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!
- 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