In the last few months I’ve realised just how many excellent hotels we have in Johannesburg.
One I’d never even heard of until recently is Seven Villa Hotel & Spa, a large oasis in Sandton that’s well hidden behind its own moat! Once you’ve been verified by the gatekeeper, the imposing metal gates draw back and you triumphantly drive in.
The hotel has 61 rooms in a variety of different configurations, so the name is nothing to do with its size. It’s named for the Seven senses it aims to satisfy - sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, movement and balance. A great way to start is with an exploratory stroll around the indigenous gardens to hunt out the lovely sculptures by Anton Smit.
If exercise calls you can try the outdoor pool, and a small gym is open around the clock if you feel the need to hit the treadmill after dinner. There’s a Camelot Spa too, but I didn’t need to go because I was getting enough of a pampering by staying in one of the jacuzzi suites, with a private jacuzzi on my patio.
As the afternoon began to fade a housekeeper came to remove the cover and fill the tub for me, and I sat there in the glorious heat as the sun went down. The only disappointment was that I was staying in the hotel alone, because a sunset jacuzzi really is made for sharing.
Still, freshly buffed and bubbled I strolled through the grounds for a pre-dinner drink in the Poison Ivy Champagne and cigar lounge. My particular style of poison is wine, and I was surprised that they only serve one red and one white choice by the glass. Obviously this hotel is frequented by the kind of people who only order wine by the bottle.
Being easily led, I accepted the recommendation of duty manager Shaun Willemse and ordered an Aviation Cocktail instead. That was a lovely blend of gin, cherry liqueur, lavender syrup and lemon juice, made prettier with a scattering of glitter.
The restaurant was quiet on a midweek night, although a small group of non-residents had booked the table in a private dining area. The menu is nicely compact, and in a toss-up between a lightly crusted chicken supreme or the Norwegian Salmon, I took Shaun’s recommendation again and went with the salmon. It was a beautifully grilled generous portion, served with truffle foam, hearty gratin potatoes and a bowl of Beurre Blanc sauce.
I’d skipped the starters to leave room for dessert, since the welcoming portion of strawberry cheesecake waiting in my room when I checked in hinted that the chef is excellent at dessert. It’s true – my Chocochino dessert that blended a rich brownie with a moussey topping served with ice cream and a chocolate wafer was exquisite.
What surprised me about the restaurant was the choice of background music, with a funky rap vibe going down. They don’t want guests falling asleep over their meals from the typical soporific classical music, Shaun explained. It certainly works. I was nowhere near ready to retire, so I wandered back to the lounge with my book and a glass – not a bottle – of wine.
While hotels favour a rather drab various-shades-of-grey décor these days, the Seven Hotel livens its look up with jazzy blue touches. Like blue leather and velvet chairs in the bedrooms and snazzy blue velvet uniforms for its staff.
Before your visit you're sent a checklist of preferences to ensure your needs will be met. They ask what you want in your mini bar, what your favourite food is, any dietary requirements, and what sort of pillow you prefer.
Out of curiosity I’d chosen a bamboo memory foam pillow to ‘regulate hot and cold for the perfect night’s rest,’ and ‘to cradle your head and neck in a gentle hug for correct alignment of nerves, tendons and muscles.’ That’s a lot to demand of a pillow and in the end I preferred the perfectly lovely pillows that are supplied anyway rather than the brick of a bamboo creation.
Sadly I had to check out in the morning, but not before breakfast. It was a chilly day so I ordered the hot oats served with yoghurt and fruit. The waiter delivered a bowl full of each, and by the time I’d made a dent in those I was too full for the cappuccino muffin I’d also requested. It was far too good to leave, and the waiter encouraged me take it home for later. So I did.
It was a lovely reminder that the chef at Seven really does excel at the sweet stuff.