Tuesday, 03 February 2015 09:57

Welcome to the Four Seasons

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Chef at the Westcliff Four Seasons,Dirk Gieselmann Chef at the Westcliff Four Seasons,Dirk Gieselmann Pictures provided by the Four Seasons

The Four Seasons Hotels, Inc. is a Canadian international luxury, five-star hotel management company with 98 properties, which have been ranked among the top luxury hotels worldwide. The properties are a series of franchises, the latest of which has been granted to South Africa in the form of the Westcliff Four Seasons Johannesburg.

The old style colonialism of The Westcliff has vanished like dew on summer grass and been replaced by a modern, sleek international look that reminds a traveller of Dubai, but with the best sunsets in town.

Only The Polo Bar at Jacaranda Hill remains to remind erstwhile patrons of long lazy afternoons spent at The Polo Lounge or at the infinity pool.

There are compensations, however.  By taking the top pool out, there is an almost 360 degree view of the treetop canopy that spreads from the Zoo through Rosebank to the Parks and the 'Wolds.

There are now two pools: a heated 25-metre (82-foot) outdoor Lap Pool and an outside family pool on one of the terraces.

The revamped hotel opened its doors late last year (2014), along with Flames restaurant, an al freso dining space that serves mostly bistro and braaivleis dishes.

 The food is outstanding, thanks to Chef Dirk Gieselmann and his staff and the service aims to please.

The casually chic guests can feast on steak or ostrich medallions with slivered almonds ("I love ostrich," German born Dirk confesses) or nibble on a host of starters, each more delicious than the last.

The springbok carpaccio with asparagus was one of my favourites, along with a tomato and watermelon chilled soup.

That is just the casual dining. The fine dining section, called View, will be opening in March, says Dirk but was almost completed when I last visited.

With butter yellow chairs and golden orbed lights the restaurant looks clean, upmarket and fresh and will get Jozi's foodies a-buzz.

The focus is on seafood and meats, together with locally sourced produce and premium South African wines.

Dirk arrived at the hotel fresh from a three Michelin-starred establishment in Paris, L’Auberge de l’ill, and his culinary art will challenge some of the town's finest chefs.

TThere are sohisticated outdoor and indoor bars featuring signature cocktails and local craft beer, plus another one to come inside View restaurant and Après-Spa  in a casual setting "on the deck" where the tennis courts used to be, near the spa.

The Cellar Door offers fine dining for up to 20 guests in a private dining room, and the streetside Westcliff Deli is a casual eatery offering gourmet food.

Besides the view and the food the glass elevators are also a talking point. Situated at the side of the restaurant and bar area they take guests up one thrilling storey, with full enjoyment of the magnificent view.

The artwork too is sensational. The gorgeous gift shop has a clever display of ostrich eggs, a range of Avoova jewellery and Schwartz Jewellers' special line plus a Soweto jewellery designer on offer.

Then outside the reception area is Hanneli Coetzee's "Klipkoppe", made of local mining core, which forms the picture of faces, depending on one's angle.

Local artists have been used throughout the hotel and rooms and the art is thought provoking and extraordinary.

The basic skeletal structure of the original building -which was originally intended as townhouses before it became an hotel - remains the same, with 117 guest rooms and suites (including a presidentail and royal suite), courtyards, fountains and gardens. Jacaranda Hill with its paroramic view of the jacarandas of Jozi is unaltered and blue chip events such as the Cartier Panthère Collection have been held there, but the sickly pink of the Westcliff has been replaced with a creamier, more pleasing hue.

In short, the roses have been put back into the hotel's cheeks.

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