Last Sunday morning, we thought there was a chance the sun would break through the clouds. We decided to drive out of town to somewhere for lunch, but not too far, because I needed to be back before four o’clock to watch another Hamilton-versus-Verstappen F1 clash, the last before their summer break — or should it be their simmer break?
“What about the Kentmere Club?” I said. “We haven’t been there for years.”
I was remembering the tables set out on the terrace overlook the garden down the green lawn and across to the Tigoni tea plantations on the ridge. If the day was chilly, I was also remembering the snug bar with its log fire. Lut, my wife, agreed. I knew that with the newish link road between Waiyaki Way and Redhill and then to Limuru Road, we could be there within less than an hour. More importantly, we could drive back after lunch in less than an hour.
But before we went, I looked up the club on Tripadvisor. That wasn’t very encouraging. A number of the reviews appreciated the ambiance, praised the staff, were rather lukewarm about the food and, in polite ways, suggested that the place could do with a refit.
I remember something Sir Michael Blundell, the farmer and politician, said when I was helping him with his memoir. On one occasion, just before our weekly meeting, he had been to his old farm in the Solai Valley. It was no longer the beautiful place he had cherished. The water system he had lovingly constructed was no longer working. “Never go back, John,” he said. “Never go back!”
And I remember how I felt when, coming to stay in Kenya in the mid-1980s, I visited a house we had in the late 1960s, when I had been a lecturer at the University Adult Studies Centre in Kikuyu. The lawn and flower beds we had created and tended had become a scruffy cabbage patch.
So, I was pleased to see that the Kentmere Club — a low-slung, clinker-roofed building — had been spruced up. The white brick walls were freshly painted. There were bright red Maasai cloths spread on the garden tables. And there were plenty of flowers.
I was pleased to see the blossoms. Way back when we first went there, the then Belgian owner, De Brouwer, asked me how he could attract birds. I nearly jokingly said, “Try using a good aftershave”, but thought better of it. So I advised him to plant flowers and blossoming bushes.
Inside, the place was still a ramble of rooms, with wooden floors and low ceilings. The bar was just as snug, with its comfy chairs, settees, and the warming fireplace.
And the food? The leather menu covers are just the same as when we were there last. The nice line drawings on the menu are still there. But the dishes are less diverse. They are not cordon bleu; they are simple but generous servings — dishes like the fried fish coated with breadcrumbs that I had, grilled steak and mushroom sauce, grilled pork chops with apple sauce. And the prices are very reasonable — especially the house wines at Sh250 a glass!
The Kentmere is no longer the exclusive club it must have been in the 1920s when it first opened. It is a welcoming, friendly and cosy place, whether having lunch at a table on the terrace, or a drink in the snug bar. The rooms with their log fires are reasonably priced, too – Sh5,000 for a double room, bed and breakfast.
The drive out from Nairobi can be entertaining, too, especially if you take in the signboards through Ruaka and Banana Hill. How about “Royal Brains School”, for example? Since when have royal families,
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