Brian Berkman stays at Cape town’s newest luxury hotel and finds it totally gorgeous.
In its heyday, Cape Town’s city centre was the place one donned jacket and tie or hat and gloves to promenade the city streets. Then, with the inevitable move of shops into shopping centres outside of the city, the decline set in and, for a stretch, the city lost much, if not all, of its gracious glamour.
In more recent years, and in no small part to local government initiatives and private and public partnerships, the city upgraded.
The pedestrianisation of St George’s Street into St George’s Mall was probably the first step and, despite a view missteps along the way, the improvement today is palpable. The opening of the Taj Hotel, Cape Town was a highlight not only because it signified a major hotel brand’s investment into the inner city but also because it converted previously grand and important buildings and gave them new life. The Mandela Rhodes Place was another such project that included offices, residential and hotel rooms in a historic building that was upgraded.
The most recent such investment is Gorgeous George, a frivolous name for an important property. Its ample gorgeousness aside, designer and architect Tristan du Plessis has created new life in a 1940’s United Building Society building. To say that the location was once at the very centre of money and power is no exaggeration as until recently it was ABSA Bank and Newspaper House, once the hub for the city’s English-language journalists and printers.
From the folly and roof-top pool to the theatre dressing room lights that spell out “Hello Gorgeous,” these are among the most Instagramable things about this hotel. The roof-top terrace has become centre stage for drinks and dining and happily, it is again the centre of money and power and a tonic for all the currently ails us.
This luxury property, part of Design Hotels AG, a publicly-traded company providing hospitality services to a network of over 300 independently owned small boutique and luxury hotels in over 50 countries worldwide, is a Cape Town first.
Gigi, the roof-top bar and restaurant, is where chef Guy Bennett really shines. The menu, although small, is just a starting point for what is seasonal and for what sustainably sourced produce the chef can find. Provenance is important to him and if you care about where your food comes from, he will take the time to give you its backstory. Perhaps the best example of his approach to cuisine is in the Baby Cos salad, which, based in its ingredients, is a Caesar Salad by another name.
The “crouton” is, instead, the crispy dusting for the poached eggs, and rather than use the anchovy in the sauce, he uses Italian white anchovies as the hero of the dish. His iteration is punchy and delicious but thought through in a different way. You can expect that from the cuisine as a whole. Robust flavours, beautifully prepared and presented. The hotel might as easily be called the Delicious George from my point of view
Rooms evoke the industrial chic of the New York Meatpacking district loft living with exposed lintels but with a zany sense of humour like in the pink-hued fire irrigation system. Local artists have created Delft-inspired tiles for the hotel as well as images and word-art murals which are unique to each room. The local art collection, from sculptor’s Cornelia Stoop’s pig on stilts that greets you at reception to museum-worthy photographic images and objects, make this property a visual feast.
Although secret hotels and bars is something of a trend again (hello prohibition?), you might easily miss this property especially if you are driving yourself as the parking, in a building opposite, is in a pedestrian mall and up a steep ramp. Better call ahead and ask the hotel staff to park for you.
For all its many improvements, the inner city, like most around the world, remains edgy and despite there being cc-tv cameras and manned patrols, I would not walk happily around the city after dark. That said, the appeal at Gorgeous George is so great one hardly wants to leave. And if the ample excitement of the roof-top garden or the plush library lounge is too much there is a smart TV with an open Netflix account, lightning-fast internet and one of those snazzy Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth speakers for your phone.
We especially liked the walk-in power shower, the top-notch local bathroom amenities, plush robes and slippers and ground Truth-brand coffee for the plunger in the room. Of course, there’s a wide selection of artisan gins and other tipples to enjoy in the in-room bar.
Since Cannabis use has been legalised in South Africa there has been a wide range of products from coffee to chocolate infused with the heady herb. At Gorgeous George, they offer an equally wide range of alcohol-free cocktails as well as a range of “cocktails with a buzz” which we sampled.
Perhaps it was the CBD or the blush of the beauties celebrating with cocktails on the roof, but for one-night-only the world seemed sane again and life in St George’s Mall was utterly gorgeous.
Tell Me More About The Gorgeous George
The Gorgeous George, 118 St George’s Mall, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
From £242 for two people per night including breakfast.