You can’t really call it a hidden gem. Most Joburgers will know the Westcliff well as that fancy venue easily spotted off the right hand side of the M1 just before the Jan Smuts offramp.
Since its grand opening in 1997, this five star landmark has been one of the city’s most upmarket urban getaways, with a unique positioning up the side of a steep hill in an affluent neighbourhood which goes by the same name. The hotel’s drawcard, besides its lavish fixtures and particularly hospitable guest services, is the rare view it offers of Johannesburg’s typically flat landscape.
Closed in 2012 and reopened late in 2014 after a thorough revamp of facilities under new ownership of the Canadian-based Four Seasons group, the resort now goes by the proper name “Four Seasons Hotel the Westcliff” - though its simpler and more historic title “The Westcliff" is generally accepted.
Pull in through the front gate up to the hotel’s reception area, and there’s an illusion that this is a quaint little place. Almost boutique. But don’t be fooled. The hotel covers eight acres, on which nine separate blocks with a total of 117 rooms cascade like a waterfall of buildings down the hillside.
Nearly every room, and I toured a number of them during my stay, features an outdoor terrace perfect for taking in the Gauteng panorama.
The Joburg zoo is also a literal stone’s throw away, and on Sunday morning my wakeup call comprised a mix of booming taxi stereo systems and outdoor churchgoers’ hymns emanating from Zoo Lake’s lawns. A possible irritation for local guests, but an authentic African experience for foreign visitors.
The Westcliff’s recent makeover was extensive, and whichever contractor was responsible for the elaborate marble tiling must be commended. The attention to detail in each suite’s bathroom is on par with the best hotels in the world, as are the quality fittings, fixtures and furnishings. Special mention must be made of the bedding and mattresses, which are of one standard across all of the Four Seasons 100 plus hotels worldwide. Rarely have I experienced such a cushy bed and comfortable sleep, and I’ve experienced many. American billionaire Oprah Winfrey, I’m told, shares my opinion and owns Four Seasons-spec pillow-top beds at each of her six palatial residences.
If the Westcliff’s views are its drawcard, the restaurants come a close second place. No irony then that the showpiece dining venue is named “The View”. Accessed only by elevator, The View restaurant boasts culinary delights prepared by newly-appointed chef Farrel Hirsch to be enjoyed inside a tastefully renovated interior or, weather permitting, outside on an elegant balcony. Tagged onto this flagship bistro is a recently opened Preview restaurant, intended as a sort of tapas bar for lighter, but still gourmet quality morsels.
The Four Seasons revamp included an all-new spa open to hotel guests or day visitors, featuring nine private treatment rooms, and a small infinity lap pool. Just alongside the spa is a 24 hour gym.
Room rates vary depending on season and demand but expect to pay around R3500 for an entry-level “Superior Room”. Prices go up from there with variety of different sized suites, and if budget allows (ahem, Oprah) the big daddy Presidential Suite and its four adjacent bedrooms in the “Golden Jubilee Residence” can be yours for around R65 000 a night.
For more information, see the www.fourseasons.com/johannesburg/ website or call 0114816000.