For accommodation on this, my second trip to Johanesburg, I was spoilt for choice: two nights at the opulent Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa. The hotel is situated in the upscale suburb of Sandton, famous for its shopping centre, art galleries, and residences such as this. Fairlawns boasts 40 highly individualised, world-class suites, a Balinese spa, and an excellent a la carte restaurant (try the Cape Malay bobotie – a traditional curried mince topped with egg custard, served with turmeric and raisin basmati rice, followed by the delectable ‘butterfly dessert’, pictured).
Once the private home of current live-in owners, John and Anna Thacker, the property on which Fairlawns stands was originally bought from the Oppenheimer family and has been retained its stately ambience, dotted with towering trees and peppered with amazing bird-life.
Each suite is individually designed both architecturally and decoratively, with themes ranging from the classical to the contemporary, and every suite has at least one large window that overlooks a particular aspect of the spectacular gardens. Though the usual modern amenities are all here – air-conditioning, in-room bar, Wi-Fi, DVD and flat screen TV – you wouldn’t know you were in a modern hotel. The decor in the classic-inspired rooms is definitively antique-ish and the general ambience of the entire hotel is of old-world palatial abundance. Of a morning, you feel as if you ought to be out playing a game of croquet on its expansive lawns.
It’s no surprise, Fairlawns were nominated for the 2009 World Travel Awards category of Leading Boutique Hotel & Spa, and this was before it opened its Grande Chateau quarter that comprises 20 suites in which the likes of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and other South African luminaries have enjoyed a stay in (they resided here during the World Cup 2010).
Pictured, clockwise from top left: the front garden of Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa; dessert at the inhouse restaurant; an antique-ish suite; fountain detail; garden and lawns.