SET in the heart of Sandton, Johannesburg, Signature Lux Hotel by ONOMO is aimed at the traveller who is there on business, or the one who is more interested in being out and about than spending time in their room.
While these rooms are fairly basic, they don’t stint on the comfort. For example, a standard room has an extra-length queen bed made up with 300 thread count linen, there is air conditioning, and free uncapped wifi. A smart TV can connect with your streaming platforms via your phone, and blue mood lighting gives off a bit of a nightclub feel. Don’t worry, it can be adjusted.
What you won’t get is a phone, or tea and coffee. For that you have to go downstairs to the adjoining Aura Café which is open from 6am till 11pm for food and beverages. You’ll also have to take the lift down to reception if you want to speak to a human about anything; otherwise you can download the hotel’s app.
The focus here is on tech-savvy service, apparently to free us from the shackles of face-to-face interactions and give us more time to get on with our lives while at the same time being super affordable. How you feel about people being replaced by machines is up to you. These new generation hotels are based on some of the fastest growing hotel brands in Europe and ONOMO Hotels Group is present in business capitals including Dakar, Abidjan, Libreville, Bamako, Lomé, Cape Town at the V&A Waterfront, Johannesburg, Conakry, Kigali and Rabat.
Extra points are awarded (by me) for the eco-friendly initiatives like R5 from every room sold being donated to assist in animal conservation, the use of energy-saving lightbulbs, and water purification systems in the bathrooms so you can safely drink the tap water.
The Sandton hotel definitely wins in the location category. It’s two blocks from the Gautrain station, which is easily walkable if you don’t have too much luggage (and during daylight hours). Alternatively, hop into a bright orange tuk-tuk and careen around the corners to the hotel entrance. Something to keep in mind when leaving the hotel is that Ubers are prevented from picking you up from the door on account of the local metred taxi drivers who shake their fists and chase them away. If this is your chosen method of transport, you’re going to have to walk across the cobblestoned driveway of the Michelangelo Hotel, down some stairs and across the road to the Garden Court hotel. With your suitcases. Also, there are usually afternoon thundershowers in Joburg.
That irritation aside, this hotel is right next to Nelson Mandela Square, with all its shops and restaurants, and of course, the huge statue of Mandela himself – a favourite for selfies. Here you’ll find a Hard Rock Café where you’ll benefit from a discount if you’re a Signature Lux guest.
It’s not too far – according to Johannesburg standards – from here to the largest cable-stayed bridge in South Africa, the 284-metre-long Nelson Mandela Bridge, which begins at the end of Jan Smuts Avenue and links Constitutional Hill precinct in Braamfontein to the cultural precinct in Newtown, in the heart of the inner city renewal project.
Close by you’ll find the weekly Neighbourgoods Market every Saturday, which is inside a converted parking garage. It has a fantastic vibe and is packed with people enjoying all sorts of yummy eats, drinking cocktails, bubbly and colourful fresh fruit juices, shopping for vintage clothes (yes, I still regret the blouse I bought after the second bottle of bubbly), and chilling to some cool beats played by the DJ, who happened to be my dear friend Michael Lesar – a happy surprise.
Diagonally across the road is Kitchener’s Carvery Bar, the second oldest bar in Joburg. Apparently you can eat there too, but we stopped in just for a few drinks. In the back room we found some kind of informal open mic talent gig going on, and were treated to singers, rappers and guitarists doing their thing for a small but wildly appreciative audience.
My friend who was escorting me around town – a Jozi local – told me that in this City Of Gold, people are much friendlier than in some of the other big South African cities. After this Saturday outing, meeting so many lovely folk who all smiled and greeted and were happy to exchange a few words, I have to agree.
Where: 135 West Street, Sandown, Sandton
Telephone: 011 085 9500
- This story first appeared in Independent Travel on February 16