Regal Indian grandeur: The Taj Cape Town
"Taj is a culmination of the historical and the contemporary times of Cape Town." This unique property has been adoringly restored and cleverly expanded to create an elegant and sophisticated city centre hotel that effortlessly combines old world charm and modern luxury, whilst showcasing signature Indian hospitality. Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces are renowned for managing some of the most opulent buildings around the world, and their address in Cape Town undoubtedly amplifies this impressive portfolio of over 100 splendorous global premises.
We've all heard those three words before... No, not "I love you," but rather "Location, location, location!" In Cape Town visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to 5 star properties in iconic settings. However, if you want to experience this authentic city without feeling confined amongst a horde of tourists in large waterfront hotels, then inner city accommodation is the best option.
Taj is a luxurious five-star hotel ideally positioned in the heart of historic Cape Town at the entrance to the famous pedestrian shopping precinct of St George’s Mall. The property is on the doorstep of the peaceful Company's Garden and South Africa's National Parliamentary complex. In the surrounding neighborhood you'll find a blend of fascinating history, stirring art, lively entertainment, unique culture and delectable food.
From Cape Town International airport it takes about 25 min by car to reach Taj, which is in the vibrant hub of downtown. The hotel offers a free shuttle to the famous V&A Waterfront. And if you've rented a car, the valet service is particularly efficient - simply hand over your keys and let them do the rest.
When you enter the regal lobby (which used to be the Reserve Bank Building, built in 1932) it's hard not to be dazzled. Exquisite marble floors and tastefully illuminated arched ceilings create romantic impressions of a grandiose and departed era. Even though this used to be a banking hall, the atmosphere is anything but solemn. It's warm, lively and welcoming. After a genuine and amiable reception I was swiftly checked in, and assured that my luggage will be delivered to my room shortly.
My home for the next few days was in a Luxury Tower room on the 17th floor. This contemporary glass and steel structure rises seamlessly above the two conjoined landmark heritage buildings that make up the first few floors of the hotel. As I opened the door, my greeting couldn't have been better - a phenomenal panoramic view of Table Mountain through the floor to ceiling glass sliding doors (that lead to my own private balcony).
Decor wise, I loved the robust traditional colour palette of gold, burnt orange and brown - it elevated the sense of luxury within the space and added an unashamed hint of lavishness. All the furnishings were of an exceptional standard and superior finish, as one would expect from Taj. The most important thing - the bed, of course - was large, snug and comfortable. This triggered a fairly serious struggle to get up in the morning!
As for the bathroom - I had nothing to complain about. The timeless marble and stone clad walls, floor and surfaces were flattered by European fixtures and excellent water pressure, with Indian toiletries provided by Forest Essentials™ . It was was basically like my own in-room spa, which resulted in me taking several prolonged steamy rain showers (so much for saving water...). Also, thanks to a large glass wall (which can be closed off by a rolling privacy blind), you can submerge yourself in a foamy bubble bath whilst gazing out at the stunning mountain. How's that for bathroom bliss?
One thing that can make or break an urban hotel for me is the onsite facilities. What good is it if your room is fabulous but the gym is a letdown, or there's no spa? Well, naturally I did not have these problems at Taj. Despite the inner city location and historical conversion, there is a reasonably sized heated indoor lap pool and adequately equipped fitness centre. However, the sparkling ruby in Taj's crown is the Jiva Grande Spa. Covering an impressive 700 sq metres, this sanctum of calm truly blew me away...
I booked a signature Indian aromatherapy massage, and I can honestly say that it was one of the BEST spa experiences that I've had in South Africa. Everything, from the professionalism and conscientiousness of my expert therapist, to the all-natural range of bespoke essential oils used during my treatment, was unsurpassable. This ancient royal Indian treatment has set a new standard for me when it comes to hotel rubdowns!
Now, onto the food. For me, prime dining options play a significant role in any premium hotel's success. At Taj there are three distinctive restaurants, as well as a lobby bar and sexy cigar lounge. Breakfast is served in their relaxed all-day bistro, Mint, and it is a glorious affair. Apart from the extensive buffet (which includes sushi) you can order à la carte as well. The kitchen staff even made some traditional South African porridge for me, which wasn't on the menu. Score! Afternoon tea is served daily in the splendid and intimate lobby - be prepared for an impressive spread, with a notable variety of teas to choose from.
The hotel's signature eatery is the fabulously chic Bombay Brasserie (based on it's bigger brother in London). Here you'll discover exquisite contemporary Indian cuisine, paired with carefully curated local wines. The setting is quite special, as the space inhabits the early 1900's building that forms part of the hotel. Imagine classically high ceilings, lavish chandeliers, ornate wooden paneling and exotic drapery. The cooking suitably matches the decor - it is tastefully executed, elegantly presented and uniquely Taj.
Twankey Bar (not the lobby bar) is also housed within this original landmark and exudes a local pub kinda vibe, thanks to its direct street access and prominent corner position. This suave taproom serves some seriously luscious tapas and artisanal craft beers. Furthermore, their baristas brew fantastic coffee, featuring a bespoke blend by the famous Capetonian TRUTH Artisan roastery. Definitely a place to hang out for a boozy afternoon...
My favourite part of staying with Taj Cape Town is experiencing their unrivaled service culture. I've checked in here on more than one occasion, and have dropped by several times over the years - what continues quite clearly is the consistently sincere demeanor of all their staff. From the doormen and valets, to the waiters and managers - everyone seems to be working within the bounds of the same ethos. This team will not leave you hanging!
Finally, the opinion that counts... mine of course! As Taj Cape Town is the exclusive representative of this iconic luxury brand on the African continent, there is a subtle pressure to uphold their trademarked hospitality and refined standards. This is a good thing, especially for discerning travelers who demand the promise of quality, the assurance of a global leader and the expertise of a local insider. For an effortless discovery of the real Mother City, I'd recommend making The Taj your home base.
All opinions and photos are mine. © Traverate
* Cover/ banner photo courtesy (property) of © Taj Hotels