As a native Johannesburger – the Westcliff Hotel, now the Four Seasons at the Westcliff – has been a comforting rose-coloured landmark my entire life. It has undeniably the best view in the city and, when the Jacarandas are blooming, it is downright magnificent. I have had more high teas and celebratory brunches there than anywhere else. Yet, I always feel the urge like to wear a slightly longer skirt than I would normally or maybe a hat? I guess what I am trying to say is going there feels something like going to visit my grandparents.
Mixed in with its charm and history is a hefty dose of conservativism. I doubt this is how its guests feel when staying in its sumptuous rooms but, as a native, the Westcliff has never felt like somewhere I could go without an invite.
That’s changed, though. The newly-opened Flames is good fun. It is welcoming, modern and approachable. I will come here to drink a beer in the afternoon and watch magnificent winter sunsets. Better yet, I’ll let chef Andy Robertson (previously second-in-command at Marble) make me a cheese fondue. It arrives in a flame-red Le Creuset cauldron with a pile of perfectly toasted croutons and a selection of lovingly prepared vegetables. The revival of fondue made me feel the Westcliff was engaging in some good-natured self-deprecation. In doing so it also made the transformation from old fashioned to vintage.