Peponi Hotel, Lamu Island, Kenya
Happiness is a seafront room at the Peponi Hotel, an idyllic cluster of whitewashed cottages on the Kenyan coast. On the balconies, each with private view of the palm-fringed Indian Ocean, hammocks sway lazily in the tropical breeze.
We’d discovered this gem on our last trip to the ancient Swahili town of Lamu. Stopping into Peponi for lunch, Shravan and I were struck by the quality of the food and the charm of the property and swore to return.
A few months later, we appeared with the entire family in tow, all of whom promptly settled into their hammocks and commenced relaxing. It’s almost impossible not to relax at Peponi. Like many fine resorts, it has luxurious amenities – the plush bed, the spa, the beach and sunset cruises. Unlike many fine resorts, the food is simply outstanding.
Take breakfast. Baskets of warm, house-made bread and crumbly scones and muffins are served with a kaleidoscope of chutneys and jams – beet, passion, ginger, pineapple. There’s fruit, of course, and tea, which arrives at your doorstep to sip as you soak up the sunrise.
For lunch, try delicate crab and feta samosas, dipped in chili-tamarind sauce, or tuna tartare, dressed in olive and sesame oil, soy and ginger, garnished with citrus and herbed sea salt. For alfresco dining, follow the interlocking gardens to the seaside pool, a ribbon of turquoise under the spreading boughs of a baobab tree.
But it’s dinner where Chef Ray, part of the family that has been welcoming guests to Peponi for the last four decades, really outdoes himself. A crab of epic proportions, scooped up from the nearby mangroves, is served with four different bowls of infused butter – lime, garlic, ginger, and chili. Prawns are grilled in spicy piri-piri sauce or flambéed in brandy. And the lobster… well that’s just a work of edible art, with slices of seafood stacked like jewels and a cascade of flowers from its spine.
Many thanks to Carol, Lars, Benny, Ray and everyone at Peponi who made us feel so welcome. And a special thanks to Shravan who, taking a well-earned break from his own photo assignments, graciously juggled mirrors and flashes all weekend to help me do the property justice in my photos.
Peponi’s Signature Ol’ Pal Cocktail
Half shot lime juice
Splash of Angostura bitters
Double shot of vodka
Rim the glass in sugar; fill with crushed ice. Add lime, bitters and vodka, and top off with soda water. Stir and enjoy, preferably by the pool.