I love to travel, but I am also a firm believer that as South Africans we should support South African tourism; and, that people living in Johannesburg, Gauteng, should support local tourism in our city and province. I love the idea of being a tourist in my own city as I explore the cultural diversity of Johannesburg – not to mention the hidden gems for foodies.
When Faircity Hotels invited to me to review some of their hotels in Johannesburg and Pretoria, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I had been to the Faircity Quatermain hotel a couple of times, so the opportunity to preview their other properties on my blog and radio show was too good to be true.
Unfortunately, my schedule got the better of me, so three months later we were still discussing dates until I blocked off two weeks in my diary and asked Faircity Hotel to compile an itinerary and make all the necessary reservations. Within 48 hours they had compiled a five-day staycation travel plan for me – complete with names, dates, and times – and a few suggestions of what unique attractions they thought I would enjoy at each hotel. All I had to do was pack my bag for five days, five nights, and five star experiences.
Our first check-in was at the Faircity Hotel Mapungubwe in the heart of Johannesburg. The Johannesburg CBD has an unfortunate history; although not entirely undeserved, for being neglected and a hot-spot for crime, but the City of Johannesburg has gone to great lengths to restore the CBD to its former glory. Faircity Hotel Mapungubwe holds pride of place between immaculate buildings, the freshly swept streets boasted numerous trees lining the pavements, and their is not a spot of litter or a billboard to be seen. The building was originally an international bank that has been restored with contemporary African finishes while retaining some of the original fixtures. (Tip: You need to have a cocktail or two in The Vault!).
We were hosted in The Rhino Room, a gorgeous penthouse suite, complete with a lounge, dining room, fully equipped kitchen, guest toilet, and a patio overlooking the Johannesburg CBD skyline. It’s a generous sized lounge and dining room area, so that you could entertain eight or ten people comfortably for the evening.
Considering all the urban renewal in the CBD, regardless if you are travelling for business or pleasure, there’s an urban energy at Faircity Hotel Mapungubwe that will appeal to anyone travelling to Johannesburg. There are also so many interesting cultural and food destinations that one can explore: Neighbourgoods Market and 1Fox – The Sheds for street food, Joburg Theatre and Market Theatre (for theatre, obviously), not to mention the art galleries, museums, and nightclubs.
Faircity Hotel Mapungubwe is very reasonably priced – for the cost of two taxi rides, two adults could check into a Studio Apartment, or the Penthouse Suite for about R2,000.
Their hospitality is phenomenal. I just happened to mention that I was starving because when we checked in, I hadn’t eaten the whole day as I’d basically just been drinking coffee and water. So they sent me a generous fruit platter with a bottle of champagne of MCC – which we couldn’t drink straight away, but trust me it had a very short life expectancy while we were there.
Dining facilities are provided by The Marshall, a tenant restaurant owned by Cape Town based coffee brand, Bootleggers, who opened the restaurant as a special project. The Marshall has also retained some of the original bank’s layout; I love the decor that combines retro, cosmopolitan glamour with the funkiness of a downtown gastropub. It’s like very chic and funky, like a diner with a few luxurious finishes. I think it’s worth a trip to The Marshall just to enjoy a great dining experience in the CBD.
We couldn’t decide between starters, and I really wanted to take as many pictures as possible, so I had Tempura Prawns with a Miso Mayonnaise, which was a generous portion of prawns coated in decidedly crispy batter, while my husband ordered the Calamari with a Lemon & Lime Mayonnaise. Interestingly, I found the Miso Mayonnaise too salty for my palate, but it did develop in complexity with a subtle paprika undertone, yet my husband loved it. I, on the other hand, loved his Lemon & Lime Mayonnaise, so we happily swopped dipping sauces.
The lemon & lime mayonnaise just hit all the spots for me so I made a point of introducing myself to Chef Deon Anderson, who happily shared his recipe with me. I have often tried to create a lemon mayonnaise dipping, with unimpressive results, but Chef Deon advised me that it was the limes that gave the sauce the flavour that I was after, and the lemons amped up the acidity. It truly is a match made in heaven. The limes also add a touch of sweetness to create a radiant flavour profile that complements fish perfectly.
We also ordered a third starter of Jalapeno Poppers to share. They were easily the hottest Jalapeno Poppers I’ve ever had, but were tempered with a generous filling of three different cheeses to temper the heat, and deep-fried in a crispy batter. Jalapeno Poppers are a culinary curiosity for me because I don’t enjoy spicy foods, but I do that textual contrast between the melted cheese, crispy batter, and the texture of the deep-fried pepper.
For mains, my husband ordered the prawns and chips while I opted for the rack of lamb. The rack of lamb, and I don’t want to oversell it like a fine-dining experience, but it was the best lamb that I’ve ever had. It was charred and caramelized on the outside, but then when you cut through the meat it was deliciously pink on the inside – and I know how my radio listeners know how squeamish I get about blood on my plate, but the lamb was so well rested it was a beautiful vibrant shade of pink in the middle, with a slightly charred and caramelized crust on the outside. It was just a marriage of the best of both worlds, and I think that when I return to The Marshall, I’ll order it medium rare. Really delicious.
Portions are generous – and ordering a third starter really nipped my appetite, so I could barely steal a chip and a prawn off my husband’s plate, but he said they rivaled the best prawns he’s every had. That was sufficient praise for me.
I was never going to manage dessert, but I really wanted to try their Swiss Carrot Cake and the Chocolate Mousse Cake, I we ordered those as takeaways for a later. The Swiss carrot cake was more luxurious than the traditional carrot cake as it had a lot more nuts and they used mascarpone cream instead of cream cheese. The chocolate mousse cake was a decadent treat that made the perfect midnight snack.
I really wanted to pop downstairs to The Vault to enjoy a cocktail. I don’t know how much we had to drink that night, but it was quite substantial and I was feeling a bit guilty, but weren’t driving, and The Vault was waiting downstairs. We bolted downstairs to grab a cocktail each in in the name of journalistic integrity, and so that we could photograph them. I ordered a very zesty Mojito (my favourite), a very colourful Cosmopolitan with a kick to match, while my husband opted for a whiskey and sours.
The Vault is an interesting space with the original safety deposit boxes, metallic finished, and dramatic chandeliers, that create an underground New York cocktail experience. A great spot to drop in before going out for the evening, or a nightcap to round-off a great evening.
Visit Faircity Hotel Mapungubwe.