Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Westcliff

17 Mar 2008 by Tom Otley

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Owned and managed by Orient Express, this hotel is among the finest in Johannesburg. Managed by Mark Holden since 1999, a year after it opened, the Westcliff has benefited from stability during a time of great change, for the city in particular and South Africa as a whole. For first-time visitors to Jo’burg, it’s a comforting place. The pink estate buildings (walled, gated and extremely secure) tumble down several acres of hillside, allowing most rooms and villas views across the green valley to Johannesburg zoo. Check-in is at the small lobby, from where you are then taken, by either smart minibus or golf cart, along cobbled winding streets and up the hill to the villas (Rockridge, Cliffside, North Lodge, Dolobran etc), which have between seven and 30 rooms.

WHERE IS IT? 22km from Johannesburg International airport (transfers available by both minibus and car), in the Westcliff district of the city. A courtesy bus is also available to take guests to nearby shopping malls in Sandton (home to the stock exchange), Hyde Park and Rosebank.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 116 rooms and suites in nine villas, all with different shapes, sizes and views.

ROOM FACILITIES Luxury rooms (there are 50 of these) are at least 47sqm, most with either a balcony or a cobbled courtyard. All have a desk, two telephone lines, and high-speed wifi and wired internet access (the latter costs £15 for 24 hours). There are international plug sockets (South African, American and European), a good-sized laptop safe and, at the end of the bed, a pop-up television which lowers at the flick of a switch to a table when not in use. As in all Orient Express properties, there is a complete year-by-year set of Oscar-winning films available to rent, along with a nominee film from each year. The rooms are serviced twice daily and have marble bathrooms with Molton Brown toiletries. The proportions of the rooms and the balconies are conducive to in-room dining, which comes courtesy of full butler service.

The 30 Executive Business rooms (again 47sqm) are all in one block and have fax machines, easy access to the business lounge where internet access through computer terminals is free, as is continental breakfast, and aperitifs and snacks in the evening. There is also the use of a second pool in addition to the one beneath the Polo Lounge (see below). There are 15 Junior and 15 additional Studio suites (plus one disabled suite), four Luxury Studio suites and one Presidential suite.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS La Belle Terrasse is a fine-dining restaurant with good views  over the surrounding city. It serves local delicacies such as springbok along with suggested wine pairings. The Polo Lounge and Terrace, a popular place for informal meetings over a drink or two, and the Conservatory are more relaxed. They have Polo memorabilia and photos on the walls, and serve everything from lunch and afternoon tea to evening meals. There are also three private-dining venues – the Orient room, with a round boardroom table for up to ten guests, the Lutyens room, with a 20-seat fixed rectangular boardroom table, and the Sir Herbert Baker Suite, holding up to 80 people for receptions.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Opened at a cost of US$3 million in 2005, the Jacaranda Hill conference centre has several meeting rooms in a Mediterranean Imperial-style. Equipment hire is charged on top of the price of room rental (for example, video/data projector is £84).

LEISURE FACILITIES There are two outdoor heated pools, one of which is reserved for guests staying at the Executive Business villas. The gym has recently been refitted with new equipment, and the spa updated with new Pevonia Botanica products and treatments. The hotel is close to three golf clubs and tee times can be arranged.

VERDICT A superb hotel, with a strong local presence using it for meetings and social events, and a regular national and international client base of regulars.

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from ZAR2,365 (£153) for a Standard room including breakfast.

CONTACT 67 Jan Smuts Avenue, Westcliff, Johannesburg; tel +27 11 481 6000;

Tom Otley

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