Nairobi is a city with many malls, but Village Market is still a cut above the rest. It is very different now from the ‘VM’ I knew and loved as a teenager, with its twisting, colourful slides, mini golf courses and cinema.
When I heard that these would be cleared for a modern hotel and shopping complex, I was sure that the mall would lose its sense of fun. But the attractions that have come in their place are just as entertaining, and the mall is still an appealing playground for children and adults alike.
Last Sunday, I had lunch at one of their latest entertainment spaces: the Ballpoint Social Club, on the third floor of the mall’s new wing. Ballpoint is a really fun, creatively-designed space with a bar and all manner of pub and arcade games — from pool and table tennis, to darts and ‘Pong’.
Pong was one of the first arcade games ever created, and I haven’t seen it anywhere else in Kenya. There are also lots of board games to choose from, including classics like Pictionary, Monopoly and Cluedo.
Like the mall’s Ozone Trampoline Park, the décor at Ballpoint is vibrant and quirky. As you walk through the doors, you’re greeted by a sculpted metal man scrubbing himself in a bathtub full of ping-pong balls. Behind him is a large, open space enclosed on either side by multi-coloured walls of glass.
Amongst the Pong, table tennis and pool tables are lounge chairs and other seating areas. Huge Kitenge fabric lampshades hang from the ceiling, and above the windows are murals of famous Nairobi streets. The bar is tucked into a corner by the darts arena, and a terrace provides some outdoor space.
My wife, Gabie, likes to judge a place by the state of its toilets, and it’s worth mentioning that she was impressed by the Ballpoint bathrooms. The women’s has a mural of a bus stop, while the men’s is Safari Rally themed, and both have Hollywood dressing room style lights around the mirrors.
We were impressed by the food, too. On offer was a range of sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, burgers and various other bar snacks. We opted for some poussin fries, broccoli and cauliflower nuggets, and a couple of pita bread ‘halloumi pockets’. Everything was delicious, especially the home-made teriyaki sauce prepared by the head chef, Ken.
As our table was cleared, we had a chat with our waiter, Dedan. He said Ballpoint was popular with corporate groups, and that Cadbury had recently hired the space for an event. I can’t think of a more suitable place for a team of chocolatiers. It’s an ideal spot for a birthday party, too.
Before we left the mall, we had some time to try out another new attraction called REV. It’s a virtual racing experience in state-of-the-art Formula 1 simulators, which were shipped in from Italy. There are four simulators in a room full of Formula 1 posters, chequered flags and other racing objects. You can race individually or against others in the simulators on tracks around the world.
I had a quick race against Gabie at the Imola Circuit in Italy. It’s an incredible experience — being strapped into a cockpit that resembles the real thing, with the protective Halo above your head and paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The track was in front of me on three large screens, and I felt every bump as I missed chicanes and spun off the circuit. It was so realistic, in fact, that Gabie admitted to looking over her shoulder for oncoming traffic as she exited the pit lane.
So REV and Ballpoint are two more fantastic Village Market creations. I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.
Head to www.villagemarket-kenya.com for more information.