It’s a chilly day when I check into the Capital, but the heated outdoor lap pool is too enticing to ignore. For a wimp like me the temperature is bracing but just about do-able, so I swim a few lengths and keep pausing to look out over the rooftops and a section of the leafy green Mushroom Park, seeing a very different side of Sandton to the usual tower blocks and traffic jams.
Then comes my favourite part, when I cut through the gym and head straight to the steam room to bask in the delicious heat. For me, a big attraction of any hotel is a pool warm enough use and a sauna or steam room - and a gym, if I’m staying for a while. Here there’s all of that, and if you want to stretch your legs outside you can reach Mushroom Park via the car park.
The Capital was designed to serve both as a hotel and as a permanent home, and more than 100 of its 450 rooms and self-catering apartments are either privately owned or rented on long leases. My 1-bedroom suite certainly had enough wardrobe space to move in permanently. The open-plan lounge and kitchen has an area where you can work, big squishy leather settees, and a balcony with a view over the pool and the park. There was a welcome pack of fruit and biltong too, in case you get the nibbles.
The kitchen area has a fridge, freezer, microwave, hob and utensils, because people who stay for a few days apparently like to cook for themselves sometimes. You can also grab something from the 24/7 deli on the ground floor, or if you order room service, no tray charge is added to the cost.
The colour scheme throughout the Capital is grey and concrete, which is never my favourite look, but a few splashes of colour make it all look softer than it sounds. What made me laugh was the cheeky irreverence in the guest notices dotted around the place – like a picture on a marijuana leaf on the cleverly worded ‘no smoking’ signs. I love posh places that don’t take themselves too seriously!
Another nice touch is converting the conference centre into a kids’ play area every weekend, with activities like table tennis, drawing and putt-putt, which makes it perfect for families fancying a weekend break where the kids are safely supervised.
After a lovely hot bath I wandered downstairs for dinner in the restaurant, which was sadly quiet on a midweek evening. It’s open to non-residents too, who can come for breakfast, lunch and dinner or just have a drink at the bar, with sliding glass doors opening onto a patio by the pool on warm days and balmy evenings.
The food prices aren’t astronomical, given that this is a 5-star hotel in Sandton, with the Durban lamb curry with rice costing R260. That’s one of the most popular choices, the restaurant supervisor Edwin Magambanga told me when he stopped at my table to make sure everything was going well.
The service was excellent, and I enjoyed some entertaining chats with Edwin when he popped past a couple more times to make sure I wasn’t lonely. I wasn’t lonely at all, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable as a single woman dining alone here.
Edwin told me he joined the Capital group as a waiter and is progressing through the ranks thanks to its in-house training scheme that all staff members are expected to go through. He even showed me a list of available courses, including Microsoft Word, a workshop on the Protection of Personal Information, food and beverage training and executive lessons in leadership. He’d worked for a different hotel group for three years as a waiter before this, he said, and there they’d shown no interest in his career progression.
Our chat stopped when dessert arrived - a cheesecake combo stacking a fridge and a baked version together, which made a light and refreshing finish. My wine was still going strong though, though, so I took my glass to the lounge area and curled up with a book, before retiring to my king-sized bed and discovering how fabulous the black-out curtains are.
When I woke in the morning I could hear the sound of ducks, rather than traffic, in this unexpected oasis in the city.
* The Capital On The Park is at 101 Katherine Street, Sandton. A standard room for single or double occupancy costs from R1,230.
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