End of an era as Simmers Restaurant in Nairobi closes

What remained after Simmers Bar and Restaurant was closed down and property carted from the premises. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • White people who and enjoyed meals and entertainment at Simmers will mourn its demise.
  • Simmers was the place for high-end call girls or social workers
  • Businessman Suleiman Murunga's character is that of royalty, averse to taking orders and being twisted around

Simmers Restaurant in the heart of Nairobi, which has never closed its doors for more than two decades, has finally been tragically shut.

For 21 years, it has been a meeting place for tribes (people) of the world converging for self-interest agenda.

In those years, tourists booked in neighbouring big star hotels - Hilton, The Stanley, Six Eighty, Norfolk, Pan Afric and the Serena - have been trooping there for enjoyment.

Bulldozers descended on Simmers on Friday evening and razed it after many years of court cases.
Caught unawares, Simmers owner - former Kimilili MP Suleiman Murunga - said he lost everything.


It was transformed from a small Chinese Restaurant operated by an Asian to a popular 48-hour Club in 1997 and renamed Simmers.

Simmers is a Luhya translated imagery word meaning the place where food is cooked simmering (sizzling) in a pot.

Like when The Stanley’s Thorn Tree was cut and messages came from all over the world, many White people who have visited Kenya and enjoyed meals and entertainment at Simmers are bound to mourn its demise.

The story of Simmers reads like the Happy Valley of colonial Kenya where everything of Europeans happened – from love to business deals.

Simmers was the place for high-end call girls or social workers, the business which gave it popularity for tribes of the world who trooped there for 48 hours.


Kenya’s who is who, including famous preachers, would park big tinted limousines on the three surrounding Roads and call. Other cadres would even go inside to collect.

White people would go in, dine, drink, dance and collect. So were Kenyans visiting Nairobi for business.

Simmers was like Mombasa’s ages old Casablanca and former Istanbul on Moi Avenue plus Toyz in Makadara area.

Casablanca remains an entertainment place of those seeking happiness away from family while the other two which are no more were also happy valley zones.

Simmers was the place where we journalists frequented to meet news sources.


It had replaced Corner Bar at the intersection of Moi Avenue and Muranga Road, where journalists used to meet.

Even powerful former Attorney General Charles Mugane Njonjo threatened in Parliament to go there and round up journalists.

And Simmers is the place where politics was brewed. Opposition politicians of the 1990s met there, discussed strategies and went to implement them against the Kanu regime.

Even lobby fraternity, including lawyers like Harun Ndubi will mourn the demise of Simmers. It was a meeting point to discuss strategies on how to bring down an intolerant Kanu.


For some Simmers orphans, it was an office where they reported as early as 7am. They had tea, if one had money or just sat, waiting for business or political contacts.

Their office no more. They have been thrown into disequilibrium to struggle to find an accommodative alternative meeting point.

Businesses that were conducted at Simmers were as diverse as anyone would imagine. They ranged from underworld deals to trading, sale of property, acquisition of immigration documents and conning.

To illustrate that Simmers catered for tribes of the world, one stands out – the Congolese. From Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire to Republic of Congo, they went to Simmers for various reasons.


Musicians who wanted to start their career that would catapult them to go and perform in Europe - mainly France and Belgium - performed at Simmers.

Some ruined marriages in the country before departing to Europe. Some Congolese went to Simmers seeking to find market for real and fake gold and diamonds.

Others went there to get information from home.

One would find them in groups speaking French or Lingala. Congolese women combined everything from business to social work.

Like Modern Green on Latema Road whose doors were shut for first time during the August 1, 1982 attempted coup, Sabina Joy (Karumaindo) on Moi Avenue, old and young Kenyans will mourn Simmers.


It is nostalgic, legal merits and demerits battles notwithstanding that Simmers was the place things happened.

From politics to business, including social workers who have educated their children to university, welfare meetings bringing together Kenyan communities, Simmers will remain a shrine.

The clips of mangled steel and water tanks at Simmers on TV, with workers trying to piece out the remains of what they could salvage, must have sent many in tears.

Lastly, Simmers is a tantalising word to any person pronouncing it. All will remember Simmers like they do Karumaindo, nicknamed so by novelist Sam Kahiga, for many years to come.

God rest Simmers in peace.

Mr Murunga is an entrepreneur from humble beginnings. Though he comes from Bungoma County, his ancestry is from the famous Kingdom of Nabongo Mumia, from which Mumias town was named.

A Muslim, he was named after Murunga, the vassal Chief Nabongo Mumia posted to rule in Bungoma on behalf of colonial government.

His character is that of royalty, averse to taking orders and being twisted around. He rose from a clerk banker to a manager, and built his wealth from there.

Apart from Simmers, Mr Murunga is known to own property in several cities some rented by government, cabinet secretaries and international agencies.


The former lawmaker is well-connected. Before joining politics, he sponsored many leaders in western Kenya to win parliamentary seats.

When Mr Murunga goes to court over Simmers, it may not matter what the ruling will be, but only time will tell.