The Taj sits grandly in the former headquarters of the South African Reserve Bank and provides the professional and luxurious hospitality that one would expect from this brand. Its location right in the heart of historic Cape Town is a mixed bag, though--while it's interesting by day, at night guests are advised to take taxis or drive even short distances for safety reasons, which can feel a bit claustrophobic. The hotel itself remains an enticing proposition, though, with a lovely spa, fantastic restaurants and a mix of Indian and colonial elegance. The hotel is particularly favored by Indian tour groups and business travelers, as well as the usual set of international visitors.
From the eighth floor and higher you'll enjoy great views of Table Mountain and the city.
Rooms are large, with gold, orange and brown notes and a cozy, opulent feel, with dark wood, classic stylings, and all of the expected amenities.
Rooms have windows onto the bathrooms, which is unusual and welcome. Otherwise bathrooms too are reasonably sized, in gold and beige, and all come with a bath and a shower.
The lobby area has dramatic high ceilings and lashings of historic flair, with tiled floors, marble columns and all the heritage pomp and ceremony. The reception desk is to your left as you enter, and staffed by generally competent personnel. But the real wow factor is directly in front of you - this hasn't passed the hotel by, as the lobby bar and lounge sit on either side of the lofty entrance atrium, which is partly bathed in candle light at night.
YOU SHOULD KNOW We've heard a few complaints recently about disinterested service at the Taj - we had better luck, but if you are looking to feel like royalty, reports like this might put you off.
The hotel pool is on the second floor and large enough to swim laps, but not blessed with exceptional views or ambience otherwise.
The Jiva Spa is a different story: candelit and lovely, it has seven treatment rooms, a jacuzzi and sauna, and feels instantly relaxing.
There's a fitness center, too.
The Bombay Brasserie in the hotel is absolutely fantastic: an opulent wood-panelled room with chandeliers, it brings a similar level of refinement to Indian cuisine, and the results are delicious. The tasting menus are a great way into some new flavors. Mint Restaurant and Terrace (where they used to mint coins!) is a more fresh, light and contemporary all-day affair, both in the food and the ambience. Breakfast is served here too.
The lobby lounge and bar are grown-up, elegant spaces for afternoon tea or drinks later in the day, with a definite feel of colonial India. There's a cigar lounge in the corner, and some smoking rooms, too. Otherwise Twankey's Bar is an informal pub-like bar with high ceilings and its own mixologist that's just outside the hotel. There are also wine tastings held in the hotel.
The hotel is well-located for the city center of Cape Town--but arguably, unless you are on business, that's not the main draw in this beachside, mountain-flanked city.
Staff recommend La Parada (2-minute drive, 6-minute walk) for tapas, and the cool Italian Bocca (5-minute walk, 2-minute drive), both on Bree Street, the downtown's nightlife hub.
For bars, Open Wine (5-minute walk, 2-minute drive) has more than 100 wines by the glass, or Clarke's Bar and Dining Room (4-minute walk, 2-minute drive) got the nod from the staff for being fun, safe, and popular with a local crowd.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Indian style in an African capital may feel a bit weird at first, but at the Taj it's done so well that it's hard not to like. Plus the rooms are spacious, some with views, the restaurant is stellar, and the historic building is properly atmospheric.