It really is a very small world…
When Anna and I were on the flight over to Istanbul I was telling her more about my upcoming trip to South Africa with great excitement. After a few minutes the gentleman in the row next to us said, ‘I couldn’t help but overhear’ and passed me his business card…
He was George Cohen, the general manager of The Saxon, the hotel where we planned to stay in Johannesburg.
‘What a coincidence…I’m staying there!!’
And if that wasn’t coincidental enough we ran into him again when we were having coffee in the Four Seasons, Bosphorus Hotel in Istanbul.
‘I’ve told them to upgrade you to VIP status’ he said with a wink. Ooooh what could that mean? Maybe a bottle of champagne? Some chocolates in the room? But I never quite expected this:
After a ten hour flight to Johannesburg Mr S and I walked off the plane and we were immediately greeted by representatives from The Saxon, they whipped us rapidly through customs, grabbed our bags for us and led us into an air conditioned Mercedes which conveyed us the half an hour journey to The Saxon. It was still early, only 11am, but we were quickly checked in and only had an hour to wait for our room. The hour whizzed by as we were given complimentary coffee and had the opportunity to admire the sweeping foyer with its double grand staircases and dramatic chandelier.
And the comfortable lounge area decorated in muted beige tones with vibrant yellow flowers.
Outside is a gorgeous terrace looking on to an awesome infinity pool and reaching out to landscaped gardens populated with original works of art and statues.
There’s also a small secluded heated swimming pool next to a pretty Koi pond.
When our room was ready we were led up there and though, a little tired I was pleased not to be experiencing the usual jet lag after a ten hour flight.
It’s hard to describe quite how amazing our room was. First the bed…
Look at that four poster bed in all its wonderous glory!! I don’t think I’ve ever included so many photos of a bed but it was truly gorgeous! And that wasn’t even the start of it! There was an epic bathroom…
And full size Molten Brown products.
The room was so big that it had its own foyer!
As if the bedroom wasn’t big enough, there was also an adjacent living area. As you can see the suite was kitted out in fine Africa decor with traditional statues and animal skin rugs.
And of course it was a room with a view.
The Saxon also has huge historical significance as it’s where Nelson Mandela resided for six months after he was released from prison and he where worked on his autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom.
Indeed, much of the hotel’s artwork and literature pays homage to the famous resident. Other well-known names have also stayed such as Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Morgan Freeman and Charlise Theron. Many of these guests are also featured in the original artwork that lines the walls I also spotted Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith among the famous faces.
Lunch would be a Qunu, the hotels more casual dining restaurant named after small rural village in South Africa’s Eastern Cape where Nelson Mandela grew up.
The menu showcases some of South Africa’s freshest fish and finest meat and we really enjoyed Vietnamese spring rolls and hand cut beef tartare for starters.
My main course of rare tuna with Asian vegetables was beautifully cooked but there was a little too much cloying sauce.
Mr S tried out a meat dish that was new to both of us. Kudu, is an antelope found in Eastern and Southern Africa and is said to be the best tasting game meat in the world. It was a delicious lean meat and cooked beautifully rare, served with crisp fries and vegetables.
After lunch a storm began to rage outside and, not quite caught up on sleep we went to nestle in the pillows of that gorgeous bed!
We would be having dinner in the hotel’s other restaurant, five hundred.
The restaurant frequently appears in top ten lists of the best restaurants owing to the fantastic food of executive chef David Higgs.
The restaurants itself has a chic, all-black, sexy-stylish but relaxed interior with a bustling open kitchen at the back. It’s also very small, seating only around 30 people, meaning it felt incredibly special and exclusive.
And the waiter didn’t underestimate just how much bread I can eat 😉
The choice is a six course tasting menu or four course a la carte, after having more than we’d expected for lunch we modestly went for four courses.
Everything at five hundred is pure artistry, and I started off with ‘prawn and corn’, a dish of cucumber, corn custard and prawn scales.
Mr S’s starter was impala tartare (another variety of African antelope) served with egg yolk, pea and oil.
I really enjoyed my trout with a terrain of marinated octopus for the second course but it was Mr S’s chicken served with carrot mayonnaise, pistachio, tarragon and sultana that really stole the show. The dish was presented like a beautiful garden on a plate and I can just imagine Peter Rabbit nipping in to steal those carrots. Actually all these gorgeous vegetables are picked from The Saxon’s own garden, so they certainly are as fresh as can be!
My main course was seabass served with a beautifully creamy curd of squash and Mr S had a artfully plated lamb loin. After our main courses we had a lovely surprise, the chef walked around the restaurant tables and spoke to us and the other diners. It was a true highlight of the night and the whole experience felt very interactive and personal.
The garden theme continued with this gorgeous palate cleanser and two beautiful desserts…
One beautiful white chocolate with lavender and grapefruit sorbet and one yogurt and meringue flavoured with campari and raspberry. Do forgive my lack of long descriptions, by now tiredness and wine had rather got the better of me!
And finally a sweet treat of Turkish delight served on top of gold glitter. Though I threatened to create glitter eyeshadow, Mr S reminded me that we were in a fancy restaurant and I should behave. When we got back to the room, sweets had been left on our pillow and the whole room had been turned down beautifully.
The next day the weather had greatly improved with no sign of yesterday’s thunder storm.
Breakfast is served in Qunu with the choice of a hot a la carte menu or a cold buffet.
I have a ‘thing’ for a beautifully presented buffet and artful croissant…and this one was totally gorgeous and not ravaged by lots of people before us. After a delicious breakfast and a final walk around the beautiful grounds of The Saxon it was time to say good bye to Johannesburg and catch our flight to Cape Town.
A big thank you to the wonderful staff at The Saxon, and particularly to George, who sadly wasn’t there while we were staying. But how amazing that serendipity put us in the same place, not once but twice!
36 Saxon Road