It’s a wonder she agreed to marry him. On the night before they flew up to Mount Kenya for the historic marriage proposal in the idyllic rustic cabin, Prince William took Kate Middleton, his future queen, to the Ole Sereni Hotel. OK, they did have rooms overlooking the game park: which makes a lot of difference. Plus they had the Club Suite, which probably made more.
But even so, Kate must have wondered where her prince was taking her to as they lurched over a dust-plumed wasteland with rivers of goat-nibbled wind-blown plastic bags. And where all around them clanking cranes rose above blind-eyed building sites and crocodiles of cars bucked over potholes before being engulfed in the half-finished housing estates that are swallowing up the plains between Nairobi and its airport.
The Prince had his reasons. The Ole Sereni, you see, is unique: it stands within ten minutes drive of the airport; and is the only Nairobi hotel to enjoy uninterrupted views of Nairobi National Park. What’s more, had he and Kate tried to get into central Nairobi for the evening, it could have taken them anything up to four hours to cover a journey that should take half-an-hour, were it not for the roaring beast that is Nairobi’s traffic. Besides which, next morning would have required a repeat performance: which would have been very high on carbon monoxide, and horribly low on romance. Good choice then.
Opened in 2009 and scrutinized with beady-eyed curiosity by everyone stuck in a Mombasa Road traffic jam ever since, the Ole Sereni has had a checkered history. Sprouting like a night grown mushroom on the boundary fence of the park back in the 1990s, it began life as the bizarrely grand headquarters of a hitherto unassuming graphic design company known as Kul Graphics. Then, in the wake of the 1998 Nairobi bombing, it retreated behind a forest of anti-terrorist barriers before making the surprising announcement that it had become the American Embassy. When the Americans left, the Indian hotel chain Sarovar moved in; and created their first hotel in Africa.
And, but for the fact that it suffers from a split personality, they’ve done OK. If you’re lucky enough to get a room overlooking the park, you are magically transported far from the snarl of traffic and away to the foot of the Ngong Hills. If you’re not, you peer from your verandah over a chest-high concrete wall towards an unexpurgated vision of third world development gone mad, with three lanes of grunt-shunting traffic in the foreground.
That said, once you enter the spacious lounge and piano bar, which opens on to a timbered deck overlooking the park, and is tastefully presented in ivory, black and claret, the hit of luxury is swift and reassuring. So too is the dining room, a wide expanse of polished wooden floor, backed by an open-plan kitchen and fronted by a lamp lit deck that rises to a modest but faultlessly executed swimming pool just meters away from the park’s acacia: on which, the staff assure you, giraffe, zebra and even rhino munch.
That may be debatable, but the fact that the food in the Big Five Restaurant is good, is not. Choose from Indian, Chinese, Japanese or international, with a good selection of grills. Expect prices ranging from Kshs. 950 for pizza, through Kshs. 1,100 for sushi, to Kshs. 2,500 for grilled lobster tails. The service is good, the food likewise. Indeed the chips are so good that it would be hard to match them globally… equally the prawns’ tempura.
As for the rooms, though compact, they are cleverly designed with walk-in showers, flatscreen TVs, mini-bars and comfortable beds. They’re also tastefully presented. The towels, it’s true, do not quite pass the ‘white and fluffy’ test (not renewed every six months as required for gilt-edged 5-star status). There also seem to be quite a few instances of things that are ‘coming soon’, such as the roof top restaurant and bar. That apart, the Ole Sereni grows on you; especially as you peel off from the creeping, snarling grizzle of the traffic with ample time for a swim, sundowners and dinner before its other victims are spat out downtown.
Ole-Sereni: Hotel Facilities
Total City Facing Rooms – 134:
58 Superior Rooms
48 Deluxe Rooms
26 Club Rooms
Room Amenities in Ole-Sereni, Nairobi
Direct dial telephone
Cabled high speed internet
Private bath/shower & WC
Voltage (220 – 240V)
Sound proofing (double glazed windows)
Other Services and Facilities at Ole-Sereni, Nairobi
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Services
Baby Sitters available on request
24 Hours Room Service
Spacious and fully equipped Business Center
Automatic wake up phone system
Wi – Fi Spots in the public area
Smoking rooms available
Restaurant & Bars at Ole-Sereni, Nairobi
The Big Five Restaurant and Bar:
It is located on the 1st floor, overlooking the waterhole in the Game Park. It is a five-in-one restaurant done in an open kitchen style, specializing in Mongolian, Grills, Italian, Indian and Chinese.
The Waterhole Snack Bar:
This is the main bar set in a verandah overlooking the waterhole. Along with snacks, it also serves food from the Big Five Restaurant.
Ngong Pool Bar:
This is a pavilion bar on the verandah with dining option. You can get ice-cream, healthy snacks and drinks here.
Contact us for a stay at the Ole Sereni in combination with your East Africa safari!