Durban - What is it about The Benjamin on Durban’s tree-lined Florida Road that makes it so popular? I remember asking myself this on a visit a year or two ago.
There are swankier establishments, there’s no lunch or dinner or room service on offer and no spa, yet the place is popular and buzzing with activity.
What the Benjamin has that makes a difference is its extremely friendly and attentive service, and a laid-back, sociable atmosphere.
General Manager Nicole Munro has introduced her own innovative flair and touch to the property over the year she has been at the helm. From hosting the Durban Fashion Show to gourmet breakfasts and intimate weddings, nothing is too much trouble for Munro and her team, who are constantly reinventing The Benjamin with ideas and little touches to make the stay of guests more memorable.
The Benjamin is a networking hub and fits in with the vibe in Florida Road, while maintaining the dignity of the elegant lady she is. Conveniently located, it’s popular with families and business travellers alike – and early rising guests from neighbouring establishments since breakfast is served from 6am. There is usually quite a gathering of guests enjoying a complimentary drink at the honesty bar and chatting away with non-guests on the comfortable settees under high, pressed ceilings at the front of the hotel, or at tables around the pool area at the rear.
I found myself in amiable conversation with Dee at the reception desk, who introduced me to assembled guests, including regular guest Bob Wynne (still a weekly visitor), staff and various captains of industry.
The Benjamin caters for weddings, conferences, board meetings, high teas, parties, baby showers and kitchen teas. There are two conference rooms. Little Ben, like the hotel in general, has a relaxed atmosphere and is perfect for intimate meetings, interviews and such. Big Ben, with projector et al, seats 32 and is obviously for bigger events.
If you haven’t been there in the last year or so, you will definitely notice subtle changes, such as a general lightening, brightening and freshening up. In the restaurant, for example, the chairs are the same but have been resprayed French white, and the décor changed. The rooms too have been spruced up with new soft furnishings introduced.
The 43 rooms differ in layout since The Benjamin was established by linking two gracious Edwardian buildings. Many open on to a garden or the pool and there are two sections of four rooms, great for families or groups. Passages and stairways abound, so are not suitable for those in wheelchairs.
Breakfasts, particularly their omelettes, are recommended. While dinner is not served, the hotel has linked up with restaurants in the area and guests can either eat there or order in, and it’s conveniently billed to the room’s account.
You can eat while watching TV in your room or using the complimentary wi-fi, which works like a charm, though it’s far nicer in the garden.
The workings of The Benjamin took me back to a different era, though you would be mistaken in thinking they aren’t right up with the times. Try it, you’ll be charmed. - Sunday Tribune
If You Go...
Rates: R1 255 per double room, sharing (bed and breakfast); single R980. Call 031 303 4233, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.benjamin.co.za to book.
The Benjamin is proudly represented by African Insignia Hotels.