I’ve woken up feeling so excited! Today’s a staycation day, where I pack a small bag, drive for all of 20 minutes, and check into a lovely hotel. I get to lounge about in luxurious surroundings, maybe have a spa treatment, eat exquisite meals cooked by a top chef, and see, smell, feel and experience different things.
Ok, it’s hardly a two-week holiday in Spain, but after a year of lockdown we’ve had to learn to appreciate pleasure wherever we can find it. Staycations give you that quick fix of sophisticated treats and the pleasure of downtime, without the hassle of actually going anywhere far. Such bliss!
Here are three places to delight you close to home in Jozi:
The Houghton Hotel
From the outside it looks like a block of flats, but inside there’s so much light and space, that you automatically breathe more deeply, expand and unwind.
The vast lobby has steps up to a mezzanine floor which offers areas to sit and work or relax, and the Nova Bistro spills out onto a rooftop terrace where you can eat looking down over the circular pool. Actually there are five pools, so keep exploring and you’ll also find a FitBar with all the usual gym equipment and classes to join.
High-class dinners are served in the Sejour, with chef Freddie Dias preparing inventive dishes that blend in elements of his international travels. Nothing on the menu is mundane, and for sweet-toothed me the Sejour S’mores were fabulous, mixing chocolate, miso, raspberry and crème fraîche.
The Houghton backs onto a Jack Nicklaus golf course, but a fun hour hacking around the little putt-putt course reminded me why I abandoned golf. My afternoon was better spent at the spacious spa, with 10 treatment rooms, a heated pool and a chilly pool for dunks in between the steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi.
Room wise, the penthouses are ridiculously large, with the Rockstar Penthouse boasting a private elevator, wine cellar, spa room, swimming pool and Jacuzzi. My king suite was also spacious – and it goes without saying that the beds are huge too.
There’s a genuinely warm vibe to the place and what’s also great is that The Houghton works with the Afrika Tikkun charity to give youngsters their first training and work experience in hospitality, with about 10% of its staff undergoing a year-long learnership.
The Houghton Hotel: Lloys Ellis Avenue, Houghton, Johannesburg.
King suites from R2,205 for double occupancy.
Email: [email protected]
Clico Boutique Hotel
Any hotel with a name inspired by Veuve Clicquot Champagne gets my vote!
The Clico in an old Cape Dutch style building is perfect for guests who appreciate charm and intimacy, with only nine rooms, one restaurant and a swimming pool in the secluded garden. A mobile spa can be summoned for treatments in your room, but this is a cosy bolthole for the chillers, not the doers.
Since the general manager Martin Louw is 198cm tall, he’s made sure the beds are all extra-length topped by crisp, welcoming sheets. One funky feature is a switch that turns the bathroom glass from clear to opaque, in case room service arrives when you’re showering.
If you need activity, Rosebank’s shops, cinemas, restaurants and clubs are a short stroll away, and Keyes Art Mile of galleries is just around the corner. But after a couple of hours of mooching I just wanted to get back to the Clico, open my complimentary wine and wallow in the glorious Victoria & Albert bath. I do enjoy places with quirky features and friendly staff.
This is the perfect place for frazzled parents wanting silence and the chance to reconnect with each other while the kids stay with the nanny. Or for secret lovers, perhaps. I was perfectly happy to be alone there too, reconnecting with myself.
Food in the five-star restaurant is very special, with head chef Neo Mkhwanazi offering four- or six-course wine-paired tasting menus. I went à la carte, starting with rabbit with spinach gnocchi, followed by glazed salmon with fabulous Hassle Back Spuds and long zucchini strips. A grand finale was Autumn Leaves – a beautifully presented rich chocolate torte topped with delicate leaf-shaped biscuits.
The Clico is a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs gastronomy association, and non-guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner here. Come on the last Sunday of every month for a live jazz lunch and wine tasting.
Clico Boutique Hotel, 27 Sturdee Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Rooms from R1,650 for double occupancy including breakfast.
Email: [email protected]
The Capital On The Park
It’s a chilly day when I check into the Capital, but the heated outdoor lap pool is too enticing to ignore. It’s bracing but doable, and I swim overlooking a few rooftops and a section of Mushroom Park, seeing a very different side of Sandton. Then I cut through the gym to the steam room and bask in delicious heat. Show me a steam room and I’ll show you a happy staycationer!
The Capital has 450 rooms and self-catering apartments, with 316 run by the hotel and others privately owned to create a mix of residents and visitors. The colour scheme is grey and concrete, which somehow looks softer than it sounds, and there’s a cheeky irreverence – like a picture of a marijuana leaf on the cleverly worded no smoking signs.
Another nice touch is the conference centre which is converted into a supervised kids’ play area every weekend, with activities like table tennis, drawing and putt-putt. For adults, a DJ plays by the bar on Saturdays.
My 1-bedroom suite had so much wardrobe space I could move in permanently, which many people do. A lounge and well-equipped kitchen area had a fridge, freezer, microwave, hob and utensils, because people who stay longer often like to cook their own meals or eat in, apparently, perhaps grabbing something from the ground floor 24/7 deli.
I hit the restaurant instead, where the lamb curry with rice is a deservedly popular choice. The cheesecake, combining both a baked and fridge version, makes a light and refreshing finish. The service was excellent, and up in my room the blackout curtains proved hugely effective. When I awoke I heard ducks rather than traffic in this unexpected oasis in the city.
The Capital On The Park, 101 Katherine Street, Sandton.
A standard room for single or double occupancy costs from R1,230.
Email: [email protected]