When I heard that the African elephant’s closest living relative lived at the top of Table Mountain, I wasn’t expecting to see a tiny, toothy furball perched precariously on a rocky outcrop, regally surveying the beaches and city bowl of Cape Town below. The rock dassie – which looks like a guinea pig but bigger – stared at me defiantly.
He knew that not everything you hear about South Africa turns out as you imagine.
The salty tang of seaweed and hope hangs in the air down at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, where colourful trawlers click-clack alongside boats taking tourists shark-spotting in Table Bay.
The shadow of apartheid still blows like Atlantic fog over the city townships, the inner-city grassland of District 6 from where families were forcibly removed, and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. But there’s a positive feeling down among the bustling waterside cafes and shops – a new era is kicking off as Cape Town gets ready for the 2010 football World Cup.
Not that the cosmopolitan city needs any help attracting tourists. With a vibrant waterfront, fantastic food and wine, sugar-soft sand beaches and a menagerie of wildlife, it’s on a par with a world-class city such as Sydney. But it’s closer and, thanks to a weak rand, cheaper to visit.
Leading the way in this celebration of the Rainbow Nation is South African tycoon Sol Kerzner – the brain behind Atlantis at the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai and the exclusive One&Only resorts. He has now opened a One&Only in Cape Town showcasing the best local food, art and wine.
While boasting all the usual five-star attributes of stellar service and decadent decor, the resort has quickly clinched an elusive accolade, winning the approval of notoriously critical Capetonians.
By opening six months ahead of schedule, the hotel had time to garner the support of local people by introducing two celebrity restaurants to the city: Nobu and Gordon Ramsay’s Maze. Combined with the stunning open-plan Vista lobby bar, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a spectacular view of Table Mountain, these eating establishments have made the hotel a destination in itself.
A big statement like One&Only Cape Town needed decor to match, and New York-based designer Adam D. Tihany has created eye-catching interiors with bold fixtures, African-influenced colour schemes and rich, dark woods. South African art plays an important part in the sexy, modern design, and interesting installations and large-scale canvasses adorn the hotel. There’s even a mezzanine branch of Cape Town’s Goodman Gallery, with exhibitions and the chance to buy a piece of local art.
Contemporary design is also on the menu at the restaurants. Nobu’s sleek sake bar overlooks the dark-wood dining room and sushi counter where diehard fans, including Matt Damon, have enjoyed a fix of Japanese food. The tasting menu is ideal for indecisive types, and Nobu classics like black cod appear alongside dishes using local seafood. Gordon Ramsay’s Maze also celebrates local produce with a cold seafood bar featuring Cape crayfish and huge Mozambique prawns.
Maze is shielded by a triple-level wine loft where more than 5,000 bottles, from Cape classic vintages to new wineries, are displayed in a glass library. A hundred of them are available by the glass, but unless you’ve a lot of time and a hardy liver it’s best to ask one of the sommeliers to recommend a wine for dinner.
The winelands themselves, at Paarl and Stellenbosch, are only 45 minutes from the city, but the sommeliers can take you on a journey across the country, disproving the myth that South African wine is just pinotage grapes and cheap plonk.
There’s more temptation before you reach Maze’s impressive dining area as you wander past the dessert station, where chefs busily create delicious puddings and rows of colourful macaroons.
Ramsay came to Cape Town in person to source local produce and, thanks to the combination of South African and international fare, it’s possible to enjoy a simple dish of pap (a creamy African maize porridge) with an ostrich steak, springbok steak or £75 Australian Wagyu beef steak: luxury meets local.
This double-whammy of Maze and Nobu is attracting foodies from all over the globe – many drawn by the prices, which are lower than in other international branches.
And there are many other surprises. Walk into Vista, for example, and you find yourself inside a buzzing city bar – but exit through the back doors and you find yourself in the heart of the resort.
There you find two landscaped islands: one with a luxury ESPA spa and the other featuring a freeform infinity pool, Italian restaurant and 40 villa suites. Marina Rise – the main part of the hotel – has 91 rooms and two residential penthouse suites. Each room is huge – even standard rooms are a minimum of 678sq ft.
On the ESPA spa island you can grab a haircut, manicure or just chill out with a massage. Visitors can use the ‘heat experiences’ – a sauna, steam room and heat pool with massage beds, jets and showers, while an ice fountain dispenses a shower of frozen chunks to cool you down.
In other parts of the hotel the rich, dark interiors are balanced with lots of natural light, but in the spa the heat pool seems eerily dark. Luckily the massage rooms are flooded with daylight and the heated outdoor pool gives you a dazzling view of Table Mountain while you do your backstroke.
If admiring Table Mountain from the pool is not enough, it’s not far to the cable car that will carry you to the top. An easy way to reach the cable car’s ‘base station’ is the hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing bus, which leaves from the Two Oceans Aquarium next to the hotel.
At the top you’ll be met by dassies, lizards and an awesome 360-degree view of the Cape Peninsula and the city and beaches. The golden arc of sand at the base of the mountain is Camps Bay. From here you can see the mountain range known as the Twelve Apostles.
Back in the city, a stroll down Long Street won’t take you long but it will give you a taste of Capetonian life as you pass tooting cars, funky cafes and the Pan-African market selling crafts. Up the hill you’ll reach Bo-Kaap, the Cape Malay area where a rainbow of houses painted hot pink, baby-blue and parma-violet are all lined up like the macaroons in Maze.
Cape Town is now a hot destination for foodies, art and wine lovers, wildlife-spotters and culture-vultures alike. But don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself.
Source: Daily Mail
For more information on the One&Only visit The One&Only Hotel online
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