Restaurant owner's gamble during Covid finally pays off

Jane Mwaura at serves at Sippers and Dynus Lounge in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Nestled along the bustling Argwings Kodhek Road, the thoroughfare that channels the city's traffic into the Hurlingham and Lavington neighbourhoods, the Sippers and Diners Restaurant and Lounge, commonly known as Sippers, stands as a beacon of ambience and classic service. Situated within the cosmopolitan area of the main Hurlingham shopping center, Sippers has undergone a significant transformation, evolving into a haven for patrons seeking not only delectable cuisine but also an inviting atmosphere.

Geoffrey Obura, the man behind the metamorphosis, took a bold step at a time when most investors were exercising caution due to the uncertainties brought about by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Having acquired the restaurant from the founders of the renowned Java Coffee House a few years ago, Obura utilised the lockdown period to breathe new life into the establishment.

“I used the time when hotels and restaurants were not allowed to operate to renovate the facility and give it the much-needed ambiance and state-of-the-art comfort for clients,” reveals Counsel Obura, whose passion for service echoes through the transformed Sippers.

Entering Sippers, one is greeted by a captivating veranda, its jungle canopy and garden flowers evoking a homely feel. The semi-enclosed coffee veranda, adorned with hanging garden plants, sets the stage for an outdoor private experience, subtly guiding patrons into the heart of the establishment.

The ground floor boasts a modern bar outfit and a dining area, designed to rival the standards of top-notch international hospitality joints. The staircase ascends to an upper deck, home to a lounge with low-level club chairs, and adjacent to it, the "Senate" – a second bar area where senior citizens prefer to congregate. Wooden-clad walls and a modern club lighting system on the upper deck impart the ambiance of a high-end British pub.

“This was a strategic move to cater to the diverse preferences of our clientele. The 'Senate' provides a more relaxed atmosphere for our senior patrons,” notes Obura, highlighting the thoughtful design considerations.

The physical transformation of Sippers is not the sole focus of Obura's investment. Lighting and sound equipment enhancements were implemented, allowing for piped music on weekdays and live performances on weekends. The resident band frequently takes centre stage, serenading patrons with Rhumba sounds. On special occasions, the audience becomes part of the performance, as witnessed when celebrated cartoonist Paul Kelemba (Maddo) joined in, not just to sing but also to play the lead guitar in support of a Congolese hit, Double Double by Nyboma.

“This live performance is a replicate of similar shows on Fridays. It adds a unique dynamic to the overall Sippers experience,” remarks Obura, emphasizing the importance of entertainment in the establishment.

Despite the challenging global landscape, Sippers has not only weathered the storm but has emerged stronger. The strategic renovations and investments have positioned the restaurant as a premier destination, drawing in more clients upon the easing of restrictions and the containment of the virus by the World Health Organization (WHO).

David Morris, a visiting expatriate from the UK, praises the cuisine as "mouthwatering, delicious, and the waitstaff as courteous and polite," affirming Sippers as an "overall top-notch dining delight."

Dr. Joseph Aluoch, a regular customer, attests to the multifaceted appeal of Sippers, noting that it serves as both a business meeting venue and a place to savor exquisite dishes like grilled pork chops or a medium to well-done sirloin steak.

Obura's foresight and commitment to excellence have not only revitalised Sippers but have contributed to the resurgence of the hospitality industry in the region. The restaurant's success story, amid the challenges posed by the pandemic, is a testament to the resilience of visionary entrepreneurs willing to take calculated risks for the love of service and the joy of their patrons.