My Uber driver was not happy. We had spent more than 30 minutes driving in circles trying to find the entrance to Gorgeous George, a new boutique hotel in Cape Town where I was planning to spend my last night in the city. We finally worked out that the hotel entrance was positioned on a pedestrian-only stretch of St George’s Mall, a beautiful, tree-lined street in the city centre that was bustling with vendors selling everything from African bracelets to biltong. This did mean I had to cart my motley crew of non-wheeled luggage a considerable distance, but what an entrance.
Gorgeous George consists of two restored historic buildings – one Edwardian, one art deco, the latter offering soaring original brass doors (where help with the aforementioned cumbersome baggage was happily on hand) leading into an atmospheric, intimate lobby. I was instantly struck by the installation of 1,800 handpainted Delft-inspired tiles depicting a map of Cape Town. It is the work, I learnt, of local artist-cum-architect-cum-set designer Lucie de Moyencourt – one of the South African artisans in a team led by interior designer Tristan du Plessis to have decorated the hip 32-room property, which also turns up furniture by increasingly international Johannesburg-based company Dokter and Misses and abstract murals by Capetonian artist David Brits in the bedrooms.
I wish I’d had more than one night in my room (from R2,200 a night, about £117), which was tastefully appointed in what I’d call a “warm industrial” style – cool but still cosy – with original panelled windows offering views of the historical buildings lining the mall. Unlike other rooms I’d encountered on my African travels, this one worked on every level – from the king-sized bed and heavy curtains that blacked out the light, to a shower with excellent water pressure and even a pair of ear plugs strategically placed on the nightstand (necessary, as street vendors set up stalls early).
In the evening I retired to the rooftop, where the poolside restaurant was bustling with a seemingly mostly local crowd. I chatted with Jody Rahme, a Johannesburg native who created the hotel’s cocktail menu – his Green Elixir (about £5) mix of gin, celery juice, green chartreuse and a dash of sauvignon blanc was both boozy and delicious. He even enlightened me on the secret coconut-washed Campari technique used in his El Pulque (about £4.80) creation – something I will most certainly be trying out this summer to remind me of this superlative stopover.