Luxury Hotels

Johannesburg’s luxury hotel-on-the-hill

View from Flames

Four Seasons Johannesburg The Westcliff is, as its name implies, on one slope of a hill, hence the name of its art programme, Art on the Hill. 65 people, no space for more, enjoy an evening of Keith Frisley’s cooking plus a performance (see a jazz evening, above).  Coming up on August 25th 2019 is brilliant Pretoria-born Tutu Puoane: she is married to Belgian pianist Ewout Pierreux and it is really worth checking them, perhaps both, on YouTube.  Yes, a lot has happened since I was last at this luxury hotel, though the view from its many terraces is still the same.

Today, elevators soar up the hill

The 117-room hotel was formed decades ago from a steeply-inclined winding street of houses. Restaurants are at the top of the hill, and now, fortunately, a pair of sculpture-look elevators make the climb easier – though walking the cobbled walkway is great cardiac exercise (the gym is down at base level, next to the hotel’s Deli, where I was happy to see regular local businessmen having healthy breakfasts enroute to their offices). Front desk and conciergerie are also down there.  Concierge Diniy D’Hamzah showed me how the hotel’s boutique is now run inhouse: it is displayed in the conciergerie and it is the concierges, who know what guests like, who do the buying.

Detox salad

Current best-sellers with Americans, he said, are African-type baskets but made with colourful telephone wires rather than traditional rush. And then, in my lovely suite, I called down for nutrition guru Christine Phillips’ Detox salad bowl, holding red and white shredded cabbage, bok choi, red onion, sugar snap peas, broccoli, fresh mint, coriander, sprouts, cashew nuts, seeds. There was Thai dressing to pour over, and instead of the optional chicken strips I opted for salmon.

Thando Madikane

Dinner was at Flames with Aditya Ramani, the new F&B, and Natalie Harrison, a one-time restaurateur who now heads Four Seasons’ communication for sub-Saharan Africa.  We spent a lot of time talking ramifications of weddings, and much more, including guests’ growing enthusiasm for escorted cycling tours through Soweto, and guided explanations of Ponte Tower, the 54-storey structure that see-sawed from the height of whites’ luxury housing down to the nadir of under-privileged hangouts and now, up again, it is a showplace of arts+living+co-working. But there was time, too, to do justice to Knysna oysters and a Kalahari tomahawk, from the Karoo, and Southern Right Pinotage 2018 from Hermanus. Breakfast, in Vue, was memorable for Bernardaud and finest products, and for the magnificent manager Thando Madikane who skilfully managed to help me with a tricky finicky jewellery challenge. Well, Four Seasons are luxury hotels where nothing seems to be impossible. AND HAVE A LOOK AT SUITE 301

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Luxury Hotels

Mandela’s temporary home is now a unique luxury hotel

George Cohen, Jane-Thérèse Mulry

Johannesburg’s Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa has a unique story. This is where Mandela stayed when he was released from prison in 1990 (in those days this was the family home of his friend Douw Steyn, who turned it into a hotel in 2000 – it now has 53 suites). South Africans have a natural affinity for it, says the gal, and, at their first visit, foreigners are attracted because they are intrigued.  After that, they are drawn back by six hectares of gorgeous grounds – see one of the lakes, above, and by the food and service. GM George Cohen, who has been here since 2005, has a magnificent team of 330 who only seem to leave if they need to move away from Johannesburg.

Qunu restaurant

WI had met chef Jane-Thérèse Mulry when she was cooking at Qualia, in Australia’s Whitsundays.  Here, she oversees two restaurants, a fine-dining Grei and a more relaxed, all-day Qunu, named for Mandela’s home village. Her modern-African menu is complemented by veggie options. I honestly was not that keen on a mushrooms and hemp pointillist-look starter but her beetroot main course was magnificent.  An enormous baked beetroot had been bisected and encased in pasty, to look like the best beef Wellington (and it went jolly well with Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage 2013 Tulbagh).

Room service delivery

Because I had an 8 a.m. appointment at the – first-class, La Prairie and superbly-trained therapists – I went for room service breakfast. It was notable partly for delivery. Exactly on the dot of seven a senior gentleman wheeled in the most beautiful wood trolley, with a pull-out drawer holding plentiful supplies of cutlery.  Why oh why don’t all luxury hotels throw away those precarious metal trolleys, some of which look and may even be unhygienic, and use something like this, instead… I had flowers, and enough perfect papaya for a lifetime, and so much else, and coffee came in a stainless plunger.  It goes without saying of course that I also had my own coffee maker.

Spa welcome

George Cohen says that for sentimental reasons, his boss Douw Steyn, who lives elsewhere these days, will never brand The Saxon. But this is a luxury hotel that will always be different, and not only for its collections, of books by and about Mandela, a whole wall of African rushwork baskets and so on. This is a luxury hotel with the highest standards, throughout. The gym, for instance, has superb and well-maintained Technogym pieces, and PowerPlate and TRX straps. Come out, to a series of pools, one heated for swimming, another alive with fat orange koi. And everywhere there are this luxury hotel’s employees: George Cohen follows a lesson from Lord Forte, for whom he worked for a long while ago: look after the staff and they will look after the guests. NOW WALK THROUGH PART OF THE HOTEL, AND SEE SUITE 200


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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single graces Paris during Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week came round fast this summer. Or at least it seemed so to the Sybaritic Single, ‎who had been “beyond busy” hopping from one luxury hotel to another. His schedule allowed ‎him to fly to Paris only for a day this time, just to attend his favourite Dior show.‎
As much as he adores Hôtel Plaza Athénée which is institutional during the fashion week, a mere 24 hours in France meant that he had to ‎focus on one arrondissement, with Ritz Paris being at the heart of it. The other two happening places were within walking distance: Place de la Madeleine and Hôtel ‎Costes.‎
Occupying a central table in Bar ‎Vendôme is a must during the fashion week as this is where everyone who is anyone ‎normally is during the day. Its new refreshing, on-trend cocktail menu impressed the Sybaritic Single with its style and precision. The sublime ‘Délice à la rhubarbe’ mixed by Andy Soto Bustos became his new favourite.
A bit of caviar is always on the menu, and a table at Caviar Kaspia in Madeleine is the place to meet ‎Olivier Rousteing enjoying his portion with baked potato and sour cream (the Sybaritic Single prefers his own au naturel, without potato or condiments). The crowd there is always great, one ‎can spend the evening going from one table to another, talking to the fashion’s great and good.‎
The darkened corners of Hôtel Costes, closer to 2 AM, is another fuzzy fashion pack hangout. ‎Having downed copious amounts of rosé Champagne at the so-well-planned Dior after-party, ‎the Sybaritic Single enjoyed a modest pot of mint tea in the hotel’s garden, served by a heavily tattooed waiter wearing a skimpy outfit. As the moon was shining bright high above Rue Saint-Honoré, he enjoyed observing the heavily perfumed place that always looks more like a luxury brothel than a luxury hotel.‎ Darling.
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