How does one summarise Cape Town’s newest trendy hotspot that is a 32 bedroom Hotel, a rooftop bar with a resident mixologist, and a restaurant with Chef Guy Bennett at the helm, located in an area in which such an offering is not expected, that is simply gorgeous? The Gorgeous George Hotel, and with it the GiGi Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, will bring the Cape Town city centre alive again, an area that has not seen any innovation in quite a while.
The Gorgeous George Hotel is owned by German Tobi Alter, a 33 year old property developer who fell in love with the two Cape Town city heritage buildings. It became a three year project that was planned for a different use, moulding two adjacent buildings into one, one of them having been a bank, evident from its majestic staircase. While its location on St George’s Mall is a surprise, its entrance is low key yet majestic, and boards nearby are the only visible branding to lure you into the building should one stumble upon them and not have heard about this hot new entertainment destination. The Hotel is positioned as a neighborhood place to meet friends and colleagues, in a downtown location.
I had seen that Chef Guy had moved from Grande Provence to this new unknown Hotel, and had received a media release about its Rooftop Bar, to which I was invited. As I am about to leave on a long overseas trip, I requested that this visit take place sooner rather than later. Yesterday, I and two friends, one working close by, and another a food Instagrammer from Paris, had lunch at GiGi Rooftop, able to see and experience the hotel, restaurant, and bar.
We arrived separately, and as I walked into the entrance, I was welcomed by the doormat saying ‘Hello Gorgeous’, echoed by Brand Developer Kara Furter, a cute line used by the receptionist and any staff member answering the phones. Immediately one sees how different this hotel is, with tiled murals designed by Lucy de Moyencourt in the reception, her work of 1800 handpainted tiles seen throughout the hotel and restaurant, creating a blue Delft-like design echoing the early Dutch heritage of our city. Here we met Acting GM and Hotel Consultant Roland Bühler too, whom I had met two years ago.
I was taken to the 6 th floor, its GiGi Rooftop, and met up with my friends in the pool area outside, walking through the open plan lounge and indoor restaurant/bar area, to the outside restaurant/lounge deck, which has a raised deck at the pool, with loungers for hotel guests. While the pool is small, it is funky, with a section at its one end that has a floral wall mural. The deck is intended for ‘Boozy Brunches’ on Sundays, Kara said, with a DJ.
Florals dominate design in the Hotel section, on the second, third, fourth and fifth floors, particularly in the passage carpets, loud and bold, yet pretty. Yet when one steps into a bedroom, the design is muted in colour, in neutral tones to which some blue, a touch of rose pink, and a hint of red is added, to reflect the Atlantic Seaboard sunsets. Some bedrooms have an unfinished concrete look. Each room has a Drink and Snack trolley deigned by Douglas & Co, with fresh ice added during turn down, and drinks available from Room Service and the GiGi Rooftop Bar 24 hours a day. The rooms have a Smeg kettle, blue Delft-like Maxwell Williams cups and saucers, leather tissue box covers by Wolf & Maiden, desks and bathroom basin stands by Gregory Jenkin, Marshall Bluetooth Speakers, and GhD hairdryers, all working together to create an elegant bedroom space with more of an industrial feel to the black and white bathrooms. The rooms offer DStv as well as Netflix. Current room prices are R5800 for a four-sleeper, inclusive of Breakfast.
The lounge on the Rooftop is warm and feels friendly and homely, with interesting art work reflecting in a glass ceiling. It is intended not only for the hotel guests but also as the ‘living room for the neighbourhood’. The Bar flows from this area on the one side of the Rooftop space, and the restaurant space on the other. Each of the restaurant tables has a top with the tiny blue Delft-like tiles created by Lucy, depicting the history of Cape Town, cleverly blending the heritage of our city with current Cape Town. At the end of the restaurant space, just as one is about to go outside, there is a design wow, a Spider lamp over a traditional long wood table with modern day riempies chairs. Opposite it, is a section with colored glass panes, behind which is the kitchen in which Chef Guy and his team operates. A popcorn machine is visible, to make the afternoon snack, as well as a dry ager, in which Chef Guy will be hanging the meats for the steak offering. Lord of this Rooftop area is Danie Botha, whom I had met briefly at the Alphen Hotel earlier this year, supported by Chef Guy and Mixologist Jody Rahme.
The GiGi Rooftop can seat 80 patrons.
Chef Guy was the Executive Chef of Grande Provence, having moved there after the Revolving Restaurant of Bertus Basson at the Ritz in Sea Point fell apart. Previous stints have included Delaire Graff, Buitenverwachting, and the One&Only.
Chef Guy wanted me to try the dinner menu, but I requested a lunchtime visit, because of the better quality photographs. He switched to serving the Dinner Menu at lunch the day prior to our visit, and will serve the former light lunch menu between 15h00 and 18h00. The A4 menu is printed on a cream recycled board, in a red type. It requests information about dietary requirements, and specifies that they only use sustainable SASSI green-listed fish, and free-range chicken and eggs. The menu even shows which dishes are Chef Guy’s favourites.
A bread plate is charged at R55, and offers Woodstock Bakery ciabatta, with chermoula, butter, a herb pesto, and anchovy aioli. We whet our palates with a Saldanha oyster each, served with slices of lemon and a Mignonette sauce, priced at R85 for three. A small oyster fork would be a recommendation.
We settled on ordering lighter dishes, choosing Prime Steak Tartare, served with a potato and nut fritter, cured egg yolk, caper berries, and a delicious house-made mayonnaise, with two pieces of bread sticks (R130). The seasoning was perfect, approved by my Parisian friend, who had selected this dish. Potato and squid is one of the chef’s signature dishes, Danie told us, so we ordered it too, with charred squid, a rémoulade sauce, Beef fat sautéed potato pieces, and chorizo slices, an interesting combination. (R95). Our third choice was a healthy ‘Not a Caesar salad’, with no chicken, white anchovy (kindly served on the side for me), a Caesar dressing, dried tomato, and shavings of Dalewood Boland Cheese.(R120). All three of us shared the dishes, my other friend particularly loving the squid and chorizo dish, and I the salad in particular.
Other Small Plate options are Saldanha Bay mussels in a white wine and cream sauce (R125); Broccoli, Feta, sweet potato fondant, kale, and a savory sweet granola ((R75); spicy lamb ribs served with a mielie (a nice local touch in Name and in ingredient), a spicy barbecue sauce made by the chef team, and a pickled cucumber relish (R85); Mac and 3 Cheeses, created with blue cheese, cheddar, and Parmesan, as well as truffle (R70); and a roasted butternut soup with chicken, lemongrass, as well as coconut foam. (Not priced on the menu). Other Salads are Burrata and Jerusalem artichoke (R120), Korean fried chicken (R120), and Beet Slaai (another nice local touch) , sounding delicious with goat cheese, and walnut granola added. (R100)
The dishes in which the ‘small plates’ and salad were served were sourced locally from Mervyn Gers and internationally from Revol. Cutlery is by Sola, and GiGi Rooftop branded gauze napkins are offered. We were looked after by Tatenda (Shona for Thank you), and we had to remind him of some things like water and cutlery that we had requested.
Large plates are main course equivalents, and include a cauliflower risotto (R150); grilled line fish (silverfish yesterday) at R180; beer-battered hake and chips (R130); Beef Burger with mature cheddar cheese and onions three ways (R130); a mushroom burger with grilled halloumi (R110), and a Clubhouse ‘sarmie’ (R110). In the kitchen they have a top quality Josper oven and an indoor Braai, preparing Oak Valley steaks over kameeldoring wood coals, served with hand-cut chips. Sirloin costs R220 for 250g, ribeye R240 for 250g, and ostrich fillet R260 for 220g. Beef flat rib costs R190.
The Light Meal Menu has some of the Full Menu items, including the fish and chips, the Clubhouse Sarmie, Mushroom Burger, and some salads. Some Bar snacks, including churros, are available too.
My Parisian friend and I were the only ones to try out the desserts, intending to share them, not realising how large they were. We were undecided about ordering the GiGi Churros (R60), my absolute favorite, which were sugar-dusted, and served with a chocolate and vanilla dipping sauce and made with choux pastry Chef Guy explained, or the Steamed ‘hot n cold guava’ offered with a cinnamon crumble and thyme meringue shards, creating not only a tasty but a pretty dish too. So we decided to order both these desserts. But we also wanted to try the unusual marshmallow ice cream and cucumber sorbet (charged at R30 per scoop), the sorbet being dark green in colour and refreshing, whilst we did not quite get the marshmallow in the ice cream, my friend finding it more bubblegum in taste. It was at this stage that Chef Guy came to sit with us for a few minutes, apologising for not having come to see us earlier due to a busy kitchen. He recommended a nighttime visit too, and we saw that the baskets on the deck cleverly hid the lighting.
Other dessert options are a Milk and honey crème with honeycomb and a yoghurt and honey gelato and granadilla (R85), a chocolate fondant made with 70% Afrikoa and served with a citrus and berry salad (R100), and a South African fromage plate with local independent cheeses, accompanied by preserves, grapes, nad ‘crispies’. (R140). Other ice cream options were mixed nut, and chocolate brownie, while other sorbet options were mixed berry and lime.
Jody Rahme moved to Cape Town to take on the head position as in-house Mixologist at the Gifi Rooftop, and could easily have been a Cape Town surfer with his long hair and trendy style. In Johannesburg he was the Manager of Sin + Tax Bar. He has been a finalist in a number of international bartending competitions. His Barman Zoë Roffey also sports longer hair, keeping it out of his face with a baseball cap. He wore a floral apron, and created a cool Strawberry Water drink, and later two cocktails with Brooklyn Gin.
Jody has been with the Hotel for seven months, having been in cocktails for three years. Classic cocktails are served from 13h00, and Signature ones from 15h00. He and his bar staff make syrups for the cocktails, even using sous vide techniques. A Signature cocktail is called ‘George of the jungle’, and we were shown the vessel in which it is served, showing a grumpy George on the outside but a happy chappy inside. It is made with bourbon, gin, strawberry, ginger, and pineapple beer. Carrot me Away is another signature cocktail, with roasted carrot juice, mango cordial beer vermouth, and premier Bourbon. Isiqhingi is a rum drink made with tropical vermouth, passionfruit chardonnay, peach cider, caramelised lime juice, and orange lavender bitters. Pennywise is bourbon shaken with fresh espresso, Woodchip Campari, vanilla-infused herbal liqueur, and topped with marshmallow foam …. wow!
Near us we saw an interesting looking young man, with long hair too, so I asked if I could photograph him. It turned out that he was giving a Masterclass on Brooklyn Gin, the brand having flown Damon out from Oklahoma to lead the class, being their global ambassador. I was surprised but delighted when the representative of the local distributor Truman & Orange came up to me and presented me with a bottle of the gin, with Botanicals of juniper and freshly cut citrus peel.
It is not a surprise that Gorgeous George has been accepted into the international Design Hotels collection of 300 hotels as the first Cape Town Hotel. We loved every minute we spent over three hours at the stylishly designed hotel created by interior designer Tristan du Plessis, which celebrates contemporary African design and showcases locally manufactured high-end timeless South African furniture. Other suppliers not mentioned above are Dokter and Misses, and David Krynauw, David Brits hand painted murals on the walls in the lift lobby, and in each bedroom, as well as at the pool. Jana & Koos developed the brand identity. On our way out, Roland showed us the White Room on the first floor, which will become an Events venue when completed.
We were very grateful for the vast amount of information I was given, and for being spoilt so generously. There are small service issues to be corrected, but overall it was perfection itself, in every aspect of the Gorgeous George. It’s Gorgeous….!
Gorgeous George and GiGi Rooftop, 118 St George’s Mall, Cape Town. Tel 0878 98 6000. www.gorgeousgeorge.co.zavInstagram: @GorgeousGeorgeCPT
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein