Taj Cape Town, South Africa

Location: The Taj holds prime position in Cape Town’s regenerated city centre, snubbing the popular and flashy Waterfront - home to several of the city’s lux hotels - for a less manicured, less touristy and much more fun location. Straddling the corner of Wale Street and St George’s Mall, the entrance looks out over St Georges Cathedral, just a few paces from the tree lined Government Avenue and a short wander from lively Long Street and neon-coloured houses of Bo-Kaap.

First Impressions: Hotels regularly boast about a room with a view, but to really impress me, give me a bathroom with a view. That’s what Taj do, and I realise within seconds of arriving that I have a dazzling panorama of Table Mountain from my loo.  It’s tempting to sit here all day gawping, but such a great central location demands I explore one of the most spectacular cities on earth. Oh go on then. I amble 20 metres to the left before being distracted by playful reggae beats floating out of The Twankey, the hotel’s elegant but chilled oyster bar – a handy sun trap for getting my bearings while people watching and swigging a spritz.

The Facts: Forty of the 177 bedrooms and suites occupy the classic hotel’s heritage buildings that, before the Taj alchemy, formed the South African Reserve Bank and Temple Chambers. Draped with swish fabrics in calming grey and blue hues, the historical rooms have been lovingly restored, retaining graceful colonial charm with high ceilings and sash windows. The other rooms are stacked up the 17-storey modern tower. Sophisticated and more contemporary with splashes of zingy burnt orange, they win me over with floor to ceiling windows – perfect for that essential bathroom based gawping – and roomy balconies. I recline outside in the divine Cape sunshine before looking down the vertiginous tower and realising I have no head for heights.And the rooms are just the start. The hotel’s seductively lit six-room spa teases me with a persuasive list of treatments, all based around an aromatic concoction of Taj spices. Nearby a heated indoor lap pool is overlooked by an efficient looking (but underused – can’t blame them) set of treadmills and cross-trainers.If, like me, your clients prefer tikka to training, the hotel’s intimate, award winning Bombay Brasserie has made a name for itself with exceptional Indian cuisine with a side serving of opulent interiors - all extravagant blue chandeliers and slinky fabrics. 

A good base for: Prefer dining out? The Taj is the centrepiece of a city crammed with options. Obliging smiley staff will flag a taxi taking guests to the uber-chic coastal haunts of Camps Bay and Clifton. But you don’t have to go that far. A few minutes up the slope is Cape Town’s pulsating street of soul, Long Street. Packed with big booties and heady music, alongside bars and restaurants with an easy going local vibe, it’s the place to soak up Cape Town’s sun-kissed energy. Daytime visits see me swapping restaurants for retail, splashing too much cash on traditional South African trinkets and vintage treats. Conveniently, the hotel offers an on-the-hour shuttle to whizz me between the Table Mountain cable car, the hotel, and the bland but popular Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where I find sunset cruises, Robben Island tours and a mind boggling selection of crowded restaurants, many serving ostrich steaks. When I grow weary of red-faced tourists strolling along the water, I escape back to my refreshingly modest jewel of a hotel.  

Wow: The excellent concierge team, who didn’t even flinch when I asked for directions to “The Dog’s Bollocks”. No I’m not on the hunt for Cape Town’s dodgy underground adult scene, but the city’s juiciest burger joint. Within minutes the concierge desk sent me on my way with a hotel map, and a second google map print out, offering step by step directions and well-wishes. Second wow? That loo with a view.

How much: From about £145 per person per night including breakfast and wifi.

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