Sea Point is to get a shake-up when the newly renovated The Ritz hotel opens its doors to its first guests on 1 November, and the revolving restaurant and champagne bar at the top of the Ritz open their doors on 15 November. The Ritz hotel and restaurant have become part of the Shimmy Luxury Collection.
Yesterday I donned a hard hat, and was taken on a tour of the 55 year-old building by new GM Clayton Howard, seeing a new swimming pool, a demonstration bedroom, and the almost-completed Bertus Basson @ The Ritz revolving restaurant.
Holding company Shimmy Luxury Collection has been created, with a portfolio of ‘landmark destinations‘, Clayton said. It owns Shimmy Beach Club, The Ritz hotel, and Bloemendal wine estate. The company plans to offer its guests ‘Waves and Wine‘ packages that link all three properties, e.g. wine offered will be Bloemendal, wine tastings at Bloemendal will be offered at no charge to The Ritz guests, etc. Nicky Van Der Walt is CEO of Shimmy Luxury Collection, and he and his wife Lee-Anne Liebenberg are shareholders in The Ritz.
The Ritz was previously operated by African Sky Hotels, and has 212 bedrooms. The new The Ritz will fall under the management of Clayton Howard, who has been the GM of Shimmy Beach Club to date. Clayton will manage all the Shimmy Luxury Collection hotel interests, a further hotel being on the drawing board. The hotel will have five categories of rooms, with prices to match, depending on how high up the room is. Top of the range will be Sky Villas, with two bedrooms each. They also offer one bedroom suites, and three categories of luxury rooms, dropping in price as they are lower down in the building. Each room has the same amenities and fittings. Clayton showed me a completed room on the 12th floor, which has been completed to show tour operators the quality of the room transformation. Clayton told me that their decorator tried various colours to meet their brief to bring the sea into the bedrooms, and a number of rooms was painted in blue, white, black, yellow, etc, and it was the black one which best brought the sea into the room. The walls are covered with a black textured wallpaper, the mirrors are black, the carpet is black, and the wardrobe is black with a gold edge (and red inside). All lift lobbies are black, and the floor outside the lifts, and in the hotel lobby, has marble with gold inlay. The view from the bedrooms is spectacular, facing both Sea Point and Green Point/Mouille Point. Room amenities will be created in-house largely, with grapes from Bloemendal being used to create oils, for example. The first 114 bedrooms open on 1 November, on a B&B basis until the restaurants are completed, with a further 48 bedrooms opening on 1 December, and the balance opening on 1 February. All beds will be replaced, with Eco beds made in Somerset West. Clayton told me that the foundation of a good hotel is luxury beds, the best coffee, and hot and strong-flowing water in the bathrooms.
Innovative service offerings to guests will be free uncapped wifi, the fastest in Cape Town; a champagne ordering button on the room telephones; TV dinners delivered to the bedrooms on a trolley with a microwave, heating up special pre-packed Bertus Basson meals in the rooms. Bedrooms will offer specially-made Bootlegger coffee sachets, with a Roastery on the property. In the hotel lobby iMacs will be available for use by guests. The use of the Business Centre is free of charge. Wireless printing will be offered to guests throughout the hotel. Parking for 318 vehicles will be offered.
Bertus Basson @ The Ritz was the highlight of the site visit, and the building work appears near-complete. Technically it is on the 22 floor, and is the only revolving restaurant in our country. The views over the Cape Town Stadium and Urban Park in Mouille Point, and over Sea Point, are exquisite, and yesterday was a super perfect weather day to see what diners will experience. On the 21st floor visitors to the revolving restaurant will get out of the lifts, and enter South Africa’s first Dom Pérignon Bar, in black and gold, with a smoking and a non-smoking section. It will seat 180 patrons. Riedel glassware will be used, and one will be able to choose the champagne glass shape, a first. Cuban cigars are to be offered in the smoking section. In the Bar one will be able to order Bertus Basson Tapas, for those who cannot afford the set menu in the main restaurant, or could not get a booking in it.
From the Bar one walks up a staircase to the revolving restaurant, which can seat 80 patrons. The restaurant is not yet furnished, but tables and chairs will be black, and panels under the windows will be painted black. I saw the restaurant pass and counter, with the most beautiful and unusual marble exterior. One will be able to see Chef Bertus and his team prepare the food, and plate it, through glass panels. I was shown the prep kitchen too, in which the builders were knocking out spaces for windows, so that the kitchen staff can enjoy the view too. The current restaurant ceiling is to be lowered, and covered in gold leaf!
Clayton told me about the food concept at Bertus Basson @ The Ritz, which is still being finalized with Chef Bertus. There will be a five course set menu, with an Amuse Bouche and petit fours bringing the total number of courses to seven, at the cost of R1000. No a la carte menu option will be available. Food was described as ‘rustic‘, truly South African, with decent-sized portions. Plates and bowls are by ceramicist Diana Ferreira, specially designed with ‘BB’ on top and underneath the plates. They are so innovative that the plates will be offered to patrons to buy after the meal. Glassware is by Riedel. The agreement with Chef Bertus is that he will be at the restaurant every day in the first three months of opening, and thereafter twice a week.
The food and beverage offering does not end at the revolving restaurant. On the first floor will be Cabana, a 320-seater restaurant serving Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, on the basis of a Harvest Table, with such unusual items as waterblommetjies for breakfast! It will have a horseshoe-shape bar. Its decor feel is wood and earthiness, with palms and ferns. The restaurant opens onto a pool deck with 80 seats, at which patrons will be served pizza and sushi, prepared at an outside kitchen. This deck restaurant will be open to non-hotel guests too, as will be the use of the adult-only swimming pool which is being built. Use of the sun loungers and wooden cabanas will be charged for. A very large area a few steps down from the pool area will be designated as a children’s area, with its own children’s pool, and children’s restaurant. They are considering offering crèche services on weekdays, if they can find an operator. In the entrance lobby there will be two counters, one on each side, offering sparkling wine, coffee, and craft beers.
The building exterior can be uplit in different colours at night, and corporate sponsors can have their brand name projected on the building too.
An important part of The Ritz is conferencing, and the renovation of their 17 conference and banqueting venues, seating a total of 820 guests, will be phase two, commencing early next year. The Plaza Conference and Banqueting Centre will re-open in November 2017. A nightclub accommodating 600 persons will be created in the basement, with minimal noise disturbance. It will open in December, and will be open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays, the other evenings being reserved for corporate events. The Sanctuary Group will open a cave-like Spa similar to the one at the Twelve Apostles, with a massive space of 480 m², in November 2017. Switch will open a luxury gym, the first in Cape Town. Selectively they will allow non-hotel guests to become members of the gym. A mall of outlets alongside the hotel will be occupied by food and beverage suppliers, Bootlegger being one of them, roasting their coffee beans from there, and thereby creating a guest experience. An art shop, owned by a well-known Cape Town family, is on the cards. Landscaping to the street side will be minimalist, with water conservation incorporated in the garden design. A square porte cocher will be built at the hotel entrance, with Las Vegas-style lighting.
Clayton told me proudly that they are four days ahead of their building schedule, with 682 builders working in shifts on any one day, 24/7. The architects are Mantis from Johannesburg, who also built Shimmy Beach Club and Bloemendal. The water pipes and electrical cabling are in such a poor state, never having been replaced in the lifetime of the hotel, that they are being replaced. New legal requirements for building construction are being implemented. Windows will be changed to only allow an opening of 15 cm. The Sunday Times has estimated the cost of the hotel make-over at R110 million.
POSTSCRIPT 4/10: I returned to The Ritz, so that Clayton could show me the sections I had not seen, running out of time the previous day. He told me that they want to creat a food and beverage street market in the driveway between the hotel and the mall alongside. He showed me the nightclub, which will have 118 dedicated parking bays, and is located in the basement, to keep the sound to a minimum. It is a massive space of 810 m, and will have a 14 meter bar. There will be a private VIP area, a floating DJ box, an enclosed smoking lounge, and a rectangular dance floor. Next to the nightclub will be the cave-like Spa, with nine treatment rooms, and four pools.
The revolving mechanics and speed was tested last week, and a full revolution takes one hour and two minutes. We spoke about the Roma revolving restaurant in Durban, which appeared to have been closed down . I called the restaurant, and it is operating again. The Ritz has the oldest revolving rstaurant in our country.
We looked at a one-bedroom suite, which will cost R4500 per day. Entry level rooms on the 2nd to 5th floors will cost R1800 on a Bed & Breakfast basis, climbing to R3500 for the 6th – 12th floors. Two bedroom suites cost R9000. The rooms have a black mirror behind the bed, as well as at the desk. Clayton showed me a gold-colored stainless steel spoon on the tea and coffee tray in the room, to match the decor colours of the hotel. Some bedrooms will have above average high beds, so that one can see out of the windows whilst lying in the bed. Footstools will be provided for one to get into and out of the beds.