Chesney’s Understated Quality


By Demola Ojo
As most experts in the travel industry will tell you, Lagos has a deficit of hotel rooms. Apart from costs incurred from generating their own power, this is a reason for the absurdly high prices rooms go for. Some Nigerian-owned hotels are now plugging the gap though. They offer similar world class standards as the well-known international brands at more competitive prices, due to their know-how in the unpredictable Nigerian terrain.

The 50-room Chesney hotel on Saka Tinubu in the heart of Victoria Island is one of these modern Nigerian hotels swiftly becoming a valid option for the business traveller and corporate guests used to global standards. In half a dozen years of operation, Chesney has attracted guests without fanfare but rather, through quality, personalised service.

Conceptually, Chesney is understated. The cream-coloured building is nestled behind trees on the Akin Adesola end of Saka Tinubu. Its tranquillity is a far cry from the other end of the street which is a bustling, commercial area, with multiple electronic and gadget shops lining the street. The restrained theme is also evident in the absence of an obvious signpost or board other than the street number, 37.

The hotel is surely a reflection of the owner, Ken Obinna, a soft-spoken entrepreneur who earned his spurs in banking. He has transmitted his unpretentious attributes to this hospitality establishment, making sure that its substance and quality speak for it.

From the gate – where your car is checked with an inspection mirror, through the revolving doors, to the lounge where separate buttons indicate what particular service you want from the barman, the attention to detail – a hallmark of any boutique hotel worth its salt – is evident.
For example, the bright yellow board that alerts guests to the depression into the restaurant, or the sign by the staircase which says ‘Please use handrails’. Another is the prominent telephone directory just above the intercom in the room.

Chesney has five categories of rooms. The no-frills base room (silver) is spacious and comes with an earthy motif; shades of brown are dominant. On the wall is an African painting of two gourds of differing sizes. There’s a lampshade on the long wooden desk complemented by a comfortable wooden chair (ideal for writing). Two lampshades flank the bed, with the switch conveniently located on the board above. There is also a comfortable lounge chair with a glass table. The higher the room category, the more chairs and space.

Other pluses include a wide range of channels, seamless power switchover (not to be taken for granted), competitive pricing for drinks and superfast room service. Apparently, Chesney places a lot of importance on quality as well as the speed of delivery of food.

According to the hotel’s business service manager (read GM), Malvin Okorafor,Chesney has kept pulling in new guests with food. “Everything here is made fresh,” he insists, despite meals being delivered in no time. In a week’s time he says, 25 per cent would be cut off buffet prices. “We are a service, people-oriented hotel. IF the guests are not happy, the staff is not happy.”

The menu is wide ranging. Usual suspects like options of English or Nigerian breakfast, beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian, burgers, sandwiches and pizza. Then there’s the special Nigerian menu, where the attention to detail comes to the fore again. Ofada rice, boli (roasted plantain), asaro (yam porridge, beans porridge, Dundu (parboiled fried yam) and the full complement of Nigerian soups (Efo riro, egusi, ogbono, afang, bitter leaf, oha and white soup).
Also on the menu are Nigerian delicacies like asun, nkwobi , peppered snail and a platter that includes all these and more.

According to Okorafor, 95 per cent of the hotel’s guests are corporate clients. The calm ambience is certainly one reason for this.. The quiet is great for cerebral pursuits. “We have neither live bands nor photo shoots,” he says, unlike some other hotels in the same market segment. Importance is placed on maintaining the quiet.
The hotel has a modern conference room that can seat up to 20 for corporate meetings, complete with the latest audio visual equipment and facilities which include a built-in LCD projector & screen, plus complimentary wireless internet access.

It isn’t all business at Chesney though. The hotel has a V-lounge for execs to relax after a hectic workday, while the Chesney Garden with the adjoining pool sits next to the restaurant and bar. In keeping with the serenity, the music – whenever it comes on – is low. The Chesney space is a peaceful place that creates clarity and promotes productivity.