People Daily

The Hilton experience

Harriet James @PeopleDaily

When you think of taking a holiday or escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life, few imagine that you can have it right in the middle of town.

My visit to the Nairobi Hilton Hotel proved that one can enjoy tranquility and relaxe at the centre of all the city noises. Situated next to the famous KenCom bus stop, this distinct Nairobi landmark still dominates the city centre with its cylindrical tower. It was once Nairobi’s tallest building.

I stepped into the hotel to spend a night a bit fatigued, anticipating little adventure in this iconic building. I was greeted with warm smiles by the guards who politely checked my bags and showed me how to go about the security scanners.

Nahashon Njenga, a staff member, helped me check in and ensured I joined the Hilton Loyalty programme, which entails the best rates or benefits the next time I check into the hotel chain. “You can get a free upgrade should you become a frequent guest. This way, we will offer you affordable rates in future,” advised Njenga. My poolside deluxe room was amazing.

The wide window gave me a perfect view of the on goings at the poolside. “It’s heated, so you and your friends can have a pool party in the middle of the city,” Njenga said. Surprisingly, the hotel rooms are sound proofed.

So it was all quiet as noise from the busy bus stops across the streets were blocked out. On standby was an alarm clock, an iron box and a TV with different channels. I rode the lift downstairs to the Café American seeking a warm drink while enjoying the cafeteria’s vintage look. It has photos of movies from the 1950s such as Tarzan, Ben-hur, Casablanca and others.

An old coffee maker entices coffee lovers like me to have a taste of freshly brewed coffee. This restaurant has been voted the best café in Nairobi in the Chef Delights Awards. For just Sh650, you can have a beef sandwich with tea or coffee.

Eric Mbugua, a hotel staff, joined me as I admired the vintage look in the café, coffee cup in hand. Can an ordinary Kenyan desiring peace and tranquillity afford a package in this hotel?

“The rooms are affordable during Christmas or Easter holidays as most residents and businessmen escape the city. You can get free upgrades when you enrol in our Loyalty programmes, which come with many benefits. The higher the tier, the more the client gains,” Eric said, sipping his coffee. Moreover, children below 12 years eat and stay at the hotel for free.

The hotel has a programme dubbed Hilton Boss Baby, based on the movie Boss Baby where children call the shots. “Many people have a perception that we are a business hotel hosting meetings and conferences, but we understand the concept of mixing business with pleasure. We offer a variety of activities to enjoy during your stay here,” Eric added.

He escorted me to the Jockey Bar, which was adorned with photos of old British jockeys, with huge TV screen for sports lovers. This bar had a saddle, shoe horse and a whip and barrels of strong rum at the entrance something that exuded class in the old days.

A picture of 1996 Kenya cricket World Cup team intrigued me. Eric recalled the many times this team enjoyed drinks here. Later, he took me to the health club with a gym and spa where one can enjoy spin classes, zumba or a theurapeutic massage.

It had a heated pool, steam and sauna and an exercise bike for guests and walk-ins keen on workouts. My favourite moment was mealtime at the Travellers, one of the four restaurants at Hilton. I marvelled at its vintage architecture that resembled an ancient train.

It was lit by lights that made it look like train station, with old suitcases and a British traveller’s artifacts of the 1950s. Classic music played in the background as I selected modest servings from the buffet. It was African cuisines night.

Apparently, the hotel holds different dinner theme nights featuring cultures such as African, French and Italian. For breakfast, l was served rice—which I found surprising— in addition to several other options.

Another restaurant, Sale E Pepe, specialises in Italian gourmet. Wendy Nyakio, a chef, said: “If you need it, we make sure to deliver more than what you requested”. Now you know why many guests keep sneaking into this hotel.

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