Friday 2 November 2007

Hotel Serena, Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi, Kenya

The kind of smart, upmarket hotel that makes it far too easy to forget that there are people living in squalid slums across much of this city. The fittings and furniture, mostly made out of a dark wood, are plush, while the rooms are large and comfortable. The upper floors even have a nice view of a tree-lined avenue leading up to Nairobi's shiny business district. Although some of the kit, such as the showers and the TVs, is a bit dated and temperamental, there is WiFi and complementary fruit, wine and a welcome drink. The Serena also has extensive, well-tended gardens and an abundance of friendly, laid-back staff. Service is leisurely, forcing you to unwind and slow down, so order food and drinks well before you get hungry and thirsty. For 'fast' food, such as burgers, pasta and sandwiches, head for the tables around the pool, but the very large cheese and bacon burger can be tepid and dry, while the accompanying chips are too salty. Still, this is a chilled-out spot to have one of the excellent and filling mango, banana or other tropical fruit smoothies. And the evening buffet in the restaurant has a wide selection of decent food. Particularly flavoursome are the Indian dishes, such as the prawn tikka masala. All in all, a good hotel, but, at $350 a night, the Serena is also expensive and highly indulgent by Kenyan standards. Like most international hotels in the developing world, guests, of course, occupy a bubble, heavily-insulated from real life in the surrounding city. 6/10