have been added to the historical elegance the Norfolk is renowned for. Check-in early evening was all smiles and welcomes, but to be honest, it shouldn’t have taken as long. I was escorted through some pretty impressive gardens to my room, with my bags right behind.

Where is it?

On Harry Thuku Street, with downtown Nairobi only a brisk walk away. With the University of Nairobi as its neighbour, there are lots of people about – daytime voyages of discovery are relatively hassle-free. At night take a cab, which are plentiful and inexpensive.

Room Facilities

There are 165 guest rooms, starting from the quaintly-named Moderate Rooms, which used to be called, I think, the Singles Block. We opted for one of the as palatial Fairmont Rooms, which are 26-30 square metres in size. Flat-screen TV with satellite television (DSTV), plus local channels, all worked as advertised. A nice touch is the en-suite marble bathroom with three-piece bath. The air-conditioned rooms also have a working desk and high-speed Internet access. The hotel’s palette of room offerings ranges from a duplex suite to signature suites, junior suites and deluxe rooms. Garden view rooms are best.

Restaurants & Bars

Tatu, the hotel’s signature restaurant, is the pride of Hubert Des Marais, the Group’s Executive Chef – great food, good service, big bill. The best option is the Lord Delamere Terrace for all meals, served in an almost outdoor environment and a place to see and be seen. The Cin Cin wine bar is a great meeting place, but I didn’t like the huge TV over the bar, which distracts from the original idea – socialising! There is also a twee little room called the Tea Room – which does a very nice traditional ‘high tea’ – and a great little daytime restaurant at the pool. The in-room menu looked comprehensive.

Business & Meeting Facilities

There are two meeting rooms and four boardrooms, ranging in capacity from the four-person Lenana Boardroom to the opulent 175-seater Ballroom, which pays homage to Kenya’s early history, with an impressive collection of artwork and artifacts. There is also a business center (with computer terminals), with on-site assistants to help with secretarial work, photo-copying etc. Car rental assistance is also close by, with a Newport Rental desk next to the business center.

Leisure Facilities

The hotel has a spa alongside its heated-pool, with treatment rooms, steam baths, and saunas. The health & fitness centre is located above the poolside restaurant. Personal trainers, aerobic classes and state-of-the-art equipment complete the offering.

Verdict

It does what it says on the tin. It is well situated, close to the CBD and is as to be expected from a Fairmont property – a thoroughly modern city hotel. In its peer group of other city centre hotels in Nairobi, it is fairly priced. Nice people, nice hotel, and nice to get at least a small taste of Kenya’s rich history.

Contact

Address: Harry Thuku Road, Nairobi, +254 20 226 5555, fairmont.com/norfolkhotel

Tony Clegg-Butt