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“Magical! Your real home away from home....” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Emerson Spice

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Emerson Spice
Ranked #1 of 34 Hotels in Stone Town
Certificate of Excellence
Netherlands
Level Contributor
85 reviews
35 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 96 helpful votes
“Magical! Your real home away from home....”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 April 2012

A last-minute trip to Tanzania to join my partner working there and as Zanzibar had always been on my "bucket list" we decided to go for the weekend. Initially we could not find a hotel on the island (unless we were prepared to pay $$$$$ a night), but when my partner called the Emerson Spice on a whim we were told that there had just been a last-minute cancellation - fate! So we grabbed the opportunity and booked immediately.
The trip to Zanzibar from Dar was good on the Kilimanjaro II, which docks not too far from the Emerson Spice. The friendly staff tried to explain to us on the phone how to reach the hotel, but as Stone Town is almost laid out like a Moroccan medina with zig-zag streets, we ended up asking a local to guide us, which proved very handy!
The hotel itself is absolutely fantastic and in the heart of Stone Town. We were met in the lobby by the very friendly and courteous staff. We were offered a refreshing hibiscus-ginger drink to cool off (did wonders!) and within minutes they guided us to our room, the Aida. The room was massive, with a separate sitting area that overlooked the busy side street and ended up being our breakfast nook for the next two days! Wonderful. From this area there is a circular staircase that winds up to a loft area, where there are two more single beds and yet another sitting area. The bathroom is very nice; spacious and clean. Above the main bed, a 4-poster bed, high off the ground, there was a ceiling fan in the middle, which was fantastic for keeping us cool in that Zanzibari heat!
Each of the rooms has a different theme and is the personal and unique creation of the hotel's owner, Emerson, a very colourful and most charming gentleman. There is also a history of the building in every room together with more information on each room, the themes and why they were chosen. Very amusing and it gives an insight into the room and the vibe you feel in each.
The staff were brilliant. Everyone that we met: from the head of housekeeping to the general help were always cheerful and had a big smile when they would see you. It was apparent they enjoyed their jobs there and felt at home. There was almost a sense of family. Speaking with Emerson we found out that some have been working for him for almost twenty years. Very unique and a good vibe!
The staff were also very keen to show you the rest of the facilities. They are proud to work there and their efforts are everywhere. As some have mentioned, the hotel is almost like a museum, but despite that it still feels like home.
Breakfast is served each morning in your room and is always made to order. The first course is a large plate of fresh fruit and your choice of tea or coffee. Later come the eggs (to order) and an assortment of European and African side dishes, which we always enjoyed. For those that did not want to eat in their room, you could also eat downstairs in the main lobby area, where there are several tables. We always enjoyed having our breakfast next to the balcony door overlooking the streets that lead to the main market behind the hotel. This added to the experience and made for a good conversation piece as people scurried by!
The food was of high quality, as we experienced both downstairs in the café area as well as the rooftop tea room with its beautiful views over Stone Town and the sea. We had all of our meals in the hotel -- a first for us as we are ones to try everything. But we were simply amazed by the quality and diversity of the food served. Dinner in the rooftop tea room is fabulous: $ 25 / person for a 5-course meal that just blew us away every evening. A real fusion of flavours: mango with cardammon, lobster skewers, king fish with vanilla...to name a few! Everything was beyond fresh and an explosion of flavours and aromas. We still talk about it!!! A tip to others is to reserve as the availability is limited (it's also a single seating at 19:00, with cocktails starting at 18:00!) Emerson is typically around during dinner and is always chatting with his guests, which everyone enjoyed. He joined us for dinner once and enlightened us with his cutting humour, charm and fantastic stories of living around the world!!!
In the café area downstairs we had lunch. The lobster skewers were sublime as well as the turmeric calamari. The accompaniments were also wonderful, giving us a taste of local dishes, which we also enjoyed as we learned more about the local culture and tasted the spices that abound in Zanzibar. The juices on offer: some of the best and always fresh - nothing from a "box". Prices were also very reasonable considering it is Zanzibar!
We enjoyed our stay so much that we decided to stay an extra night when we heard there was a room available at the last minute. We did have to change rooms, but this wasn't an issue as we were given perhaps the most charming of all rooms, the Kate (from Katharine Hepburn). This was our favourite room of all: it had a huge balcony that was very romantic and covered in fragrant jasmine plants and yellow, double hibiscus flowers. The views were also spectacular. Opening all of the windows allowed for a constant fresh and cool sea breeze to go through the room, which meant we did not even miss the air conditioning (and a plus when the power would go out in the island!).
Currently there are six rooms available, but they are working on more in the building and in the future they will add even more, which will bring the total up to 22 when the two next door buildings are renovated.
We hated to leave the Emerson Spice. It really did become our home away from home, but we can certainly say that it is a truly special hotel and that we will always go back when we are in Zanzibar!

Room Tip: The Kate has a massive terrace and gets the best cross-winds, so it makes the climb up the stairs wo...
See more room tips
  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank dp_visser
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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473 reviews from our community

Traveller rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (145)
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Spain
Level Contributor
62 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 March 2012

We stayed here for 2 nights. Quirky place but good fun with charming staff. Fantastic cocktails and dinner on the roof. No choice but that was OK. I asked if it was possible to have a cooking class with the chef. The owner Emerson said it normally is possible but not that week. He then kindly selected a number on his phone and handed it to me. Where upon, I arranged for the person on the other end to collect us from The Emerson at 9 the following morning. It never crossed my mind that I should ask any more as this was a referral from the owner who knew I was looking for the quality of what we had been served at The Emerson. After a short trip in the market to buy lunch the 3 of us were loaded onto a minibus and driven for 30 mins into what felt like a township. we were delivered to a breeze block one storey house with bars on the windows and flattened cardboard boxes for glass which were removed in the room were were in to allow for daylight & air. The house was under construction and no one lived there. There was no running water, no electricity (lots of unwired sockets) and no toilet. There was a plastic mat on the filthy stained floor where we were ushered to sit down. The 2 'chefs' had one gas burner and 2 coal burners on the floor. The chopping was done on plates on the floor. The fly infestation was horrible. We couldn't wait to get out of there. We learnt nothing apart from NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING. If you do arrange for a cooking class via Emerson, make sure you know where you are going and what you are getting into.

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with friends
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank AnnieB's
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Buffalo, New York
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 March 2012

Beautiful establishment with great character (which is what I chose it for) and as a person who loves a building and a business with a soul, I was not disappointed. Well appointed and in a prime location. The rooftop dining is a must.

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with friends
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Suzie A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nairobi
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 14 March 2012

Unique, comfortable and charming! Good value. We did not dine at the roof top restaurant; and only overnighted; but that's certainly on the list for next time. Loved the rooms.

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank ReviewerNbi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Tbilisi, Georgia
Level Contributor
27 reviews
26 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 March 2012

Real masterpiece. We admire the owners and their dedication to the mission of recreating unique cultural environment. One of the best hotels we have ever stayed at.

  • Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank NikolayTbilisi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 February 2012

A very welcoming hotel that is just stunning from the moment you walk in. Very friendly and helpful staff who get to know you by name which adds a very personal touch. Every room is beautiful and unique and it is obvious that it has been lovingly restored to a high standard. I highly recommend the roof top restaurant for the atmosphere, amazing views and delicious food -well worth the money.
If you want to treat yourself this is the place to do it!

  • Stayed December 2011
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank DrBenafif
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 February 2012

'After reading all the good reviews here on Tripadvisor, we thought our stay would definitely be a success.
But unfortunately it wasn't. The service was below level. Everytime, we had to ask for things.
Of course, it has a great restaurant on the top floor, but a lot of hotels and restaurants in this area have this.
This is not the main reason why a hotel should be rewarded.
This was an 'average' stay and my message to future guests: don't expect too much!'

Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
1 Thank Annaljc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Emerson Spice

Property: Emerson Spice
Address: Tharia Street, Kiponda, Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania
Phone Number:
Region: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Zanzibar Island > Zanzibar City > Stone Town
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#1 Romantic Hotel in Stone Town
#2 Family Hotel in Stone Town
#6 Business Hotel in Stone Town
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
An inspired and lovingly restored Merchant’s House, this multi-storied small Boutique hotel has an inner courtyard, eleven unique antiques-filled rooms, and two of Zanzibar’s best restaurants. All rooms are equipped with a small fridge, air conditioner, fan, and high ceiling mosquito net. The rooftop ‘Tea House’ hosts one of Stonetown’s most renowned restaurants offering a stylish ambiance amidst the sound of the calls to prayer from the town’s many mosques. The five course ‘Taste Safari’, prepared daily by our Zanzibari chefs, is seafood based and celebrates the freshest and best the market has to offer each morning. The sunset hour is an integral and pleasurable part of the experience so diners are encouraged to arrive at around 6pm to enjoy a ‘Sundowner’ before dinner. On the Ground floor The Secret Garden, set amidst lushly landscaped hidden ‘Ruins’, open to the skies, has a Zanzibari inspired A La Carte Menu. Look out for live music performed by The Dhow Countries Music Academy. Open for Lunch and Dinner. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Emerson Spice Hotel Stone Town
Emerson Spice Zanzibar Island/Stone Town

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