Nairobi’s Hero: Why the world loves this eatery

Leah van Deventer chats with Richie Barrow and Kelvin Thairu of Nairobi’s award-winning bar

By Leah van Deventer
Nairobi's Hero: Why the world loves this eatery
Nairobi's Hero: Why the world loves this eatery

Hero, an eatery and bar that overlooks Nairobi’s spectacular skyline, has been garnering global attention since its opening in 2019 and is currently placed 68 in the coveted World’s 50 Best Bars long list. We caught up with Richie Barrow and Kelvin Thairu, F&B and bars managers respectively, to find out what makes this venue so impactful.

YLA: How would you describe Hero?

Richie: Bridging fantasy and reality, the space, food, and cocktails celebrate heroes from comics and from our community; the thought leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes, authors, do-gooders, champions of humanity and protectors of the environment.

Built as a speakeasy [it] invites guests to be members of a secret space.

YLA: What sort of cocktails do you serve?

Kelvin: The Hero beverage list is categorised by strength, spanning from classics to signature serves – something for everyone. As we’re in the tropics – and have access to some of the best fruit, vegetables, and herbs in the world almost all year round – our list does tap into this … all presented with fun and theatre.  We’ve also taken our mocktail or zero alcohol list very seriously as there’s a large demographic here that doesn’t drink.

As Kenya’s appetite and taste for cocktails have evolved, so have we. We’re excited to present our latest menu in early December. With the addition of some new and exciting equipment, we’re aiming high and looking to bring techniques and practices that aren’t yet seen in Kenya.

YLA: What sort of clientele frequent Hero?  

Richie:  We’re incredibly lucky to have an amazing spread of different ethnicities and communities that visit us, with the vast majority being Kenyans. However, as we’re attached to two of Nairobi’s top hotels (Tribe Hotel and Trademark Hotel) we also cater to a number of guests from around the world and have a lot of expats and diplomats too.

YLA:  What sets Hero apart from other bars in East Arica?  

Richie:  When we opened Hero, we solely wanted to focus on our cocktail and mocktail programme… very few bars in Kenya solely focus on them. We also made a point of pricing them to an accessible level versus the rest of the city. This leads to patrons coming in and easily choosing to have cocktails, which in turn leads to more volume. This has resulted in an incredibly driven and ambitious team that is constantly pushing themselves to become better at their craft.  The Hero bar team and our service team are some of the best in the city – and the region as a whole – and have now become regular competition winners.

YLA:  Why do you think Hero has gained international attention?

Kelvin: A lot of thought and passion has gone into developing the beverage menu. Ultimately, we had a lot of fun, experimenting with unconventional ingredients and not being limited by recipe books or bartending conventions.  It’s been an incredible adventure working with the talents and passions of the team; some are more technical and scientific in their approach, and others more creative – the combination has resulted in a well-balanced and fun cocktail menu.

One of the challenges in a relatively nascent bartending industry is consistency – we work very hard at ensuring the quality of every serve. We’re truly happy to be leading the way in the region and helping to grow the bar scene here.

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