Eternal elegance never goes out of style. Think lazy loungers poolside, guys in Panama hats, loose natural-fabric gear and batik scarves thrown around necks. Girls in non-descript colours, Isadora Duncan scarves. Beef Wellington and Crepe Suzette, above.
Girlahead is building up a collection of relevant properties – THE CHEDI MUSCAT, CAPELLA SINGAPORE and now THE SAXON JOHANNESBURG.
There, in The Saxon’s Qunu restaurant she waited, patiently, for seven minutes while one of the brilliant, jovial and professional, chatted for what seemed ad infinitum to a party of four A&Kers, joking and chatting as he melted butter and caramelised it on the burner of his satin-smooth trolley. Then whoosh, the flame above. That’s one of the many features of eternal elegance. Servers who know their stuff, minutely, and have a sense of humour.
South African entrepreneur Douw Steyn, boss of comparethemarket and more, turned his spacious estate into a hotel at the end of the last century. Nelson Mandela came for a long stay when he was released from Robben Island, and wrote Long Walk to Freedom here (see copies, and various translations, in one of several museum-quality displays here, the one that is part of The Basket Room, named for the hundreds of tied-raffia baskets on one wall).
The entire 53-room hotel is African themed, but, with the exception of the spa’s hammam, light, light woods, off-white walls. Top floor room 301, about 65sq m, has light wood shutters looking into massive trees in the C-shaped courtyard that is day-long outdoor dining. There are more shutters separating the outline-four-post bed from the bathroom, which has double sinks, a deep tub and local Soul toiletries. The giant L-shaped desk – you guessed it, light wood – has pull-out extensions. This is a hotel that realises that today’s travellers appreciate as much uncluttered horizontal surfaces as possible, for packing and re-packing.
This is a place to laze for days. Walk ten acres hilly and sculpted grounds, quite similar to the approach to Capella Singapore, actually, and discover Sarapana, the meticulously-tended organic garden atop a two-floor carpark. You can dine there, in the garden. Main dining, in Qunu, is eatertainment. Local success stories at one table, from-afar tourists at the next. Look up, at 15 different-size flying saucers, slatted black metal lights. Look out, into greenery. Listen to a live pianist, and conversational buzz.
Sarapana Salad is shaved bits and bops from that organic garden, 150 metres away. A pair of ‘real’ bread shapes, with so much flavour, come with two spoonful-shaped butters, one so garlic-infused it was near-addictive, by itself. Pinotage of course, first night back in South Africa, a 2018 Rijk’s, from Tulbagh: if it isn’t good I’ll open another one. Tradition.
More tradition. Breakfast butter is a simple unadulterated shape in an outsize silver holder topped by a proportionate silver dome. Sugars are also silver-held and on a small silver salver. Papaya and slabs of thick brown toast, commercial taste.
But eternal elegance needs more than always-done-that. Dozens of bright-coloured 40cm koi dart around a pool next to one of the six swimming pools just outside the main corridor walkway. Walk between fish and swimmers to the 24-hour gym, with excellent Technogym and PowerPlate. Ask for a piece of notepaper and its rear is an old map of Africa, with Zanzibar to the left (west). Eternal elegance is best with an inquisitive mind. At this Leading lovely, there is always something to find out, something new.