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Peponi Hotel, Lamu Island, Kenya

February 4, 2010

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
Coarse sugar
Crushed ice
Half shot lime juice
Splash of Angostura bitters
Double shot of vodka
Soda water

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.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 10:09 pm

    It all looks so gorgeous, so tranquil and so very very good!! Love, I mean truly, love all those gorgeous photos!

  2. February 5, 2010 2:13 am

    WOW! These are all so, so beautiful. I love the flowers at the top left. And that water pitcher looks so refreshing!

  3. February 5, 2010 11:10 am

    Wow….is about the only syllable leaving my mouth right now…..Wow for the venue, wow for the food and wow for the photographer!!!!

  4. Susan permalink
    February 5, 2010 2:22 pm

    I’ll add my WOW to the others. You got me with the whole grilled fish. Tell me more: kind of fish, stuffed?

  5. Liz permalink
    February 5, 2010 2:31 pm

    Thanks for the nice comments! It sure helps to be photographing a place as scenic as Peponi.

    I don’t actually know what kind of fish that beauty is, sadly. The fisherman pull up every morning with that day’s catch, so I believe the type of fish and preparation vary by the day.

  6. ziabaki permalink
    February 5, 2010 7:46 pm

    I am ready to move in. Do you think they have a permanent residents quarters? I’m a great massage therapist and can cook! Oh well, I’m off to Hawaii tomorrow so no complaints. Thanks for sharing. Luscious photos!

  7. aldo permalink
    February 6, 2010 12:27 am

    Hi – For your drink that you posted. Is there an ingredient missing? Or does the drink in the photo not match the drink recipe? Because I’m not sure where the orange/red color comes from then if it’s just the ingredients listed?


  8. Hannah permalink
    February 6, 2010 9:30 am

    WOW! absolutely breath-taking photographs. What kind of camera do you have?

  9. Dylan permalink
    February 6, 2010 12:32 pm

    Re. the grilled fish –

    It looked like a dentex at first, but that’s a Mediterranean fish (excellent, by the way). It’s probably some kind of a trevally.

    What I’d like to know is how to make that tuna tartare! Looks delicious…

  10. February 7, 2010 4:28 am

    Absolutely wonderful photographs. Specially the third set of photographs are awesome. In the third set loved couple of things:

    1. Grilled Fish – Love the composition of that photograph. The black background and white plate works wonder for me.
    2. Third photograph – Wonderful styling and love the color composition. White and meat and greens make awesome combination.

    Great Collection Liz.

    Thanks for posting.
    – Neel

  11. Judy permalink
    February 7, 2010 4:45 pm


  12. Liz permalink
    February 8, 2010 8:20 am

    Hi Aldo – that is a photo of the Ol’ Pal. I had the same question myself, but the color comes from the bitters. It may also look a deeper orange because of the light.

    Dylan – Thanks for the fish info! I don’t have the recipe for the tartare, but the ingredients listed for the dressing are olive oil, sesame oil, soy, and ginger.

    Hannah – I was fortunate to upgrade recently to a Canon 5D Mark II, which I find gives really rich colors. Most of these photos are shot with a macro lens, which allows me to get up close to the food and capture details.

  13. Mimi English-Koch permalink
    February 8, 2010 9:43 pm

    I’m dabbing the corners of my mouth as I write this. Totally fabulous from every angle, you’ve found Nirvana! Sigh…

  14. February 9, 2010 3:43 pm

    Oh. My. Blog! I don’t even know where to begin! Not only are these photos *stunning*, but you’ve also made me forget it was winter, even if it was for a few hours (that’s how long I was staring at these photos!). I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the reflection of palm trees in the glasses – yawza! Hawt! Fabulous post.

  15. February 11, 2010 1:21 am

    Oh wow! This looks amazing! Your photos are awesome. I hope you are having so much fun!

  16. February 18, 2010 11:53 am

    What an idyllic trip! The photographs are so beautiful, pitch perfect composition!

  17. February 20, 2010 5:50 pm

    Super stunning photos…..making me long for my holidays now….and I still have 3 weeks+ to go!

  18. March 9, 2010 5:47 am

    stunning, just stunning!!

  19. March 11, 2010 9:29 pm

    Gorgeous! You’ve made it all look so inviting and delicious! Sounds like a blast.

  20. April 6, 2010 11:11 pm

    Liz, I know how beautiful Lamu can be, but you REALLY make it hard for us mere mortals when you take such amazing photographs. Now why isn’t there a place like this in my neck of the woods??

  21. Mark Chira permalink
    May 29, 2010 3:12 pm

    Good work and thanks for sharing your work .

  22. June 16, 2010 10:55 am

    Lamu is really beautiful and calm place that every one have dream to visit. You placed images are really good and impressive. Keep good postings..

  23. Brandi permalink
    March 12, 2011 4:30 am

    Just returned from a short stay at Peponi–and while there had my first (and 2nd and 3rd…) Ol’ Pal. A must try! And as for Peponi, a must stay if travelling to Lamu.

  24. Tessy permalink
    August 27, 2013 9:03 am

    Wow such an amazing place,so breathtaking and the food i bet tastes just as good as it looks! thank God i found this. Check out my blog
    i write about awesome places in Kenya to visit. Hope you guys love it!


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