THEY say you never get a second chance at making that all-important first impression. It’s a hackneyed platitude but true for all that, and applies very much to hotel rooms, and in fact from the moment of checking in.
At Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff – to give it its full and proper name – you are greeted in the lobby reception area near the front gate. At this point you still won’t be aware of the splendour that awaits you. The staff will explain the resort and where everything is before whisking you and your bags off in a golf cart – the main means of transport within the three-hectare property unless you are inclined to walk. My deluxe panoramic room wasn’t too far but it was decidedly uphill.
Rooms and suites are inside different units which give you the feel of being “at home”, in the style of luxurious and exclusive villas. Now, from my elevated position, I could fully appreciate the view stretching over the treetops to the horizon. They tell me there are jacarandas there, which must look quite spectacular when they are in full purple bloom in spring. Nearby are the Johannesburg Zoo and the Botanical Garden.
The room had a little balcony where I could put my slippered feet up and marvel at the vista of green treetops and dusky sky streaked with vibrant oranges, pinks and purples; Joburg is well-known for its glorious sunsets – a by-product of air pollution but hey, we take the beauty wherever we can.
In the room was a platter with macarons and chocolates, and the message “Welcome to Jozi” piped in chocolate. Appropriately, since it’s also known as the City Of Gold, the words were dusted with shimmery gold, and there was more gold dust on the plate itself. I know this because I stuck my finger in it. It was only later when I posted the photograph on social media, my Joburg friends pointed out it was a depiction of the famous skyline. Yes, the same one I could see from my balcony.
The man who showed me to the room offered to explain how everything worked. “Oh that’s all right,” I said airily, “it’s a shower, how hard can it be?” First of all, never ever ask that question; the universe will respond accordingly (and have we learned nothing at all from Top Gear?). And so it came to pass I was punished for my arrogance with an incredibly complicated shower tap which required me to fetch my spectacles to have a closer look to figure it out.
After freshening up, I headed to one of the five restaurants, The View, which is reached by a glass elevator. Sometimes the simplest names for things are the best, because what more could you actually say when describing this place? The view from The View (sorry) is ridiculously gorgeous, especially on an evening when the sinking sun in the west is replaced by a fat, swollen full moon rising slowly in the east.
As darkness fell, the landscape sparkled with pinpricks of light and it’s crazy to think of being in such an exquisite and tranquil location in one of the biggest cities in South Africa – in fact THE largest, according to Wikipedia. Among all the things I learned during my sojourn is that Jozi boasts incredible diversity.
At our table on the terrace my friend and I indulged in an extravagant yet carefully structured multiple-course tasting menu paired with fabulous wines, all served with immaculate grace. An email sent to the hotel prior to arrival alerted them to my dietary requirements and these were taken seriously, and deliciously accommodated. This kind of thing can be quite tedious – not everyone understands what a carb is – but the kitchen did the best job I have thus far encountered.
Surprisingly, I was hungry again the next morning, so it was back up in the elevator for a sumptuous breakfast spread on the buffet complemented by hearty a la carte options. The coffee is excellent too. My stay was all too short, but guests who are in for a longer haul have access to two heated outdoor pools, a fitness centre and a spa with nine treatment rooms. With all this, along with the various dining choices, and a leafy “village” with courtyards, fountains and gardens, this is an urban oasis at its best.
Where: 67 Jan Smuts Ave, Westcliff, Johannesburg
Telephone: 011 481 6000
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN
- This story first appeared in Independent Travel on January 19, 2019