Royalty redefined at the Royal Orchid, Azure in Westlands

Posted On 9th March 2016

It was a déjà vu moment as the taxi weaved through the boulevard hanging with neat bougainvillea. I’d lived this moment before albeit in a run-of-the-mill manner. I swore I remembered that red Coca-cola kiosk. We had after all walked past it countless times: Alex, Bob, and I that is, on our way on our way to the games arcade in what was  one of the only two malls the capital boasted at the time. Sarit and Yaya malls and I talk of the former and yes, there was such a time malls were a real marvel.
 I could never forget this course. Sigh! This was where Faith, the one that got away, lived. Good thing this neighborhood has aged with utmost grace, enough to retain discernible flashes of days gone by. Anyway, fate in its unusual twists had ensured that I was back. Getaway was playing closer home having a taste of an up-to-the-minute gem in, Westlands, what has now become the capital’s luxury accommodation and dining hub. I talk fate because this time round, the missus was tagging along in what was unexpectedly a trip down memory lane. 

At Lantana road’s neck stack behind New Rehema House where Faith’s house once stood now stands twin Azure Towers reaching out to the competing heraldic azure-blue heavens. No offence Faith, but I reckon that this is a much better space. It took less than a minute to get us checked in to the 165 room Royal Orchid thanks to staff dressed to the beat in lilac and Royal purple. Despite their efficiency, this scribe’s eye was made aware of the lounge decked in polished marble floor and finished with contemporary décor. Broken flower-art wall hangings, excellent use of glass has enhanced the illusion of space while generous chandeliers and jazz surround gives the space that resembles a movie set elegant ambience that instantly brings to notice the dirt on sojourner’s shoes. On the far left of the ground floor is the Lime Light restaurant that serves continental meals and adjacent to it, a trendy deli café serving hi-tea (they even serve rooibois tea) and pastries. Both are open all day catering to walk-ins as well.
We had a celebrity moment-the kind where you hold your guts in, in admiration, short of screaming out how big of fans you are-when we bumped into singer Ameleena in the lifts. We’d later learn that she was hosting an event at the Orchid ballroom perched on the top-most floor.  We held our cool, and exited onto the long heavily carpeted corridors, but here goes: Bird voice, keep making good music. 

If you have had the chance to travel to India, then you can attest to its rich history and culture complete with the finest of royalty. If you’ve never been to those parts then you certainly must have read about the place or better still watched programming like Ramayan-the 90’s programme aired by our sister station KTN that is currently being re-screened. It is from the world's largest, oldest, continuous civilization that The Royal Orchid chain of Hotels draws its inspiration for detail and design. The chain’s flagship hotel was established in Bangalore in 1973 and went on to expand to operate 22 links that ranged from luxurious 5-star hotels to economy business hotels in thirteen Indian cities. In 2013, the group made its first international foray with the Royal Orchid Malaika Beach resort at Mwanza, next to Lake Victoria and a short drive to the Serengeti National Park. The Nairobi link is barely four months old making it part of the present 28 links the chain flaunts in 20 popular world destinations. Apart from its history and culture, India is also considered one of the wealthiest in terms of natural beauty. Take Uttarakhand’s Valley of Flowers, for instance, located in the Nanda Devi Biosphere. Spread over some 88 sq. Km and surrounded by forest, this valley is famous for its most stunning carpet made up of over 300 species of wild flowers. Among this is the orchid. Walk with me for I digress for effect and fact. For ages, orchids represented power, wealth, glamour, exoticism with some stunning, rare, taking-ages-to-bloom species selling for unimaginable fortunes. Thus, from India’s royalty and natural beauty the Royal Orchid is named. 

From our state of the art deluxe room, the pool waters below called. I have to mention that the rrock mould that imitates natural rock complete with a waterfall make for the most alluring and calming sight. The light overcast, however, ensured we completely savoured the silver bedside lamps, brown and gold drappings, fibre pillows, Jacuzzi, adjustable showers et all, but who’s complaining aye. I have to mention, however, that the view can be a dash disconcerting for those seeking concrete free views, the Orchid being in a residential area. The sports bar is also a real sell for the Orchid. Lovely light fixtures with theme green neon around the bar was also a delight. The best part, two giant screens to make that soccer viewing experience the more worthwhile. Apart from the bar stools, ladies are also home thanks to cushiony lounge seats sprinkled around.

There is no royalty without a crown and in our view, the Tiger Trail shines the brightest. Gold finishing, exquisite brown wood finishes, and imposing tiger wall hangings are signature for this Indian themed restaurant draped in royalty. We had saved the special theme for our last evening and it did not disappoint. You may wonder what Tiger Trail is, and the owner has an experience that sounds like yarn. During the age of the “Raj,” the British went on trails across India to hunt the elusive and presently endangered Royal Bengal Tiger. Its muted ferocity coupled with a notorious reluctance to show up made it the most prized sighting. Those trips across the subcontinent formed a sort of pattern, popularly known as the Tiger Trail. Years later, the owners of the Nairobi’s Royal Orchid decided to go on that same Tiger Trail, except with one big difference. They weren't out to hunt the tiger, but to appreciate its beauty. Their trails took them from the swamplands of the Sunderbans in the east, to the deep forests of Ranthambore in the west, and from the undulations of Dudwa in the north to the depths of Nagarhole in the south. To savour the same experience as the trailers of yesteryears, they stayed in the same forest lodges built for the British, watched deer frolic the greenery as if it were their personal backyard, sat by the campfires while guides cooked for us, and jumped in sheer delight on the very sight of a pugmark. Hours grew to days, days grew to weeks, and weeks became a month, and their anxiety grew to anguish and despair as they hadn't seen a tiger yet. They started to pack their bags from their final sanctuary when they saw a herd of deer scamper as if they had seen a ghost. They hid in their jeeps from where they could spy on what was happening, and there she was. Rising from the marshes, like a phantom moving towards its prey, looking ever so majestic was the tiger they had waited months to see. Their trail was over, as they had seen what they sought after. It is their experience on the trail that led to the restaurant. As they could not bring home a tiger as a souvenir from their trails in the wilderness, they decided to bring home the various cuisines of the regions that they had trailed the tiger. Memories of the various campfires that they sat by with a guide cooking a meal for them, for instance, inspired the Open Hearth where a chef will becomes a guide, and the diner can create a meal to suit their taste. 

I cannot claim to be an aficionado of Indian cuisine, but my, did that meal go down well. The mains especially were to say the least taste bud sizzling. The lady opted for murgh curry- chicken cooked with smooth onion and tomato gravy and Indian spices while I went for the Kadai Jhinga-prawns cooked with bell peppers, onion flavoured with crushed coriander and pounded chilli. Simply delicious and best of all, the prawns tasted fresh. Our accompaniments of jeera rice, laccha paratha and crisp missi roti ensured a rounded oriental culinary experience. At the end the meal we went for a couple of Gulab Jamuns. These flavoursome milk dumplings, deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup were served hot covered in pistachio nut flakes and cardamom.  The best part, the staff steered the restaurant manager, Akash Tomar ensured that our journey was not riddled with mishap. Akash was more than willing to oblige us on our possibly naïve questions regarding Indian cuisine. To prove that he really didn’t mind, he spotted us choice complimentary cocktails to accompany the meal. 
So, you’ve been married for a considerable period and have managed pretty progeny. The monotony of work weeks, the squabbling of your pretty progeny, and everyday pressure is bound to wear you down. You also simply could be looking to impress that mate. Here’s a suggestion, a little taste of royalty won’t hurt.