What’s it like?
The hotel opened in 1998 and for many years was owned and managed by Orient Express. I last stayed in 2008 (see the review here.)
Since then the hotel has gone through a major renovation having been sold by Orient Express and reopened as a Four Seasons
Considering that some $80 million has been spent on the property during a 15-month closure (June 2013 until December 2014) and extensive renovation, it’s reassuring how the hotel has managed to retain much of the same atmosphere of the old property.
The hotel was originally conceived as apartments in this upmarket suburb of Johannesburg, and as the name suggests, these apartments still have a residential feel, with the pink estate buildings (walled, gated and extremely secure) rising up from the gatehouse and reception on a total property size of eight acres, with the upper rooms having views across to Johannesburg Zoo.
Check-in is at the same small lobby, though this has been refurbished and there is a boutique off to one side. You are then driven by golf cart (the resort is care free) along cobbled winding lanes up the hill to the villas in which the rooms are located. Throughout there is a quiet luxury which is immediately very Four Seasons, though with an extensive contemporary art collection of sculpture, paintings and installations. Staff are helpful, friendly, and able and willing to engage in conversation
Where is it?
Some 22km from Johannesburg International airport (transfers available by both minibus and car), in the Westcliff district of the city. The closest Gautrain station is at Rosebank from which it is about a 20-minute journey to the airport (though you have to change trains at Sandton). Much of the resort has views across the leafy suburbs of JoBurg (something of a surprise to most first-time visitors).
The 105 rooms and 12 suites are all different shapes, sizes and views, though the renovation hasn’t changed the basics here. They are still arranged in what the hotel calls Residences each sith its own name; so Cullinan is rooms 101 to 105, Kimberley 201 to 212 and so on.
The entry level room is now called Garden View Superior and comes in a range of sizes from 26–33m2. They then gradually increase either in size and/or view through Garden View Deluxe 36–40m2; Panoramic View Deluxe 36–40m2; Garden View Premier 40–50m2; and Panoramic View Premier 40-50m2.
Most have either a balcony or in some cases a cobbled courtyard. All have a desk, two telephone lines, and free wifi (charged for high speed, but I found the free one fine for surfing and doing emails). There are international plug sockets (South African, American and European), a good-sized laptop safe and in place of the weird pop-up television that appeared or lowered from a cabinet at the end of the bed, a large flat screen TV on a side table opposite the bed.
Restaurants and bars
All the restaurants have changed. The new fine dining restaurant is View (pictured above). The name might not be very adventurous, but the cooking certainly is under Executive Chef Dirk Gieselmann. It serves contemporary cuisine (you can view – ha ha – the menu here).
The restaurant has indoor seating for 70 and outdoor for 34 – and -m joking aside, the views are outstanding, particularly in October and November when the jacaranda trees are in blossom.
Just below this is Flames for “an authentic South African braai (BBQ) experience” – indoor 90, outdoor 182. This has a good bar and similarly outstanding views, and seems very popular for lunch with local residents as is both the bar and the restaurant in the evening. Then on the street, next to the entrance and beneath the spa is the Westcliff Deli. Finally there is the Après-Spa, also with Deli Snacks.
The former Polo Lounge and Terrace has been recreated in the meeting facilities (see below) with its polo memorabilia and photos on the walls.
Business and meeting facilities:
The Jacaranda Hill conference centre was opened in 2005 at a (then) cost of US$3 million in 2005 and has undergone a refurbishment with new audio visual facilities as well as new colour scheme. It is high-end, but small and there are hopes that in forthcoming years this will undergo expansion. The Polo Lounge has been recreated here and is used for functions as the bar.
The hotel now has an extensive spa with nine treatment rooms including one couples suite, men and women’s changing rooms, sauna and steam rooms. The long thin lap pool here is a lovely place for a morning swim (and is child-free). There is a second pool (quite small) close to reception.
The transformation off the hotel has been a great success, upgrading the property into the 21st century while not losing what made it special. The location makes it a great choice for both downtown JoBurg and the suburbs.
67 Jan Smuts Avenue, Westcliff, Johannesburg; tel +27 11 481 6000;