In the historic and cultural heart of Cape Town, across the beautiful Company's Gardens, are two adjacent buildings with illustrious histories. Once housing the South African Reserve Bank and the Temple Chambers, both national monuments, they are now home to the grand Taj Cape Town hotel. I recently stayed there on my brief sojourn to Cape Town. It is not often that one gets to stay in a national monument, let alone a former Reserve Bank, and this was a unique experience for me.
After a quick check-in, I was shown to my luxury heritage room. The first thing that struck me when I entered the room was how spacious it was. The second was how beautifully it was bathed in the afternoon sunlight. And thirdly, the amazing view. I went directly to the balcony and saw Lion’s Head rising over the urban rooftops like a protective guardian and the Company's Gardens like a forest beneath me.
Despite being in a building dating back to 1932, the rooms are ultra-modern and comfortable. In fact, the hotel blends old-world elegance with modern conveniences seamlessly. There are 176 rooms of 11 different types, including an uber-exclusive Presidential suite. A huge bed, a velvet couch, a work station with a multi-media hub, and a mini-bar comprised our bedroom. The TV screen welcomed us, along with a letter from management, a bottle of sparkling red grape juice and a basket of fresh fruit.
At turndown, instead of a single chocolate on our pillows, we found a tiered platter of delicious sweet treats on the coffee table. Think decadent macaroons, chocolate-covered strawberries, date bars, and gourmet chocolates…
In the bathroom, a tempting bath and pillow menu lay by the oversized bathtub. The bath menu offered pampering bath products which could be ordered for an in-room spa bath experience. The pillow menu had a range of pillow types. I was drawn to the aromatherapy pillow which was fragranced with essential aromatherapy oils. I requested it and it was brought it to my room. I promptly fell asleep on it to enjoy the best sleep I’d had in days.
The Taj Cape Town has just won the award for the top 5-star hotel in South Africa in the 2016 Lilizela Awards. The hotel is owned by the prestigious Taj Hotels group, which gives it a touch of Indian inspiration. Headquartered in Mumbai, the group has built a reputation for restoring historic landmarks around the world over the past century. The striking exterior façade of the original Reserve Bank building was inspired by the iconic Palazzo Pitti in Florence, (which I visited about two years ago).
The old banking hall of the Reserve Bank now serves as the opulent lounge area. A barrel-vaulted skylight dominates the hall. Many of the fixtures and fittings are the originals which have been beautifully restored, including the bank’s fluted marble columns.
Together with the elegant finishes in reds and golds, they create a glamorous atmosphere where guests can lounge, have meetings or partake in high tea in the afternoons. In keeping with the historic feel, there is a Cigar Lounge which serves fine cigars.
Greenmarket Square, the House of Parliament, St George’s Cathedral, The Slave Lodge and even the colourful Bo-Kaap area, which are all historically significant, are within a short walking distance from the hotel. We saw all of these and more on the hotel's complimentary walking tour of the city. Charne, the hotel’s in-house tour guide, was an excellent ambassador for Cape Town and we learnt so much that we didn’t know before, despite having visited the city many times before. For those areas that are just a bit too far out to walk to - a complimentary shuttle service does round trips to Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront.
Breakfast at the in-house Mint Restaurant was a gastronomic feast. It was the first time I’d ever been offered masala dosas at breakfast, anywhere in the world. I was delighted as it happens to be one of my favourite South Indian dishes. Also being served, was sushi, curry, a wide selection of pastries and a whole lot more. The all-day casual dining restaurant opens up onto the vibey St Georges Mall Street and guests have the option to eat indoors or outdoors where they can people-watch. Of course, the inviting ambience and aromas often tempts passers-by to come in for meals too.
There are other dining options too. The Bombay Brasserie is a beautiful venue for authentic Indian cuisine fine-dining. It is based on its acclaimed namesake in London. The Twankey Bar serves a selection of seafood and coffees.
I got to see The Reserve, the hotel’s function venue and its hidden gem, the original walk-in vault, which also functions too. The bathroom floor at The Reserve has a unique floor, tiled with copper coins.
The hotel also has a gym, a 15-metre heated indoor swimming pool and the Jiva Grande Spa which offers Indian inspired wellness treatments and experiences. I didn’t get to try these out on this trip, due to lack of time. but I’m already looking forward to my next visit.
Somehow I left my husband's jersey behind at the hotel when leaving. I only realised this late at night long after I had checked out of the hotel. I had no time to collect it, as I had to be at the Blue Train station early the next morning. I took a chance and emailed the hotel asking them to deliver it to the station the following morning. I had just arrived there when the hotel's shuttle service delivered it with perfect timing. Five-star service combined with five-star accommodation. It is no surprise then that The Taj Cape Town won the award for the top 5-star hotel in South Africa in the 2016 Lilizela Awards.
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