If you ever doubted that Johannesburg was an urban forest, then you should look at it from the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff (aka The Westcliff Hotel ). You will see a canopy of verdant treetops with sprinklings of purple jacaranda blossoms and the occasional red-tiled rooftop, stretching far into the horizons. The hotel overlooks the Johannesburg Zoo. Sometimes you can see the elephants in their enclosure and sometimes you can hear the lions roar too. The best part is that the view is shared by most of the hotel.
January is my birthday month and The Westcliff was the perfect location for a weekend of pampering and luxury. This was my first visit to the iconic hotel since it had been taken over by the renowned Four Seasons group and re-opened in December 2014 after extensive revamping. It is the only Four Seasons hotel in South Africa and is perfectly situated between the CBD and the Sandton area in one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive residential neighbourhoods.
The picturesque hotel stands among lushly landscaped gardens woven with courtyards and fountains. A winding cobbled driveway weaves through the multilevel blocks of rooms cascading down the hillside. The blocks are named after various Johannesburg suburbs. Beautiful black glass elevators with panoramic views take guests to the hotel’s elevated eateries.
We arrived at the hotel on a Saturday afternoon just after the 3pm check-in time. The friendly receptionist welcomed us with the melodious words “Your room has been upgraded”. After she had checked us in, she drove us up to the Maboneng block in a golf cart and showed us around our spacious rooms. We had a suite and the children had their own room next door to us. Although the rooms weren’t inter-leading, the door leading to both rooms could be locked, effectively giving us a very comfortable two-bedroomed suite. The children loved having their own huge beds in their own spacious room.
Our suite consisted of an open plan lounge and dining area, perfect for in-room dining, a cosy bedroom with an ultra-comfortable bed and one of the largest bathrooms I’ve ever seen in a hotel. The opulent marble bathroom featured his and hers vanity units, a large bath tub and rain shower, a dressing station with a huge wardrobe, heated towel rails and luxurious bath robes. The deluxe amenities were by L’Occitane en Provence.
The kids room had two king-sized beds, a large bathroom and a balcony. The décor was contemporary chic with an African touch and local artwork graced the walls. The state of the art-entertainment system consisted of a large flat-screen TV, speakers, a DVD player and an iHome docking station for iPhones and iPads. The power hub that catered for almost every possible requirement including international adaptors was a thoughtful touch. There is free wi-fi throughout the hotel.
The refreshment stations had Nespresso machines, glass kettles and a wide selection of exclusive TWG teas. We were given a complimentary newspaper and platter of seasonal fresh fruit daily. There was a fully-stocked mini-bar and a drawer filled with exotic snacks and artisan chocolates – at an additional charge. The kids relished the cholate fudge that welcomed them and the chocolate cookies they were given as a bed-time treat.
The view is one of the key bragging points of the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff. “View” is also the name of the hotel’s signature fine dining restaurant. The executive chef, Dirk Gieselmann, was a former chef at a three star Michelin restaurant in France so you know that you’re in good hands.
We had an a-la-carte breakfast here while enjoying the peacefulness, serenity and scenery from our lofty perch. Of course, my husband and I had our favourite breakfast dish, salmon eggs benedict, as well as chocolate croissants. The kids indulged in Belgian waffles and French crepes with Chantilly cream and berries.
We chose to dine at Flames, which also shares the great view – because the casual atmosphere there was more appropriate for the kids. They even had a kids’ menu. Dinner was a feast. Spicy Thai soup, seafood linguini, Norwegian salmon and oysters. The hot weather demanded that we have sorbet and ice cream for dessert even though there were many other delectable options. On Sundays, Flames also serves a popular brunch.
The coveted high tea at the hotel is served at View from Monday to Thursday. It was recently re-introduced, much to the delight of patrons who had been eagerly anticipating it since the hotel was re-opened. As I was there on the weekend, I didn’t get to try it out unfortunately. But I do plan to visit again soon.
The spa was opened less than a year ago but is very busy. I had a wonderful and much-needed renewing signature massage here. It was just what I needed to get rid of all the aches and pains from two weeks of strenuous activities in London and Walt Disney World. The spa also offers many other treatments for men and women, a sauna and steam room and a stunning heated infinity lap pool.
The kids loved playing in the heated outdoor family pool. In addition to towels, the poolside also thoughtfully provides sunscreen for kids and adults, bottled water and magazines to read while you lounge in the sun.
The service was impeccable. The hotel staff are friendly and eager to please. But if you prefer electronic interactions to personal interactions, then be sure to download the Four Seasons app before your visit. The app combines convenience and functionality to make your visit seamless. You can make spa and restaurant reservations, request transportation and amenities, and specify turn-down times, inter alia. I wish every hotel had this.
All too soon, our weekend was over. The hotel provides a comfortable 12 pm check-out time. Before leaving, I had to visit the beautiful gift shop in the reception area where the gifts are artfully displayed in mock ostrich egg shells.
The Westcliff is not just a hotel. It is a contemporary oasis in a vibrant city, just minutes away from major business centres and tourist attractions. It is also a social hub and a wonderful family-friendly retreat – judging by the amount of social and family events we witnessed. The hotel has also been recognized by Travel + Leisure as one of the best new hotels of 2015 in the world. If the price tag for the accommodation is out of your budget, there are many other ways to experience the legendary luxury, such as the spa, the high tea, and the exquisite meals. The spectacular view is included in all of the above.
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