On a warm Saturday evening recently, we found ourselves driving around aimlessly. I was with three friends after a dinner party looking for a post-dinner drinks venue. A Togolese businessman, a top bureaucrat in our government, a South Sudanese chief of staff and myself.
We just could not decide which spot to go to. One person or the other seemed to have a problem with whichever venue we chose. If it wasnâ€™t the state of the washrooms, it was the waiters slipping you bills from the next table, if it wasnâ€™t the overzealous bouncers, it was the overzealous professional escorts, a more apt description should perhaps be professional turn-offs .
That and the small fact that we would be public-facing. So we settled on one public house. It lived up to expectations, but it didnâ€™t quite hit the spot. So a few whiskys later, conversation got round to why.
What had we been looking for in the first place? Which would have been the ideal place we had in mind? Soon enough, conversation moved to house parties. And there in those two words, house party, we had it.
Not your usual, run-of-the-mill, pathetic excuse for a kiddie party. You know, those parties where men sit around furtively waiting for the moment to break out the good whisky while the women fret over children in between snatching bits of conversation with their mates.
What we had been craving for, that night, was a grown-up party where we could have fun without looking over our shoulders fearing paparrazis or other party dampers.
Where in Kenya, or Nairobi to be more exact, do adults go to have a decent conversation, have a few drinks, perhaps strike a real deal in a relaxed and gentlemanly manner. It turns out we were looking in the wrong places. Public houses.
When it comes to the ultimate Nairobi by night clubs, lounges and other public houses cannot hold a candle to house parties where the atmosphere is relaxed, people feel secure, you get to meet and really connect with people, where the food is not going to have you reaching for Mara Moja, the drinks are decent and who knows?
A place where you can get to rediscover your other calling in life, deejaying or bartending as you mingle with the moneyed class? Below are a few people who are known tot throw memorable parties where drinks and food flow in abundance.
What happens when you cross British royalty with Kenyan aristocracy? Well, you get Chris Foot. He is self-effacing and the epitome of old world charm. Chris manages to do an astonishing amount of things while looking like he is having tea with Mother Theresa.
He is chair of the Kenya Film Commission, runs a farm, a player both on and off the polo pitch, he practices environmental law, develops property and can dance salsa like a Brazilian.
So the question therefore begs, there must be something in this, silver-tongued, St Andrewâ€™s Scotland educated swordsman that is not so reputable.
He throws great parties.
The kind where you get to share a single malt with industry leaders, UK barristers, some amateur and established comedians and yes, even the odd musician.
Conversations range from who has acquired the latest polo pony, how to keep employees you have trained from scratch in your firm, to who is about to get fired from a government agency.
To eat, expect nothing but the best barbecued meats prepared using the most elaborate grilling methods, as brie-in-chief Mike Du Toit would attest. Even Brazilian grilling methods where a stake is driven through a whole lamb and driven into the ground and the fire literally built around the lamb and left to slow cook coupled with salads fresh from the farm â€“ who would have thought grilled mango tastes that good?
The dÃ©cor is boudoir outdoors, think mess tents, extravagant cushions and deck chairs arranged around a blazing fire. To drink, in what is normally a very wet bar, aperitifs are the slow flirtation starters, the best wines with food and single malts for the business deal-making.
Invites are text messages from the man himself and read â€œChilled BBQ at mine, from 6.30pm till late-ishâ€¦ bring whatever you want to eat, listen to, kiss, grill or drink.â€
The smiley face at the end gives the game away. Prepare yourself for an unforgettable night. Just remember to RSVP otherwise it is not polite to just pitch up at the door unexpected.
When sport meets entertainment, the atmosphere is combustive. If international rugby players (a valiant attempt is normally made to persuade them to keep their shirts on), architects, pilots (they mostly talk about flying when they are with women and talk about women when they are flying) and fine eye candy are your thing, then Sasha is your man.
Everything about his parties is well thought out. A legendary New Yearâ€™s party he hosted had revellers – or shall we call them bad house guests – still passed out in the garden by the next evening.
Excellently barbecued marinated meats, waiters at your beck and call, mixologists just for the ladies (when they want to have that Mojito they had six years ago, in a pub, in New York), tunes from a small but formidable Bose sound system and a generally live atmosphere combine to make Sashaâ€™s doâ€™s a must-attend.
In his day job, he is Quantity Surveyor, businessman, a respected member of the Architectural Association of Kenya and perhaps his most visible role is that of deputy chair in the Kenya Rugby Union.
You would probably have seen him at the Safari Sevens with a tournament director label on his lapel. A jock, this mixed race father of one is an international citizen who is proudly Kenyan as witnessed in the international Sevens Circuit.
He is as much at ease in Wellington, New Zealand, talking about the future of Kenyan rugby as he is chatting about the state of Kenyan roads in the Quinâ€™s bar. Sasha, when he is on a song, is one of the best party hosts.
He doesnâ€™t sit around making polite conversation as the party falls flat, he gets right in there and does the chicken dance much to theÂ delight and amusement of guests.
Owing to his rugby roots – they run deep – and his own personal charm and charisma, the crowd is an eclectic mix of well-connected and easy-on-the-eye friends and acquaintances.
Invites to his parties are by word-of-mouth. He puts the word in and lets the bush telegraph do the rest. The stampede to get to his front door – judging from the last party – could actually rival the wildebeest migration especially in the female department.
Diplomatic parties in Nairobi, despite all the fanfare, are generally a dull affair. If it isnâ€™t death by chilled Wyborowa, and it is the Polish not the Russians who have the best vodka by the way, it is an extravagant display of every kind of French cheese on a 40-foot table.
Diplomats stand around marvelling at how great their assignment to Nairobi is, all the while muttering how terrible things are, overlooking how much money they are making or saving and the trappings they have here that they would not have anywhere else.
Conversations tend towardsâ€¦â€As I was being driven here, my residence manager called to say that one of my house girls wonâ€™t be coming back to work as she has eloped with the principle gardenerâ€¦â€
Rarely do you get the balance of conversation, drink and palatable, ideally recognisable, style and choice of food. We will collectively pass on the frogs legs. So how could a relatively small country pip all the other greats in hosting the best diplomatic shindig in Nairobi? No, it is not entirely the fault of soap operas. Neither is it entirely up to the fact that
Kenyans have developed a taste for Patron. If you are one of the lucky ones, September 5.30pm will find you in Loresho, sundowner in hand with the obligatory wait for the guest of honour, a minister, no doubt, to get there. Champagne cocktails will be served as you wait, then a short speech.
It was in one of these speeches that Prof Anyangâ€™ Nyongâ€™o revealed his Mexican connections by speaking in Spanish from start to finish without breaking a sweat and cracking everyone up.
Then the party moves to the sit-down in the back garden. The ambassador visits every table, drinks a shot of tequila, bellows Viva La Mexico and then proceeds to give a speech! Before you get speechless.
To eat, there is Tacos Arabes, a sort of stuffed chapatti with sharwama inside, Torta Cubana, which we could substitute for a carnivoreâ€™s heaven as it contains all kinds of meat you can think of and, of course, the Enchiladas, which basically means anything covered in chilli or tear gas as we Kenyans like to call it.
If your taste buds go nuts, well, you take a shot of tequila. You have the choice between silver and gold, Jose Cuervo, no doubt, and the condiments arenâ€™t for real men. Then to ice it all, there is real dancing afterwards. At the end of it all, you will wobble out feeling like you have latina blood flowing in your veins.
Blue blood anyone?
At the crossroads between Pedigree street and Government road, you will find Jomo Gecaga. Great-grandson to Koinange wa Mbiyu, Grandson to Jomo Kenyatta and BM Gecaga,Â son to Udi Gecaga and Jenny Kenyatta and favourite nephew and Private Secretary of President Uhuru Kenyatta, the pedigree does not get any better.
He was a civil servant in the Kibaki administration working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before shifting to Finance and joining the Uhuru-for-President team.
Eton-educated and frightfully posh, Jomo is one of the most eligible bachelors in government today. At his parties, where champagne is on tap, whisky a small sideshow and Whitecap the chaser, the who-is-who in old money Kenya comes out to play.
Expect to eat the very best that culinary masters in the likes of Piliâ€™s Soho to Muthaiga Country Club have to offer. His is a well-heeled and well-hidden blue-blood world of different capitals in as many different weeks.
Generous to a fault, Jomo is sometimes shy when he throws a party and lets others run with it. More likely, his youngest sister, Nana, herself a formidable force of nature. For company, expect huge sections of the extended Kenyatta family in attendance, cut-glass accents, ladies and gentlemen with instantly recognisable surnames, Muthaiga and platinum club memberships.
There is a place you can go to in Nairobi to hear real life entrepreneurial journeys. Journeys that began in backroom alleys, corners of office space rented out, all those many years ago, with nothing to go on with except the belief in oneâ€™s ideas and luck.
The trick with this place is to get there early before inebriation sets in, that is if you want to discuss any business at all.
The Galileo setting is not compete without the obligatory â€˜ngarangoâ€™ or roasted animal fat, plates or rounds of meat, copious amounts of beer rapidly switching to various types of whiskys complete with introductions, for the drinks that is.
And when businessmen who count their worth in billions get together, it is not a stretch before you have hat in hand politicians and other government tender chasing types.
So it was inevitable as the Jubilee juggernaut gained momentum that the myriad of parties thrown somehow found their way to Galileoâ€™s. Run by Richard Ngatia CEO of Megascope and proprietor of Galileo chain of hotels, the who-is-who in Jubilee will somehow end up paying their homage at the parties thrown here.
Expect loads of Nyama choma, goat head soup and the likes of mukimo. Conversation is rarely about business, most of the patrons are already well-established billionaire businessmen.
Donald has managed to cram a lot into his 40 plus years. He holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) degree from the University of Nairobi and a Postgraduate Diploma from the Kenya School of Law.
He writes a weekly column in the Standard newspaper, has built quite the ice cream house in Cheptongei in Marakwet where he is from and quietly but surely forged a reputation for being the swordsman.
Rising from a humble background, he has decided to do in adulthood that which lacked in his childhood, or so it seems. He throws the most elaborate, lavish birthday parties that include trips to Cape Verde, South Africa and sometimes in Nairobi.
For his 40th, he had an invite-only event at trending Zen Gardens that included a fully-paid visit to high end menâ€™s shop Little Red for the Gentlemen attending. The price tag for a suit at this shop starts from Sh80,000 upwards.
His friends are the who-is-who in Kenya Corporate and government circles. Expect the finest food and wine that money can buy surrounded by an unusual amount of young female talent, making him a hit with his gentlemen friends, married or from Kenya.