Taj Cape Town, the "oldest new hotel" in the city with luxury interiors in striking architecture from 1896 and 2010, is celebrating its opening.
Set in an area steeped in history and alive with art, culture, cuisine and entertainment, Taj Cape Town is adjacent to Mandela Rhodes Place and St George's Cathedral in the middle of a historic precinct. Here, St. George's Mall, the Company Gardens, the Slave Lodge and the Houses of Parliament are just steps away, as are the Groote Kerk, Grand Parade and the City Hall.
"Like all great city center hotels, you have museums, art galleries, top restaurants, live music venues, open-air markets and crafts all right on the doorstep," says general manager Michael Pownall. "Taj Cape Town is very much part of this city center experience for Capetonians and international guests alike."
"We've spent two years and more than R500 million (approximately US$65 million) restoring the original South African Reserve Bank and Temple Chambers/Board of Executioners buildings for Capetonians and visitors to enjoy. This is a five-star luxury hotel, but we've been sensitive to the local market when setting our pricing. We want people who come in for tea or a meal to feel that they've had a great experience and great value for money. We also want our overseas guests to get out of the hotel and enjoy the city, so we tell them about all there is to see and do and encourage them to take sightseeing tours."
With its two entrances, the porte-cochere on Wale Street and the South African Reserve Bank entrance off St George's Mall, the hotel is certainly welcoming. Both entrances lead into a magnificent lobby, which was once the main banking hall.
The lobby is dominated by a barrel-vaulted skylight supported by four meticulously restored fluted marble columns. The chandeliers are also originals as are the heavy grills and doors at the pedestrian entrance, still bearing the South African Reserve Bank's lion heraldry. Even the clock in the banking hall, which first kept the banking hours in 1932 has been polished and repaired. Just off the lobby are a formal lounge, cocktail bar and cigar bar.
A beautifully crafted wooden staircase leads from the lobby to the first floor of what was the Temple Chambers and later the Board of Executioners Building, dating back to 1896. This floor houses the meeting and banquet rooms, where the wooden paneling, fireplaces, and large sash windows are all original.
The furnishings in the 177 guest rooms combine old-world quality with modern amenities, such as high-speed internet and a wireless multi-media hub that allows laptops to interface with the television. All interiors are by renowned Singapore designers James Park and Associates, whose previous commissions include another of the Taj's historic city center hotels, The Pierre in New York. Large marble bathrooms are standard and most rooms look out over the city or mountain. The Tower rooms in the new section of the building all have walk-out balconies and the two-bedroom Presidential suite on the 17th floor provides a panoramic view of the city and Table Mountain.
Taj Cape Town's delectable restaurant repertoire includes:
-The Bombay Brasserie, a fine-dining Indian restaurant offering authentic Indian flavors in contemporary dishes and modeled on its famous namesake in London, which is considered one of the top Indian restaurants in the UK.
-Looking out over St. George's Mall, Mint is an all-day informal restaurant offering a classic menu featuring meat, seafood and poultry grills, with a contemporary interior, dramatic show kitchen, a mezzanine level for private functions and open-air tables under the trees in the Mall
-The quaintly named Twankey takes it moniker from the statue overlooking the corner of Adderley and Wale Streets; originally intended as a symbol of the benevolence of the Board of Executors, Capetonians cheekily christened the large draped female the Widow Twankey after the pantomime character. Today the relaxed seafood and champagne bar below her celebrates this historic irreverence and is an ideal place to meet friends and enjoy a fresh seafood snack and a glass of excellent South African wine while local bands provide evening entertainment
Exclusive to the Taj group, the Jiva Grande Spa draws on ancient Indian healing wisdom of Ayurveda. Everything that touches the body is completely natural, from organic cotton, sun-bleached fabrics and oven-baked pottery, bamboo fiber, soy cotton and a range of other ingredients making up 200 customized products. The spa is equipped with single- and double-treatment suites, beauty treatment rooms, and vitality pools. Downstairs from the spa is a fully equipped, modern Technogym, complete with a heated indoor pool, two saunas and men's and women's changing areas.
The Taj Cape Town combines the comfort and convenience of a modern luxury hotel, with the splendor and character of yesteryear. It's a mix of historic and contemporary Cape Town, reflecting the city around it.
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