How do I describe Fairlawns? Let me count the ways. Even Shakespeare would have trouble coming up with superlatives to describe the luscious environment which is Fairlawns 5-Star Boutique Hotel in Johannesburg.
From the moment you drive into its leafy courtyard with ivy-draped statues, surrounded by some of Joburg’s oldest trees, you know you are going to be spoiled rotten.
We’re welcomed by hospitality staff member Liezl, who offers cool towels and even cooler drinks on silver platters. A brief walk through the lobby takes us out onto emerald manicured lawns which roll down to an azure pool.
The tented enclosures surrounding the cream linen loungers on the pool deck complete the illusion of almost sheikh-like opulence.
My daughter and I are guests at Fairlawns for two delicious days. We’re shown into one of the superior villa suites, the Gandhi Suite, which is the height of colonial raj chic. Dominating the lounge is a gigantic carved rolled oak desk, with a suspended ornamental bird cage above plush couches and a carved coffee table in front of a flat screen television. French doors open onto a wrought iron balcony suspended above the gardens and pool area.
As the sun begins to set, I quite expect peacocks to stroll across the lawn as the scene is so reminiscent of colonial India.
We skip past two enormous wrought-iron four-poster beds draped with cream muslin and make our way into the bathroom. This marbled affair, big enough for a party, is a room that definitely deserves the name “suite”. There’s also a shower built for two (or three if you prefer) and an unusual feature in most hotels I’ve stayed in, a bidet. After the long drive, I opt for testing the Jacuzzi before anything else.
Soon it’s time for dinner. A colleague joins us in the silver and white Terrace Restaurant. The maitre’d and chef, Keith Frisley, introduce us to the fine-dining à la carte menu. My daughter has the duck with truffles and polenta, and I choose a modest salmon brioche. My colleague has an equally modest kingklip on bruised potatoes. The duck is the hit of the main courses and we move on to dessert. My daughter has cheesecake, I have crème caramel and my colleague has tiramisu. All are exquisitely presented and satisfying. I can’t wait to try another option from this menu the following day.
The next morning, we order room service before we leave for an early start. Delicious crispy bacon and scrambled eggs set us up for the day, all served on solid silver trays, complete with flowers and solid silver cruet sets.
After a busy morning I’m shown to the spa, where I’m greeted by Bianca Harris. Like the hotel itself, the spa is hidden in foliage surrounding the pool area. I’m taken to the wet room where Mpho gives me a full body salt scrub, followed by a coffee and honey wrap. I imagine this is what a koeksister feels like once it’s been dipped into syrup. After being rinsed I’m taken to the sauna to bake for 15 minutes. Then Mpho leads me out towards Fairlawns’ best kept secret.
I feel like I’m walking into a scene from Eat, Pray, Love, the part where Julia Roberts goes to Bali. I’ve been to many spas in my line of work, but Fairlawns’ Balinese Spa Garden is out of this world. It has the authentic feel of a Buddhist temple, with large statues of the deity surrounded by paving stones in the midst of a lush bamboo grove, complete with streams and twittering birds.
Balinese-styled huts cover the massage area, which is right in the middle of the garden. Water dapples through stones while you receive your treatment to the sound of birdsong. Nomti gives me a deep full body massage and I tune out from everything except the birds, the water and the stress-releasing treatment.
Later, Nomti shows me a special couples therapy room, also in Balinese style, which takes sensual togetherness to a spiritual level. The reason the Spa’s Balinese gardens feel so authentic is because they are. Every piece was built entirely from imported Balinese materials, including the stones and roof tiles.
This spa is a not-to-be-missed experience. I cannot describe my sense of complete harmony as I was directed back to my suite. It was the most profoundly relaxing experience I’ve had. I had to make a real effort to pull myself together for our last night’s dinner.
A friend joined us for the meal, which we decided to have outside on the terrace under the moon. My daughter opted for more traditional comfort food, the Fairlawns Burger, which she gave two thumbs up. My friend had a range of starters, including prawns and calamari. I decided to be brave and try truffles for the first time, served with seared chicken.
I’m pleased to say that my dish was one of the most delicious meals I’ve eaten. My friend also raved about his seafood. We sought out Frisley to tell him that we’d been blown away by his cuisine.
It’s a pleasure to write about it now as I’m able to relive the exceptional experience.
How do I love Fairlawns? Let me count the ways.
Contact the hotel for the Fairlawns Essence of Summer Package until May 31, valued at R3 900 per couple per night, (R1 950 per person sharing), includes dinner, bed and breakfast and spa treatment.