Hotel insider An artificial island resort can feel slightly odd in the heart of a city. Yet for sheer comfort and its stellar location the One&Only makes an excellent base.
One&Only Cape Town
Arriving dusty and tired from a road trip across the Karoo desert at the grand entrance of the One&Only, we were unprepared for the ambush of six impeccably smart valets in leopard print waistcoats who opened all four car doors simultaneously, causing suitcases, bottles of sun tan lotion and half-eaten sandwiches to tumble embarrassingly out. The valets, charm personified, did an excellent job of hiding their amusement as achingly chic hotel residents looked on. Stepping inside, the entrance is designed to pack a punch, with a giant circular cocktail bar framed by a huge glass façade, while a black infinity pool glitters seductively in the distance.
The One&Only is situated on a prime piece of real estate, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, one of the city's oldest and prettiest spots, in a complex that contains some of the most prestigious addresses in Africa. Capetonians are a car-addicted lot but the Waterfront has an almost European feel and people populate the area until late at night. For a few dirhams a water taxi will take you through the docks and up town. The hotel suffers a slight inferiority complex in comparison with the Radisson Waterfront which took the oceanfront spot - but works hard to make up for it with superb views of Table Mountain.
As with any new hotel there was a sense of staff still settling in, with some a touch overzealous and anxious to please - yet all went out of their way to help. There was a barely perceptible hierarchy of guests - a celebrity and other VIPs notably received more attention than other residents as they were ushered to top tables - but it wasn't unpleasant.
We stayed in a junior suite on the island: 37 square metres of unadulterated luxury with carpets so soft they sent toes to sleep, a deliciously deep, enveloping mattress and a dreamy shower. The hotel strives to appeal to business and leisure travellers, although the "modern African" design brief has a predominantly business, slightly impersonal feel. An adjoining room cleverly gives the option of a family suite. A Nespresso coffee machine, sumptuous toiletries and speedy, reasonably priced room service made it a chore to leave.
The hotel is patently excited about being the first in Cape Town to host celebrity restaurants, boasting a Nobu, the Japanese restaurant also found in London, and Maze, a Gordon Ramsay creation. Our dinner at Maze was the culinary highlight of the holiday: shucking huge fresh Namibian oysters (15 dirhams per piece) and chomping our way through Wagu fillet steak - cows are fed a special diet to achieve knife-through-butter tenderness but it comes at a price: expect to pay an eye watering US$102 (Dh376) for 200g. Breakfast was a lavish affair, serving everything from healthy fruit concoctions to piles of waffles with bacon and maple syrup.
It's still early days but it seems the One&Only is succeeding in its ambition to attract Cape Town's hippest and smartest. The self-consciously hip 'Evolution Bar' serves cocktails in their past, present and future incarnations - a Bloody Mary with biltong (dried meat) flavour vodka, anyone? Judging by the excitement that greeted the hotel's opening six months ago ? the biggest gathering of celebrities ever on the African continent, attended by Nelson Mandela himself - native South African Sol Kerzner's decision to site a property here has the town buzzing.
More reasons not to leave the hotel - an on-site French patisserie offers an excellent selection of macaroons, éclairs and tartelettes for afternoon tea - not something you'd find easily elsewhere in Cape Town - while a quirky art gallery shows off the talents of an edgy collection of contemporary native artists. The genius wine 'cellar' - a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass containing 5,000 bottles of wine from the local vineyards of Stellenbosch, and the patient, friendly sommeliers, made our meal. Unusually, you can order almost any wine by the glass, elevating an already delicious meal into a Bacchanalian feast. A two-hour spa treatment with native South African seaweed and hot stones ($206; Dh755) sent me swooning into the depths of relaxation.
For a hotel that makes much of its design credentials, form is sometimes revered at the expense of function - there were several beautiful, but ill-thought-out designs. The free-standing bath's curves turned out to be wholly uncomfortable; ask for a bath pillow. Also, the spa and gym are in different buildings - making for a sweaty walk through the ubertrendy bar to shower after a workout.
An artificial island resort can feel slightly odd in the heart of a city. Yet for sheer comfort and its stellar location the One&Only makes an excellent base for pampering and relaxation - just make sure your itinerary's not too ambitious.
Double rooms cost from $779 (Dh2,861) per night. An Island Junior Suite costs from $908 (Dh3,335). Both prices include breakfast and taxes. The One&Only Cape Town, Dock Road, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (www.oneandonlyresorts.com, 0027 021 431 5250). firstname.lastname@example.org