Stepping over the threshold one exchanges the rumble of traffic for utter quiet and something almost indefinable – an aura of stateliness pervades this piece of heritage that has patiently endured Joburg’s ever-changing scenery.
Constructed in the 1930s, the building the Monarch Hotel now occupies operated for many years as the Saxonwold post office, its classic façade a refined contrast to the contemporary architecture surrounding it.
It exists in a time capsule of sorts, whisking us away into another era down the long, high-ceilinged passages to our suite.
It is hard to imagine what it must have been like when this was a busy post office but it must have involved leather-soled shoes floating down passages accompanied by the murmur of voices long gone.
Whereas so many hotels choose to adorn their walls with what I term “Mac-art”, this is not the case at the Monarch. Original prints and intensely decorative ceramic creations abound, offering constant reasons to pause and admire. Truly unusual items can be found, like the very Germanic hat stand in the smoking lounge, carved in the shape a tree, complete with mama bear and two baby bears.
The anachronistic creative within me leapt for joy at the blending of old and new, hallways with a floral motif down a long passage, matched with subtly-patterned rugs, brass finishes and ornamental light fittings.
Every room is suffused with that sense of privacy and quiet. Despite whatever activity occurred outside, we felt instantly at ease and pampered to within an inch of our lives, whether it be relaxing on the bed to taking a breather before dinner or indulging in a shower.
Really indulge. Not only was I blessed with a super-sized shower head from above but four nozzles from the sides. As much as the Victorian tub beckoned, the shower won hands down. Heaven.
Dinner in the restaurant was a study in à la carte dining. My partner enjoyed seared salmon while I opted for a melt-in-the-mouth artichoke dish complemented by a Warwick Chardonnay.
It was almost a sin that we couldn’t retire straight to our room afterward, since we’d promised friends we’d meet them for drinks.
A word on the hotel’s location: it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from Rosebank Mall, so we took a short walk to the shopping centre for a chilled-out nightcap, although I must admit the establishments there seem overly keen to close their doors quite early on weekends.
It’s the second time now we’ve been chased out before 11pm. And Joburgers like to call Cape Town Slaapstad?
Goodbyes to old friends said, we chose a DVD from the Monarch’s collection to watch on the plasma screen in our suite. The hotel may not have oodles of titles but the selection gained our approval in seconds and, with a copy of Black Cat, White Cat in hand, we slipped into our room, content that we were cocooned from the world outside, safe in the embrace of an elegant hideaway. The Mantis Group’s Monarch Hotel offers elegance and discreet luxury that is worth experiencing, even just once in your life. But, be warned, you may well be tempted to return for a second or third taste.
For reservations, call 041 407 1000, e-mail email@example.com or see www.mantiscollection.com.
(First published in the Sunday Independent Life section, December 5, 2010.)