Tale of a reformed city slicker

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iol travel march 24 nt Tra Concierge_ Freedom Cafe - Copy INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Freedom Cafe is housed in a bright red converted container and is set in a courtyard filled with staghorns and trees.

Durban - The Concierge Boutique Bungalows is a unique hotel and restaurant conversion tucked away between two narrow lanes near Greyville Racecourse.

While sitting outside Freedom Cafe (a stylishly converted container) having lunch under the trees, gazing at the bell tower of St Mary’s Church, I was struck by the feel-good vibe in the courtyard, which is framed by converted heritage buildings. It’s a popular hangout, especially for informal meetings, as well as a hotel with many returning guests.

The Concierge is made up of four listed houses beautifully converted into 12 hotel rooms. Beyond the 1920s facade, owners Neil Roake and Jenny Foord have created something quite special.

Neil says: “I suffer from ATD – attention to detail” – and this shows in delightful, quirky ways in the dachshund theme that is repeated and reinterpreted pretty much everywhere, and in the iPod docking stations in the very stylish rooms.

Greg and Roche Dry of Egg Design have worked some magic here. They created the interior concept and furniture pieces along with the original architecture by Fulbright scholar, Don Albert, (who designed Durban’s renowned landmark The Millennium Tower, at the entrance to the harbour).

The rooms are laid out in four bays. Each pod of three rooms can be a shared, self-contained space for groups or remain separate.

iol travel march 24 SM Tra Concierge bedroom Bedrooms at The Concierge Boutique Bungalows are comfy and quirky, and suites can be arranged into 'pods'. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Some have huge showers and some have baths, so you should specify your preference. You can expect high-end, custom-designed finishes in the eclectic décor mix, large comfy beds, free wi-fi, flat-screen TV, a minibar and room service.

I loved the humorous quirks, such as the fig leaf strategically placed on the glass shower enclosures and the “Do Not Disturb” door signs. Most of the rooms have inviting verandas which can link up and accommodate quite a gathering. The courtyard has as its focal point a bright red converted storage container that is the Freedom Cafe, with trees and an old brick wall planted with staghorns as a counterpoint. Front-of-house Primrose is a real character and sets the tone.

The food and ambience in the Freedom Cafe are great. Effervescent chef/patron Lucy Markowitz believes in using fresh products and supporting local small suppliers, and recycling is very important too.

Freedom Cafe now offers a takeaway free delivery service within a 5km radius. Previously only open for lunches, Freedom Cafe now serves dinners on Friday and Saturday until 9pm and has added a few more substantial items to the menu.

The chilli chicken roll-up – quarter deboned and rolled chicken basted in peri peri with a choice of asian slaw, buttered kale or hand-cut fries – or the seared rump platter are two meals to go for.

The daytime menu has also been beefed up and includes delicious milkshakes to go with the fabulous burgers. Try malted vanilla or a hazelnut spiked shake flavoured with Frangelica liqueur, or sample the cocktail menu featuring some really different creations.

The veranda furnishings have also been updated so if you haven’t been – or haven’t been recently – I recommend a visit to see why The Concierge is such a hit with tourists – and to find out about the recurring dachshund theme. - Sunday Tribune

l Rates are R1 200 for two persons sharing per night, bed and breakfast. Call 031 309 4453, e-mail info@theconcierge. co.za or visit www.the-concierge.co.za

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