Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The most convenient address in Johannesburg - and it is also affordable




Location, location, location. There are few cities where the location of your hotel is more important than Johannesburg, with its massive urban sprawl and clogged main roads. It is a city where you do not want to get lost.

If you are visiting on business you will want to be staying in either Sandton or Randburg, the two business hubs in the northern suburbs that are close to most offices, embassies and up-market shopping malls.

Johannesburg is not a walking city, so you either need a car; or a hotel that is centrally situated, preferably within strolling distance of both shops and eateries.

The plush Michelangelo is probably the best situated hotel, but the only time I stayed there the service was appalling. The Saxon is set in beautiful grounds and has two superb restaurants but is in the 'burbs and a car is a must.

The Radisson, directly across the road from the Sandton Gautrain station (with fast access to downtown and OR Tambo Airport) is a good option, but it is hard to beat the location the Maslow Hotel, just a couple of blocks Nelson Mandela Square and Sandton's best shopping area, and with a shuttle that runs every 15 minutes (most of the time).

It is on the doorstep of the top investment banks, financial institutions, as well as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and is essentially a business hotel during the week and a leisure hotel at the weekend.

It's a little oasis of calm in a frenetic city with beautiful gardens, water features, swimming pool and tranquil terraces - and a hugely popular spot for an after-work beer.

Among the offerings I particularly appreciated were access to a special business lounge with drinks and snacks for early or late arrivals waiting for a room, and the fact the hotel has free and unlimited wi-fi connectivity throughout.

While the Maslow, formerly known as the Southern Sun Grayston, and impressive refurbed, hosts conventions and meetings, it is also a great place to wind down. There is an up-market spa on site, although it pays to book well in advance as I found to my cost. Africology offer a range of massage treatments, facials, skin adoration wraps, scrubs and other therapeutic treatments.

Each room has a a power shower, coffee maker as well as complimentary tea. There are 40-inch LCD TVs and room service is available 24/7. There are 281 fully air-conditioned guestrooms, ranging from luxury rooms and family apartments, to junior and executive suites - and each has  a  work space with easily accessible electrical outlets.

I enjoyed the leisurely Lacuna Bistro, which offers food a cut above your average hotel diner - and it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

Think dishes like prawns with jalapeño ponzu sauce or lemon garlic butter with crispy chorizo (R40 - around $4!) or maybe lamb knuckle curry with basmati rice, poppadums and condiments (R125 - about $12.50). 

Dishes range from traditional South African flavours like Karoo lamb cutlets, spicy peri peri chicken or a chowder of mussels, calamari, kingklip and smoked haddock to more traditional burgers and sandwiches. 

Every dish on the menu is matched to a wine available by the glass, from names including Kanonkop, Haute Cabriere, Jordan and DeWetshof.  

The Lacuna Bar, meanwhile, serves tapas-style dishes.  

Nearby attractions include the Theatre on the Square on the Nelson Mandela Square, which is also home to several excellent eateries, including the Butcher Shop steakhouse and a very good Thai; Liliesleaf Farm,  the secret headquarters of Umkhonto we Sizwe (military wing of the ANC) in the 1960s and those many shopping opportunities. 

All this said, I had a bathroom that flooded, encountered very slow service at check-in and found the shuttle unreliable. Nonetheless, the Maslow has a lot to recommend it. And a hotel of similar quality would cost up to three times as much in a major Australian city.

The Maslow Hotel, 146 Rivonia Road, Sandton, 2146, South Africa. +27 10 226 4600. www.suninternational.com/maslow

The Maslow is part of Sun International's Sunlux Collection, which links world-class hotels in Africa's Golden Triangle, including Cape Town and Victoria Falls, on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border. For full details and bookings visit www.suninternational.com.

South African Airways (SAA) has linked with code share partner Virgin Australia to offer return fares from major Australian airports to Johannesburg starting from $1413 return, including taxes, for advance purchases. Return business class fares including taxes start from $4633. For more information and reservations call 1300 435 972 or see www.flysaa.com.au

      

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