Bien-Aime's The Manhattan pub lacks interior designer's touch

Monday August 08 2022

Sauti Sol’s vocalist Bien Aimé Baraza performing at the highly anticipated Hennessey Thrift Social Nairobi at Impala grounds Saturday, February 12, 2022. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG


Sauti Sol lead vocalist Bien-Aime Baraza has diversified his entertainment portfolio by opening his own “club,” The Manhattan. The “club,” on the first floor of the Imaara Mall on Mombasa Road in Nairobi, was launched last weekend with the singer making an appearance and launching his trending single “Inauma.”

The “club” is an open big space, with a high roof with an industrial look making the place cold. It’s all high metal and wooden tables and chairs arranged beer hall style, with no soft furnishings, to call it a club is a misnomer.

One gets the sense that the interior designer did not give much thought to what they wanted to achieve. There was space that needed to be filled, and so tables and chairs were arranged in every possible space giving it the beer hall aura. I saw only two awkwardly placed TV screens that cannot even make the place pretend to be a Sports Bar.

In a few minutes of sitting, I was freezing, the gas lamp nearby notwithstanding. I counted four gas lamps, but only one was in use. I dread to imagine what the other few patrons were going through, but the fact that none stayed long could be the reason.

The interior designer decided not to utilise the natural lay of the space to offer views such that when seated at what should be a window seat, the eye level is all metal running across the window pane. The whole arrangement makes nonsense of this rooftop space, killing any chance of achieving a terrace feel.

Just next to the entrance is an elevated metal cage “lounge” of sorts, which I believe is supposed to be the VIP section.


As you enter the main ''club'' space, you find yourself at the bar counter, the only one actually, in just three steps, surrounded by a crowded seating area. If this was not the only place I could have a drink as I waited for a friend, I would have walked out just like a few people I saw who did exactly that.

At the back of the space, there is a whole truck head, I am not sure if that is the DJ's station but it just seems out of place. After having to endure the cold and not-so-appealing ambience, the pricing of drinks offers no value for money here if you have to buy a beer at Ksh350 ($3) at an ambience of just another neighbourhood bar, only that it is at a mall. I wonder whom the management considers its competition.

The service, however, was friendly and fast, and the beer was cold. That was a saving grace.

Whatever the concept of The Manhattan is supposed to be, it is not a “club” but credit goes to whoever designed the ladies rest room. It is the only space where actual interior design was applied with its clean stylish black and white theme from the floor to wall tiles. This designer should help out in the ‘’club’’ area.

The Manhattan does not live up to its name.