Crowne Plaza Nairobi opened in 2010, back when there was a dearth of internationally-recognised hotel brands in the Kenyan capital. Nearly a decade on and it has been joined by a fair few, including Radisson Blu, Kempinski, Pullman, Movenpick and Ibis Styles. A second Crowne Plaza opened near Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last year.
What’s it like?
Nairobi hotels must balance 24-hour heavy security with creating a welcoming entrance, and Crowne Plaza succeeds in this. Cars pull up around a winding road framed by tropical-looking greenery (although part of the road was being repaired during my visit). There are then some steps onto a pleasant veranda and, on my visit anyway, several friendly staff members.
Stepping inside, the size of the lobby is immediately striking, as well as the expanse of shiny white-tiled floor and numerous light fixtures. The check-in desks are straight ahead, while a lounge/cafe area is spread out to to the left, and a dual-floor bar is visible through glass on the right.
There was no queue at check-in and my bags were taken by a porter while the duty manager gave me my key card and talked me through the hotel facilities. I visited on a Sunday night, and the property was quiet. However there were lots of staff bustling about, and I was told that several events were taking place the next day so they were bracing for high occupancy and preparing the meeting rooms and ballrooms.
Where is it?
Upper Hill, known as the city’s financial hub, where you’ll find the regional headquarters of the World Health Organisation, the African Development Bank, Citibank and the World Bank as well as various embassies and offices.
Some argue Upper Hill is losing its appeal as a corporate hub due to the lack of shops, restaurants and bars in the area and the heavy traffic, as we discussed in our recent feature on Nairobi. However work is underway to address some of these issues, such as the roadworks I saw during my visit. It’s also convenient for anyone working nearby, and near to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
There are 206 rooms that come in various categories and styles. There are Superior rooms with a king-sized bed, Standard rooms with two queens, Executive Suites with a separate lounge area, and then larger Presidential Suites.
It’s slightly confusing from the website, which separates the room types into one beds, two beds and then Superior and Standard, but staff tell me that these are one and the same. All rooms have desks, armchairs, safes and tea/coffee making facilities. Decor differs slightly, with some in this style:
And some in this:
I stayed in an Executive Suite, which had a lounge/dining area that looks like this:
A large bedroom somewhere between the classic and more modern styles:
And a bathroom with a big bath and two sinks:
I stayed for one night and found the room comfortable, enjoying a nice bath. There are distinctive Crowne Plaza touches such as a pillow menu and a lavender sleep spray next to the bed. The wifi was fast and easy to connect to, and there was a bowl of fresh fruit on the dining room table. There were also large windows with good views, and a turndown service was carried out while I was having dinner.
My TV remote wasn’t working, but I didn’t actually want to watch TV anyway so didn’t ask to get it fixed. The screen was surprisingly small given the cinema-like proportions that most hotels offer these days, though this wasn’t a problem for me.
Food and drink
There are quite a few options, which is handy given the aforementioned lack of external options (though you could of course take a taxi somewhere). As well as 24-hour room service there are three restaurants spread across the property, ranging from relaxed to more formal vibes.
On the former end is Alabaster Coffee Lounge in the lobby, which serves light meals, pastries and drinks, and Baraka Restaurant, a huge space which is casual though nicely decorated and serves the morning breakfast buffet, a buffet lunch and a la carte dinners.
Breakfast starts at 0600, and though I had to leave before that to catch a flight, staff offered to prep me something in advance (I don’t like eating in the early morning so declined). On a side note, though this is far from an airport hotel, the reception contains a useful board displaying live flight information.
The night before I ate at Sikia Restaurant, which is dark and atmospheric but with bright local artwork on the walls (as you can just about see below). It was only me, a couple on a date and another person seemingly there on business, but it is the kind of space where you don’t feel conspicuous. Staff said the restaurant is usually packed on weeknights, when the hotel is a lot busier.
The food and beverage offering has recently had a refresh under a new manager, Suprabhath Roy Chowdhury, who has placed a new emphasis on international wines and meats. There are also local dishes such as a tasty Red Snapper in white wine sauce (1,950 Shillings/£14), which I opted for.
It’s a good, wide-ranging menu, with affordable vegetarian options such as risotto or pasta parcels for 800 Shillings (£6), up to lobster thermidor for 3,200 Shillings (£24) or prawns masala for 2,800 Shillings (£21).
Accessible from reception is the two-storey bar/lounge which is open from 10am till “late”, serving beers, wines and spirits. A resident pianist plays in the evenings.
There is free, fast wifi throughout the property and a desk in every room.
When it comes to meetings and events, this is clearly where the hotel is in its element. There are 11 rooms across a total 800 sqm, the largest of which can fit 550 people, or 300 for a banquet. To the left of reception are the big ballrooms, while the smaller meeting rooms are tucked away further into the property across different floors.
There is a large two-floor gym which is staffed between 0600 and 2200, although you are able to get in on request at other times. It’s open to non-guests and apparently popular in the early morning when members will use it before work, since they can get into the city centre and beat the traffic.
Upstairs are changing rooms with showers as well as a few rooms which can be booked for beauty treatments and massages. There is also an outdoor pool.
A classic Crowne Plaza, and a very nice one at that. Staff are friendly and accommodating, the rooms are large and there are lots of dining options as well as a good gym and pool. The kind of hotel you wouldn’t really need to leave.