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2 weeks ago

Cape Grace: Freshly Renovated, Still Cape Town’s Charm Shines

Debuting a new look (and new management), Cape Grace remains a fixture on Cape Town's Waterfront.

By Luke Abrahams

While my South African heritage might have me a little biased, I have no shame in saying that Cape Town is an absolutely amazing place. It’s got soul, swagger, spunk…but perhaps the most wondrous thing about the place is its no-frills attitude towards a colorful lifestyle – and every shade of it.

Vibrancy is what the African continent is all about. It’s emotive, passionate, curious, introspective and quite literally every adjective in between. From top to bottom, this ginormous land mass – one I have always affectionately dubbed as ‘the lungs of the Earth’ – gives anyone and everyone a fine lesson in how to have a good time and enjoy the fruits and wonders life presents.

The freshly renovated and newly reopened Cape Grace hotel is no exception.

[See also: A Long Weekend in Cape Town]

Stay

Cape Grace lobby interior
Following an extensive renovation, The Cape Grace has reopened with a sharp and refreshed design / ©The Cape Grace

If you are a first-timer to the city, most locals will tell you there is perhaps no better place to stay than on the marina. There’s good reason, too. Location-wise, you’d be stumped to find a better spot. The Cape Grace is slap bang in the middle of the marina on a private quay on the edge of the famed V&A Waterfront, surrounded by shops, bars, restaurants, museums, the newbie Time Out Market and, of course, the city’s towering icon, the forever moody Table Mountain.

Then there’s the hotel’s rather exquisite backstory. The Cape Grace has been a fixture in this part of the world for the best part of 30 years and as a result has cemented its place as one of the city’s finest abodes to plant your tush in. A-List stars from the worlds of celebrity and politics (cue the Clintons) have rested their weary heads here in between the chaos of their schedules. Over the years, the hotel amassed loyal devotees, who, since it first swung opened its doors, have been transfixed by its eclectic colorful style, colonial architecture and portraiture.

[See also: The 9 Best Restaurants in Cape Town]

Cape Grace lobby interior design
Interior and architecture firm 15o8 London worked on the hotel’s design / ©The Cape Grace

Alas, time was not kind, and over the years, despite the character, a few cracks started to show, and it was time for a nip-tuck. Enter Accor. Once the big suits acquired the hotel, it was quickly reimagined as a Fairmont-managed modern palace in which (quite literally) nothing escaped a sledgehammer.

In place of all the fineries, dripping chandeliers and all the former fuddy-duddy, over-the-topness is a fresh, new and (dare I say it) clinical interpretation of the space that now features the addition of a fully kitted out wellness space – also “a lot more windows,” so the long-time staff tell me.

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Clean lines and marbles reign supreme in virtually every corner with polished floors and glossy light fixtures that offer an extra dose of bling, thanks to interior and architecture firm 15o8 London.

Business and family types will love it; grand dame whizzes and peak maximalists will hate it. But while the cookie-cutter look of the chain hotel might put some folk off, what the hotel does well is jazzy art. Handpicked local artwork has been chosen from an impeccable network of creatives that shines a light on all sorts of contemporary African issues, from body politics to history, prosperity, hope, nature and fantastical urban projects.

Standouts include Paul Edmunds’ two bronze caracals found in the cushy cabinet of curiosities that is the library. And Galia Gluckman’s Sunrise and Sunset (commissioned especially for the newly renovated Cape Grace) crown the reception space, and both simply stun. It’s also worth spending a few hours flicking through the vintage National Geographics littered about the place, not just for a throwback trip down memory lane but also to indulge in the sweet bookish stench of print literature.

interior bedroom suite Cape Grace
Many of the 121 rooms overlook the marina / ©The Cape Grace

The 121 rooms are just as light, breezy and airy as the rest of the hotel. My double apartment suite on the third floor donned two beds, two bathrooms, a vast lounge, kitted out in modern totems, art, and flashy light fixtures, plus a colossal balcony that has exceptional views of the marina and Table Mountain.

Design touches came in the form of vivid rugs, books (Mandela’s memoir as per standard) Cape plants and a minibar stashed with all sorts of goods. It’s modern luxe living, and on the grandest of scales, too.

Dine

The hotel’s restaurant, Heirloom / ©The Cape Grace

Acclaimed chef Gregory Czarnecki rustles up the grub at the hotel’s restaurant, Heirloom. The French-born Czarnecki’s culinary pedigree shines most in the restaurant’s tasting menus, where dishes like lobster Dugléré and quail egg with onion soubise wow. Beyond the fancy, the basics also shine.

I was obsessed with both the bread and smoked butter, alongside the fantastic service where staff actively encouraged you to try their personal favorites: local hake, South Coast rock lobster, tender three-way cooked chicken, Karoo wagyu beef, to name a few.

The Bascule Bar / ©The Cape Grace

Breakfast, also served here, rustles up the classics, including what one chef dubbed “the world’s best omelet”. Granola, fresh fruit, and all the other usual suspects make up the supporting roles, too. If you like booze, check into the Bascule Bar to savor 400 types of whisky.

[See also: Lepogo Lodges: Luxury Safari Meets Conservation in South Africa]

Explore

The beauty of staying here is that you are virtually in the middle of it all. The Waterfront is on your doorstep, as are kayaking tours of the bay and a rendezvous to the historical Robben Island. The concierge team here can virtually do anything.

Rough seas cut short my planned adventure on the water, and thanks to Aidan and his team, it was not long before I was whizzing around the mountain and the Cape of Good Hope on a chopper. The moral of the story? When tasked with a problem, they solve it, and well.

Fairmont Harbour View Rooms start from $950 per night. Rates for the signature Cape Grace Suite start from $10,000 per night

fairmont/cape-grace

[See also: The Most Immersive Safari Suites in the World]

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