At first glance, you might not rate the new Sankara Hotel, which stands adjacent to the Sarit Centre in Nairobi’s Westlands district. Its tall and beige and fairly anodyne; it has no grounds to speak of; and it overlooks a building site. Appearances are, however, deceptive. As you turn off the potholed side road, which leads to the hotel, the traffic light at the entrance turns green, the guard waves you through, and a line of red-winking bollards sink silently into the ground as you drive over them. Different. You are then invited to park in the sleek 200-space underground car park, or have valet parking do it for you.
The foyer is a minimal space with only the odd bowl of orchids to relieve the almost clinical expanses of marble, wood, leather, glass and organza. At check-in, the staff arepolish personified and the sharply tailored black and aqua uniforms suggest Manhattan rather than the Mara.
Head up to the first floor and you will step into the first of the airy atrium spaces around which this 156-room Dubai-designed and turn-key-installed hotel is built. Here there is a New York-styled delicatessen and ‘gourmet gallery’ offering Italian coffee, French pastries and ice cream: one entire wall is taken up by a floor-to- ceiling fridge filled with racks of wine. Beyond it is a stylish wine bar with stool and bench seating and massive windows looking out over Westlands. The wine list is good, the beers are served in ice-frosted glasses, and the ambience is stylish and upbeat. Beyond the bar is the ‘Artisan’ restaurant, which offers open seating around the central atrium, an outside deck where breakfast is served, intimate alcoves and a private dining room. As for the menu it’s seductively brief and deliberately provocative. To start, try the ‘Duck Carpaccio with Apple Mustard and a Balsamic Reduction’). Move on to the ‘Clay-pot Baked Veal Knuckle with Vegetable Remoulade and Lemon Zest’ or perhaps the ‘Yellow-fin Tuna Steak’, which arrives seared to perfection alongside a surprising selection of vegetables.
At the far side of the atrium is the ‘Muhibbah South Asian Restaurant’, which serves a selection of classic stir-fries and typical Asian cuisine, and where a giant window invites inspection of its opentheatre-kitchen.
On the roof of the hotel is a poolside ‘supper club’ which serves drinks, snacks and your choice from the menus of the restaurants downstairs. Japanese in style, it features long low seating, khaki umbrellas and stunning views over the city. Swim to the deep-end of the pool, and the tiles give way to a glass extension, which leaves you in aqua blue suspension seven storeys above the street.
Also on the roof is an executive club for those staying in the 33 Club Rooms, a well-equipped gym with dedicated trainers, state of the art ‘Techno-gym’ equipment, steam and sauna; and the Angsana Spa, which is run by the world famous Banyan Tree Group. Beautifully presented, it offers a spa shop, 7 treatment rooms, two rain-mist rooms, a relaxation lounge, and a range of massage, body wraps, facials, manicure and pedicure.
As for accommodation; there’s a wide selection of 156 rooms (62 superior, 51 deluxe, 7 junior suites, 2 executive suites and 33 club rooms), all of which are presented to world-class standards in ‘boutique style’. The beds have duck-down quilts that snuggle above and below you; the LCD TV comes with a CD/DVD library, there’s an Ipod dock above the clear glass work station; and the usually turgid ‘tea and coffee making facilities’ slide out of a red-velvet-lined drawer and include fresh grounds and an insulated cafetière. The bathrooms are large and have both walk-in shower and bath.
Ammenities include: 24-hour room service, laundry, drycleaning,valet,plug and play panel for audio-visual and technological connection, LCD flat screen cable TV, DVD player and surround-sound, desk, iPod docking station, WiFi, voice- messaging, air conditioning, complimentary newspaper, mini bar and private safe.