The rain is coming down in buckets as we make our way to the Argyle Grand Hotel on Mombasa Road. It’s heading to 9pm and the downpour has made our visibility almost nil as our car dives through pools of water.
“If you see matatus driving with hazards on, just know things are thick,” my partner declares even as we spot vehicles that have landed in ditches.
We are anxious and can’t wait to reach the promised heaven that is the Argyle Grand Hotel. According to my earlier brief, the hotel is the first Australian 5-star hotel to open in Africa. The hotel, which sits on a five-acre plot, opened its doors in December 2023 and we are lucky to be among the first ones to get an invite through its doors.
My expectations were over the roof as I was told to expect unparalleled luxury, prestige and an exquisite unique experience all in one. The weather, no matter how bad, was not going to dampen my spirits.
Finally, we eke our way into the hotel and are directed to underground parking (It’s still raining, so parking out in the open is out of the question, plus we are here for a staycation).
We snake our way into the basement, but alas it is flowing with rainwater. “Our pump failed,” one of the officials explains as a battalion of workers pushes the water away into the drainage.
We take everything in good humour, as part of lessons for a new establishment as we dash for the check-in. “Welcome and sorry for the rain,” the receptionist beams as we hand over our documents.
“We are starving, where can we have dinner?” my partner asks after the check-in.
We are ushered into the dining area, and as is my custom, I glance through the offerings to prepare my palate for the delicious dishes. I am a bit alarmed that there are very few options on the buffet table (one soup, two starches, two proteins and a vegetable).
To my delight, the salad bar and dessert table are steaming with options. Overall, the buffet could have been better in terms of options and taste, but all my top marks go to the salad bar. “I loved their dessert, especially the red velvet,” my partner offers.
“We had two major events and the numbers surpassed by double. To ensure that everyone was fed, the chef had to put in something on short notice,” defends Bhupendra Kumar, the General Manager of the hotel, on our chat the next day.
It’s 11 pm, when we make our way to our room, and we discuss what the target audience of the hotel is. “It has a business feel, the décor is really stripped down and has a lot of shapes,” my partner observes.
I agree because I also notice the colours are very subdued (mostly greys and creams), and everything is new and elegant. The rooms are soundproofed too, which means that you can have your meetings without fear of being overheard, or the traffic from the nearby Mombasa Road interfering with your sleep.
I imagine that the ideal person for the rooms priced between $150 for a deluxe room to $400 for a suite, is a business leader who likes a meeting with a quick in-and-out flight from JKIA.
“Kenya is the gateway to Africa, so for us being stationed next to the SGR, the expressway and JKIA is a deliberate move,” quips Kumar who adds that they aim to provide a luxury experience at an affordable price.
While I have experienced a lot of the things offered in the hotel in other establishments, what wows me is the smart technology deployed. In the room, several things are smart, including the lights, curtains and TV. But what tops everything is their audio-visual experience in their conference hall which offers the biggest full LED screen (it measures 11*4 metres), and a sound that is better than in the discotheques.
“It’s like being in a 3D movie theatre,” my partner exclaims excitedly.
Then there is the bathroom experience. Yes, I mean it. The toilets are intelligent with next-level innovation and a top-notch design. The basins automatically warm when one sits, and at the touch of a button, one can choose the function they need- Arabic shower, drying, or even a massage- and when one is done the toilet automatically flushes and disinfects.
As we take our leave, Kumar is keen to show us the rest of the offerings in the hotel. There is the heated pool (it’s not working on this day, as some part had broken down), the fully stocked state-of-the-art gym, the social house where people relax and the wood-fire pizza place.“We are currently building the sauna and massage parlour over there. They will be ready around April,” says Kumar.
What I do hope they can improve on in the future is the service. I felt it was a bit disjointed and not harmonious enough as communication seemed to be lost in some cracks. It’s expected though for a new facility.