Let’s start by saying Jo’burg hospitality doesn’t score a patch on CT hospitality.
With that said, the best thing about the 4 Star hotel was the early morning departure before breakfast after our second night. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t 4-star like it said on their website.
It started like this. A friend (well she used to be a good friend, until she…) recommended we stay at the St. Andrews Hotel next time we visited Jo’burg. She had a wonderful stay and it sounded much nicer than our regular hotel we use in Jo’burg, so we followed her advice and booked. She also told us to call a few days before we arrived and request one of the newly renovated rooms, so my wife did just that. That was where the fun began, and we should have seen the writing on the wall, because that was about as fun as it got.
The hotel has 4 stars. Having stayed for 2 nights, I wonder what planet those stars fell from. Certainly not this one.
My wife did as our friend suggested – she called ahead and requested a newly renovated room, and asked for a room not on the ground floor, and not by the pool, and one with a balcony.
“All our rooms are renovated,” came the receptionist’s reply after several attempts to extract the details of the rooms we were advised to request, but to no avail. “But make sure we’re not on the ground floor, we want to be up, and nowhere near the pool,” my wife asked before hanging up and looking at me with that same look you get from the guy who just placed all his chips on number 32 at the roulette wheel and the croupier spins the ball.
Our room wasn’t on the ground floor. It was one level down. And it was one of only two rooms right on the pool. In fact we were so close to the pool that on day 2 when we returned to our room exhausted and just wanting to sit on our balcony and order a drink, we had to vacate our room and seek refuge in the bar because there was a couple doing drinks and feely feely on deck chairs literally on our balcony balustrades. In fact if I’d have stepped out onto my balcony me and the couple on hormones would have become an instant threesome. I didn’t have the energy.
It didn’t end with the room allocation. The facilities may once have been wonderful enough to engender more than two stars, but they’ve slipped into disrepair since their glory days, whenever those might have been. When we quizzed the manager about how often the graders come a-grading, he said they were there just two weeks ago, and he either confessed to having different classes of rooms, or just nodded and agreed because he didn’t hear or understand the question. When you show the graders the one 4-star room in the establishment you get to keep your stars, even if the other rooms are many levels of hell beneath minimum standards. I shudder at the credibility of the so-called authority. Bathroom fittings have worn to the extent that exposed chipboard is a holiday magnet for all manner of bacteria. Towels are threadbare. Pillows are hard. The aircon sounds like a three year old trying to breathe through a head cold in the face of the Cape South Easter. The room is right next to the restaurant so any chance of peace evaporates the minute service starts at 6:30am until the last dinner guest stumbles to their room after 10pm, and it’s right on the pool so if that one woman with the voice has to field a phone call from home to tell the person on the other end of the line which button to press to open the garage gate and where to find whatever, you’re gonna hear every word. Or god forbid someone wants to do early morning laps in the pool, you’ll be able to count every stroke and help them measure lap time.
For me, one big killer was the WiFi. It works in the restaurant, but climb down 5 stairs and nothing works in the bedroom. Neither does the TV unless you like SABC 1 through three, and every second channel looks like the aliens are trying to make contact.
Then breakfast, oh my word! It must have been our waitress’ first day of her first job. After the poor experience we’d had up to that point, she was not the person to send into the arena with Annie and me. Poor thing. Firstly we had to search for a table that was made up, or not full of the last person’s breakfast remains. When we asked her what was for breakfast she recited three options, and not very well at that, so we asked to see a menu whereupon we saw many more options. The waitress brought our coffee while we were deliberating over the menu, and left the milk she’d spilled on the table for us to clean up. The vegetarian breakfast option looked to be the most appetizing so we ordered 2 of those. “Medium poached eggs, rustic potato wedges, grilled tomato, toasted bruschetta, wilted spinach, pink onion leaves, tender stem broccoli, chilli concasse”. What actually arrived I’d be embarrassed feeding to my dogs. It has to feature as one of the worst hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had in my life. Bruschetta was a half a slice of barely toasted white bread. Rustic potato wedges were raw roast potatoes. Grilled tomato hadn’t even seen the face of a grill. The Chili concasse had gone in search of a better establishment, and the broccoli tender stem were just bits of broccoli without the tender. The wilted spinach had wilted so much it had evaporated completely from the plate and was nowhere to be seen. And the medium poached eggs were runny and raw. I mean, how hard is it to set a timer for 3 minutes and 40 seconds? I took one bite and deferred breakfast to Paul’s at the Neighbourhood where they don’t boast any stars but deliver 5 every time.
Don’t get me wrong – It wasn’t a total dump – the room looked nice, it felt spacious, but the more I looked around the more cracks I saw. If they hadn’t boasted 4 stars on their website, we’d have laughed about a lot of what we experienced, but with 4 stars, they have standards to keep.
Of course we lodged our complaint with the manager, who was very good about listening to everything we had to say. I’m sure he’d heard it all before, how could he not have. To ease our inconvenience, he gave us dinner on the house at the hotel restaurant, a gesture I accepted with a huge degree of reluctance since our first experience with the restaurant would have left a bitter taste in my mouth if I’d have had that second bite. But seeing as reviewing restaurants is what I do, we went to Trent’s, the hotel restaurant for dinner after having a drink overlooking the lake while the feely feely couple finished feeling their way outside our room. The wine list at the hotel is Excelsior in all flavours. I had a glass of Chardonnay with sundowners where we were given a magnificent display of peacock feathers by the resident fowl, and I took a glass of sauv Blanc into the restaurant to have with dinner.
My wife ordered prawns – “6 medium sized prawns with shoestring fries” it said on the menu. I ordered the lamb shank. The lamb shank was not available. I ordered prawns. We were the only ones in the restaurant. After a long wait, 6 miniature prawns arrived, accompanied by McCains out of the bag standard issue fries. We asked for some Peri-peri sauce. Not available, even in a bottle. They could give us some sliced chili. Fine. Thank heavens for the fries because the prawns were barely a starter. I ordered a glass of cab sav when we ordered another plate of prawns in the hopes that it would make it feel like a real dinner. My wine arrived. It was white. I told the waiter, “This doesn’t look like a cab sav to me”. He said it was. I said, “Really? This is a cab sav?” He said yes. I told him I asked for the cab sav. He told me this was the cab sav. I told him I knew a little bit about wine and this was definitely not a cab sav because a cab sav is red. Believe it or not, there were still a few more rounds of me arguing with incompetence before he removed the white cab sav and brought me a red one.
We passed on dessert – I shudder to think how much worse it could possibly get – and went back to the room to fill up on crackers and almond butter where thankfully the feely feely couple had finally taken their explorations elsewhere.
If you’re going to rely of an accepted quality standard to get business, you have to deliver on that promise. Don’t boast a level of quality if you can’t deliver.
Avoid the St Andrews hotel and Spa. Try as they may, they don’t deliver.