24-Hour Room Service - The Norfolk, Nairobi, Kenya

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

If every great city deserves a great hotel, Nairobi's is unquestionably the Norfolk, which gained its "Fairmont" appendage when the Canadian group took ownership in 2007.

By then, the Norfolk had celebrated its centenary, having opened in 1904 as the first stone-built hotel in Kenya. In those days, Nairobi was little more than a railway halt on the East African line, but an English major from the Norfolk Regiment saw the potential for a beacon of civilisation in the bush.

The site he and his partner chose to build on was next to a papyrus swamp where lions roamed, and a river colonised by hippos.

When it opened on Christmas Day, the Norfolk had 34 bedrooms, two cottages "for married couples" and 29 staff, including a French chef who had been poached from the Waldorf in London. There was a dining room, sitting room, billiard room, bar, and – previously unknown in Kenya – electricity throughout.

Passengers would disembark at the train station covered in the red dust of the Masai country. The cool resting rooms and hot and cold baths must have been blissful relief.

Over the years, the Norfolk became a meeting place, hosting everybody who was anybody on their East African expeditions – presidents and prime ministers, famous explorers, actors and authors.

As its popularity escalated, new accommodation blocks were added, arranged about the lush gardens of the central courtyard. But the distinctive, half-timbered Edwardian exterior has survived both the builders and a terrorist bomb on New Year's Eve 1980, which destroyed much of the west wing and claimed the lives of 15 people, both guests and staff.

The builders were back in last year, adding new public rooms, restaurants and an outdoor terrace in a £6m refit completed by Christmas. The hotel's gym, steam room and spa have also been upgraded and rooms have been brought up to date in keeping with the hotel's international ownership.

LOCATION

Fairmont The Norfolk, Harry Thuku Road, Nairobi, Kenya (00 254 20 221 6940; fairmont.com). The hotel is a 10-minute walk from the city centre, opposite the University and next to the main police station. The location is convenient and safe, in a well-lit street guarded by security patrols.

Time from international airport: The 20km transfer to Jomo Kenyatta airport takes half an hour, except during the morning and evening traffic peaks, when the trip can take twice as long.

COMFORTABLE?

The rooms and suites are designed for the upmarket business and leisure traveller, with the luxury touches discreetly presented. The king-size beds, for example, have mattresses so deep you almost have to climb into them.

Since the hotel has come under the Fairmont banner, the décor has been updated – a soothing New England aesthetic prevails in the deluxe rooms and suites, while the Fairmont and Moderate rooms are more simply furnished, with dark wood panels and deep red patterned carpets.

Freebies: Complimentary fruit basket and a bottle of South African wine, as well as a range of "African Collection" toiletries.

Keeping in touch: Flatscreen TVs with a multiplicity of satellite channels; direct-dial phones and WiFi access (Ksh500/£4.20 per hour) throughout. There is also a business centre with computer terminals.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Standard double rooms start at US$241 (£172), room only. Breakfast is an extra $25 (£18) per person.

I'm not paying that: A short walk along Harry Thuku Road, the Hotel Boulevard (00 254 20 222 7567; hotelboulevardkenya.com) has 70 well-appointed rooms, shady gardens and an outdoor pool. A standard double costs Ksh6,680 (£56), including buffet breakfast.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Investigo: IT Auditor

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines