There are few hotels that have a world-class contemporary art museum attached. Probably just one, in fact. And how many have 54 triangular panes in each window, their shape inspired by grain kernels? Not to mention hotels that boast an outlook over Cape Town and Table Mountain, one of the Cape’s best views.
Where else in the world is there a hotel with an interior with art so interesting that it’s like chilling in a contemporary gallery? Not to mention a place that’s also full of bold colours, eclectic decorative mixes and in a building that was once 42 grain silos?
Just the one hotel, I’ll wager.
Welcome to the unique 5-star Silo Hotel. It’s in an erstwhile (1924) grain store with industrial-feel exterior, windows that glow like lanterns in the night over the harbour plus train tracks (formerly used to deliver grain) leading up to the lobby. The hotel’s façade and interiors were remodelled by whizzo British architect Thomas Heatherwick; and the interiors are the stylish creation of Liz Biden, co-owner with her husband, Phil.
The hotel is situated above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), Africa’s leading contemporary arts museum – industrial spaces nearby have been turned into upmarket, contemporary apartments, restaurants and cool shops – and next door there’s another funky new hotel with a pillar-box red van parked beside its rooftop pool. The Silo is also a five-minute amble to the V&A Waterfront for the continent’s largest indoor African crafts market, and just a few steps from the Robben Island ferry.
So, to the hotel lobby. Bold artworks (such as Mohau Modisakeng’s Ditaola series) from Liz’s collection hang in the ground-floor entrance lobby with its soaring double-volume ceiling, contemporary chandelier and original grain hoppers. From here, we whizz up to the reception on the sixth floor – where the hotel starts – and the hotel’s Granary Café, with its eye-popping landscape of the waterfront on one side and Table Mountain to the other, seen through the building’s huge ‘pillowed’ (“bug-eyed,” in my daughter’s words) windows.
The Silo Hotel is the perfect place in which to stay on a holiday to savour the gourmet delights of Cape Town. The Cape, you see, is not just a place of exceptional natural beauty but also a foodie destination and a wine mecca.
The city’s culinary and drinks scene is booming. There are tons of modish bars (cocktail bars in alternative coffee shops to a secret gin bar accessed through a chocolate café and festive local pubs). There are also groovy restaurants plus some fine and upmarket dining, including many international brands such as Nobu: restaurants offering flipping fresh fish and original farm-to-fork dishes – from ostrich and lobster burgers to French-ified menus with more courses than I can count.
An eatery you must visit for the sheer fun of it is the Pot Luck Club on the 6th floor rooftop of a onetime biscuit factory in Woodstock (the cool, industrial-turned-artisan’s area of Cape Town). It’s a recent venture of local chef-hero Luke Dale-Roberts. It’s here that we enjoy factory chic décor and a fusion, sharing menu (the foods divided into salty, sweet, umami and sour) in a very buzzy, casual eatery. Be sure to order the Doenjang glazed tuna with kimchi and tofu puree (salty) and crispy calamari (sweet) with tamarind and date chutney. It’s innovative cuisine in an edgy space.
At the other end of the scale, there’s the fancy Myoga restaurant in the lush gardens (complete with 11 tortoises and over 100 vines) of that Cape Town institution, The Vineyard Hotel. Go here for its contemporary fusion menu of six-courses (the dishes are small) with wine pairings.
It hits the spot with its mixture of colours, textures and tastes and ask chef Mike Bassett how the foods relate to the classical elements of earth, water, fire, air and aether. Then try the braaied (barbecued) springbok (earth) and the tuna tartare (water). You can go to the hotel library afterwards for a brandy or hang out in its lounge watching TV sports: it’s a bit like staying at someone’s grand country home, except it’s in the leafy suburbs.
Another smarty-pants restaurant (although it has a second menu with home-style cooking, such as mushroom stroganoff) is Azure, at the 12 Apostles – reached around the coast and near a dozen peaks of Table Mountain. It’s perched stunningly above the Atlantic – people flock here to Insta the sunset, and ladies in leopard-skin dresses, teeny skirts and on vertiginous heels hang out in its bar.
Go for this glorious seaside restaurant’s 5-course Journey Through the Western Cape tasting menu with dishes such as Joostenberg duck and Rooibos smoked ostrich. Or splash out on positively one of the world’s best platters of fruits de mer: succulent langoustine, mussels to Saldhana Bay oysters. There’s something so relaxing about the sea air, generously portioned food, solicitous, old-fashioned service and waiters who rush to re-fold your napkin whilst you’re in (what is surely called) the ‘powder room’ that you won’t want to leave.
If, like us, you also want casual and memorable nose-to-tail dining (with a menu that changes daily), in a restaurant with café tables and concrete floor, hot-foot it to La Tête (in Bree Street). Surely few but the hardiest vegan-types could resist chef patron Giles Edwards’ devilled chicken hearts or sweetbreads with peas and bacon. And as for his made-to-order madeleines that are delivered still-warm: mwah.
And, last but not least, there’s The Silo’s own Granary Café – with its lime chairs and chequer board floor – for contemporary dining, tip-top city views and a cappuccino with froth ‘design’ that could be entered for the Turner prize. Breakfast here is the meal of choice: after the freshly squeezed juice trolley, the ‘Harvest Table’ is trundled over – a charcuterie platter, several local cheeses, elegantly sliced tropical fruits, yoghurt and the nuttiest of granolas – accompanied by a pastry basket.
It’s time then just to gaze through those huge, bulging windows with geometrically patterned ironwork. Or simply ogle at the hotel’s mixture of South African professional clientele alongside its arty, moneyed international travellers.
So, what else about The Silo Hotel? Rather like the gawp-worthy neighbouring museum – with its 27-metre high atrium – above which the hotel perches, the Silo Hotel feels unlike any other in Africa. It has 28 rooms and suites – each bedroom individually decorated, and there’s one ooh-ah one-bed penthouse – each with 5.5m floor-to-ceiling windows. It also boasts a weeny library, meeting rooms, a spa and the Willaston Bar.
The hotel’s done up with lashings of dash, cash, theatricality and colour: that’s magpie collector and decorator Liz’s idiosyncratic and punchy style. There’s a mix of furniture, much of it made to her specifications, including button-down chesterfields covered in velvets and silks and French antiques to painted Chinoiserie, Asian, Indian and African tribal pieces. Super-sized beds. Plus delightfully groaning chandeliers, ‘antique’ Persian carpets and bespoke headboards, each upholstered with a different exotic fabric. Tables are dotted with art books and tribal artefacts.
On the walls are African artworks by emerging and established artists. Around the hotel, there are 300 paintings (all for sale) including commissioned pieces by Frances Goodman, Jody Paulsen, and Pierre Carl Vermeulen. And each gorgeously busy room is pleasingly offset by Heatherwick’s pared-down, industrial concrete architectural style.
The real stars of the show, though, (aside from the staff who offer a really personalised service), are the bathrooms. These boast the best views in the city. With Smythson-blue cabinetry and bold black-and-white striped floors, each has a standalone bathtub in front of the massive pillowed, panoramic windows, (that are multi-faceted and glisten like diamonds), giving you views of the city whilst you soak in lavender bath salts.
Many floors below, the passers-by, security men, boats, cars and shipyard workers become captivating little toy people going about their business. And it’s all set against the cinematic backdrop of the mountain’s ever-changing cloudscape. That’s just what it’s like having a bath there.
But then, come to think of it, there’s also the hotel’s rooftop swimming pool with its glass-sides, illuminated water – that’s seemingly billowing clouds of blue and pink in a clever light show – and its 360-degree views of the city. It’s hard to decide which offers the more alluring water and cityscape experience in one of the world’s unique hotels. So I’ll say both.
The Silo Hotel, Silo Square, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town 8801, South Africa.
Tel: +27 (0)21 671 5502
The hotel is located in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront with views of Table Mountain.
Type of Hotel: Luxury 5-Star Hotel
Number of Rooms: There 28 rooms and suites made up of 6 different room categories with rates starting from R13,500 (circa £154) per room per night.
Price Band: High
Insider Tip: If ever you have to move from The Silo (which would be ill-advised) book the rest of your Cape tour in the other Royal Portfolio hotels: La Residence in Franschhoek for the winelands, Royal Malewane and Africa House in the Greater Kruger National Park for safari and Birkenhead House for seaside at Hermanus.
Fact Box: The Silo Hotel sets a new standard for luxury Cape Town accommodation. A magical hotel towering above the V&A Waterfront surrounded by the natural wonder of South Africa’s Mother City.
The Silo Hotel is a celebration of art, style, architecture and design. A tribute to timeless glamour and contemporary luxury offering the highest levels of personalised service synonymous with The Royal Portfolio. For more information on the city, please visit the Cape Town Tourism website: www.capetown.travel
If you need to hire a car to get around whilst on your travels, then it’s worth visiting the Holiday Autos website: www.holidayautos.com
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist based in London.
Photographs courtesy of The Silo Hotel