The visual drama is compelling. As you walk into this flamboyant property your eyes are drawn to a breathtaking view of Table Mountain framed in a three-storey picture window. Then a tremendous sense of space across the tall, wide lobby and lounge area becomes apparent, the main feature being a circular cocktail bar oozing glamour right in front of that window.
One&Only Cape Town is a big, bold resort, the type you might expect to find on an exclusive beach enclave (as all five existing One&Only resorts are), only in this case the development is in the midst of a city.
This ultra-luxurious haven opened a year ago. It was an eye-wateringly expensive project, rumoured to have cost the equivalent of £90m. The creator was Sol Kerzner, a man who famously doesn't do things by halves. His opening parties are particularly remarkable: Mariah Carey sang to Nelson Mandela at this one.
Kerzner was born in Johannesburg. The gambling and leisure industry magnate made a fortune during the Apartheid era with Sun City, a brash casino resort that opened in 1979 in the "homeland" of Bophuthatswana, near Pretoria. Some years later he moved away from South Africa. Among other interests, he developed the One&Only brand of sophisticated, no-expenses-spared resorts in the Bahamas, Mauritius, the Maldives and more. One&Only Cape Town is his first big venture back in South Africa for 16 years and his first urban luxury resort.
The aim here is to offer exclusivity to well-heeled travellers while also drawing Cape Town's in-crowd to the main facilities. It has resulted in a carefully orchestrated layout and two top-level culinary acts. The hotel complex is set over a series of canals containing two man-made islands. One of them, complete with chic infinity pool, is the preserve of resident guests only.
Conversely, Cape Town society is very welcome in the main building and particularly at its two celebrity restaurants. On the right of the huge lobby-lounge is a Nobu restaurant, also occupying an enormous space, with an upper-level sake bar, lower-level sushi bar and big dining area – buzzing on the night I was there. On the other side of the lobby is Gordon Ramsay's Maze. You enter this restaurant through a magnificent three-floor wine loft and find yourself in another large area, with a show kitchen across one side. Maze also provides the hotel's room service and its breakfasts – the morning buffet an amazingly long epicurean spread.
The hotel was finished several months early, opening in April last year with a glittering party. But given South Africa's winter season (May to September) and the recession, it was no more than half-full over the first few months. All the better, said the positive staff, to fine-tune things ahead of the summer and in anticipation of the World Cup. Yet at present, the hotel is fully booked only during the semi-finals of the tournament.
The hotel is right on the V&A Waterfront, South Africa's most popular tourist venue. Within a three-minute walk of the One&Only complex, you are among the busy shops, bars and restaurants of this redeveloped docklands district. The historic centre of Cape Town, with its museums and craft stalls at Green Market Square, is a couple of kilometres to the south. The new World Cup stadium at Green Point, where England meet Algeria on 18 June, is only a four-minute drive west.
All 131 rooms are generously large. My standard "Marina Rise" room was at least 60 square metres. State-of-the-art fittings ranged from a Nespresso machine to an iPod docking station, complimentary Wi-Fi and a Bose sound system. Furnishings in African shades of orange and brown were pleasant but the overall effect was disappointingly conservative for such a cutting-edge hotel. However, the big bathroom had flair, with a stand-alone tub, Perspex basins and clever lighting.
The really exclusive accommodation offers all this and more and is on the guest-only island. The 40 rooms and suites here are set in lush tranquillity, with balconies or terraces.
All rooms have 24-hour butlers, with services ranging from pillow choices to an aromatherapy menu when they turn down your bed. The staff were a big plus point – charmingly enthusiastic while maintaining a formal yet genuinely helpful friendliness.
One&Only Cape Town, Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, South Africa (00 27 21 431 5888; oneandonly resorts.com)
Double rooms start at R6,900 (£560), including breakfast.Reuse content