If you are a discerning international traveler with a good budget, you sure know what the so-called ‘Our guest is God’ experience truly feels like, something which every Taj Hotel swears by – and likewise you’ve had the chance to witness first-hand during your stay in one of the 100 plus Taj hotels and resorts worldwide, and if not, it’s sure something that has been on your travel to-do list for quite a while now.
Recognised worldwide for its warm and intuitive service, back home in South Africa, the story is the same if not more. It is here at Taj Cape Town that guests booked for a stay at this world-class five-star establishment get to see that Taj employees are indeed heroes not only in the movies, but in the real world too. (the phrase ‘Remember always, here at Taj guest is God‘ became popular after it was uttered by one of the characters in Hotel Mumbai).
From the moment I landed at the Cape Town International Airport and spotted within minutes an aptly dressed man – who happened to be my chauffeur – waiting at the arrival terminal with my nameboard as he gave me a hand with my luggage and cheerfully ushered me to the awaiting Jaguar 4X4 in the basement parking lot, to the minute I stepped inside Taj Cape Town and walked past three very welcoming security guards all the way to the check-in desk, it’s clear there’s nothing the ever gleeful and co-operative staff here enjoy more than ensuring patrons feel the warmth rightaway and know they are being truly appreciated.
Since this was an arranged media visit – buoyed by both the steady return of business travel and increasing local tourism (amid the subsequent removal of South Africa off the UK/US and Europe red list) – within minutes after checking in, I was met by the breezy Liza Nieuwoudt, the marketing manager of Taj Cape Town, who ushered me to the hotel bar, which is part of the impressive Lobby Lounge, right next to the check-in area. Before I knew it we were happily chatting away, talking everything and anything to do with the interesting history of the hotel – with a crispy glass of pinot grigio in hand – and the subsequent changes the hotel has had to introduce to respond effectively to Covid-19.
Taj Cape Town; old school charm meets modern sophistication at its very best
Intentionally marrying old, rugged architectural charm (borrowed from Florence’s Pitti Palace) with modern sophistication, Taj Cape Town is spread across the city’s historic Reserve Bank of South Africa and Temple Chambers, which was used as the office headquarters of the barristers of the Supreme Court.
It’s the slickest hotel with the most fascinating history you can find not only within the Cape Town city centre but South Africa as a whole. That it’s in the middle of the historic precinct conveniently linking S’t George’s Mall, the Company Gardens, and Slave Lodge, as well as the 138 year old House of Parliament – add to that its unrivalled hospitality and unpretentious old charm opulence – makes it one of South Africa’s best hotels for business travel and leisure retreats alike.
The latter is especially true for patrons who are flexible with their plans and schedules and may want to dash out at any given time to go and see what the city has to offer. Conveniently, a stay at Taj Cape Town comes with a complimentary city walking tours, hourly Waterfront shuttle and regular wine tastings – all in one package, which due to time constraints was in my case out of question. After all my 24-hour program – which was in full swing from the minute I landed at 1pm, one sunny Tuesday, into the next day just in time for my 1pm flight back to Johannesburg – was jam packed with every possible activity you can think of; starting with an impromptu hour-long hotel site visit (tour), which took place right after my brief pleasantries with Liza.
Taj Cape Town; standout features
Room view with the most
Behold, the wondrous view of Tableview Mountain!
The most convenient thing about staying at Taj Cape Town is that it is situated within a walking distance to several historic attractions. That said, it’s one thing altogether if you happen to have a hotel room view with the most, at the Luxury Tower Wing, directly facing the wonderous Table Mountain, which is something I got to appreciate even more when I opened my eyes in the wee hours of the morning after a good night sleep only to be greeted by the stunning scenery of the cloud soaked Table Mountain (as seen in the picture I took below) and tangibly felt the ‘table cloth clouds’ soar over my head before they could disappear. It really was a sight to behold!
Not only that, when you cast your eyes further down on Wale Street, you are looking directly at the iconic Parliament complex ( pictured below), although it’s now a shadow of what it used to be following the much publicised January 2 fire that engulfed it, strangely leaving the rest of the adjoining buildings untouched … hhhmmm it’s a topic for another day.
On the far right lies the St Georges Cathedral (pictured below), aka ‘the people’s cathedral’, all thanks to its role in the resistance against apartheid. In case you didn’t know, the St Georges Cathedral, which unlike the Parliament Complex survived attempted arson fire a month later, prides itself as the oldest cathedral in Southern Africa; (note) it’s also where the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s remains were buried.
Spectacular bathroom with a view!
The marble bathroom with a walk-in shower and an oversized bathtub stood out to me, which explains why it ended up being where I spent most of my precious time than anywhere else. It didn’t help that I could still enjoy the mighty wonders of nature from the see-through glass separating it from the spacious bedroom with a king-size bed.
Jaw-dropping Presidential Suite takes luxury to the next level
Apart from the minimalist yet appealing interior design of the rooms in general, I was particularly impressed by the opulence and great deal of effort that went into the design of the jaw-dropping bold and eclectic aesthetic of the Presidential Suite, covered entirely in exquisite white marble floors. From the strikingly gigantic walk-in closet, the long bathroom with floor-to ceiling views of Table Mountain and the large mirror reflecting panoramic views of Cape Town, this is the perfect place for guests to cosy up (on the adjacent sofa) with a good cup of tea, after a soothing soak in the tub and watch the sun go down.
Second to none luxury-meets-rich-heritage!
Given both the luxury lifestyle and rich heritage Taj Cape Town offers, I wasn’t surprised to learn that it is the member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World organisation, and better still that recently sold its first two private residences at the hotel (to a Dutch buyer and a Limpopo businessman with interest in real estate), as my expert guide Jeremy Simovana explained, making the hotel one of the only five or so hotels worldwide offering residences for sale to the public. A much-deserved privilege no doubt!
The Lobby Lounge
The hotel boasts a number of restaurants and bars for guests to unwind, which are also open to day visitors, starting with the immaculately designed Lobby Lounge. Situated adjacent to the check-in area, this extends into a more casual all-day restaurant, the Mint, which has a relaxed airy feel with an inviting outside terrace which I enjoyed.
Here, hotel guests get to enjoy breakfast, an afternoon tea or a cocktail bar if they choose to.
Hotel’s Bombay Brasserie
After a long, busy day, nothing beats retreating into an ‘second to none’ intimate late night dining setting with gentle music playing in the background.
Bombay Brasserie has earned a good reputation thanks to its diverse cooking styles and food menu, including firm favourites Baingan Bharta (clay oven smoked Aubergine crush with crumbled feta) and the savoury Semolina & Potato Sphere Chaat.
As advised by my waiter, I chose a platter consisting of an array of petite dishes, usually each served as part of the ala carte menu, which instead allowed me to experience various fine dining interpretations from the restaurant’s firm favourites.
Going down well with the luxurious Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial rose as an appetizer, before later switching to the rich-tasting 2019 Simmonsig red mine (cabernet sauvignon), my dish consisted of savoury nibbles; mustard marinated broccoli florets, truffle mushrooms and tender masala Karoo lamb chops. While it’s true that you eat with your eyes first, not only did I like the food presentation and its inviting crispy texture, my meal roared with natural oriental flavours without the often overwhelming use of spices.
Aside from the tantalizing food menu, there’s something truly striking about the unique architectural design of the restaurant, from the intricate detail of the interior decor and blue glass chandeliers to the intimate, sunken structure only unique to Taj Cape Town. I loved the stylishly opulent decoration that screamed classy.
Jiva Spa; perfect embodiment of 'our guest is God'
Right after the enthralling hour-long sightseeing adventure of the hotel, I was booked for a calming, two-hour massage at the Jiva Grande Spa, Taj’s own award winning ‘all-natural’ spa brand inspired by the ancient Indian healing tradition of Ayurveda.
With what I know now, this could as well be the hotel’s biggest selling point itself, or more blatantly it’s saving grace if you consider the hustle and bustle of daily life and all the chaos that came with the pandemic, which no one was spared from.
From the sweeping calm I immediately felt as I soaked in the natural aroma of scents when I opened the Jiva Spa door to the time I stepped inside the treatment room, just minutes after completing a questionnaire about my medical/Covid-19 history and any possible treatment I may have recently undergone, and finally as my therapist entered the room and prepped a bowl of a special footbath blend – a mix of essential oils with floating rose petals inside – to wash my feet in a ritual that signify my ‘God-like’ status, she explained, I could feel there and there that there’s just something extraordinary about this place.
“Here we believe that our guests are like God,” she (the therapist) said as she bows her head with her hands folded in a graceful namaste, a gesture which not only left me in total awe, but got me intuitively ‘bowing’ in kind, which now paints a clear picture of what the philosophy of Jiva, which refers to the ‘living soul’ – and by extend its supposed indestructible nature –as entrenched here, is all about.
But wait, this – unbeknown to me – was simply the beginning of something greater; a dreamy 90-minute massage performed with such absolute immersion and charm it comes close to none of the massages I’ve had before, I promise you. It’s no wonder it’s won several prestigious international awards just less than a year after opening in 2010, as spa manager Francisco Garcia proudly pointed out, including the recognition for ‘Unique Spa Concept’ in the annual Les Nouvelles Esthetiques Spa Awards.
From a variety of exclusively blended chemical-free aromatic oils, which I’m told are backed by scientific research, to the heavenly head massage to calm your nerves and the deep stroke full body massage, along with a series of assisted yet fascinating yoga like leg and arm stretches, the two-hour long session will surely leave you feeling more energised, relaxed and balanced. The same goes with the rest of your stay at Taj Cape Town. Likewise, mine – as short as it was – was utterly unforgettable.
Hard to say goodbye: Now the real treasure here was the incredibly passionate and über-attentive staff!