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Labotessa leads the way

Labotessa leads the way

BY SHARON SOROUR-MORRIS
23 August 2019

When experienced hotelier Johan du Plessis and his business partner, Jan Fourie, set about conceptualising the Labotessa lifestyle hotel brand, uppermost on their minds was creating a luxurious home-away-from-home, rooted in history and culture, for discerning travellers. With the opening of the first Labotessa hotel in the Central City this month, it is clear they have accomplished their goal

There is nothing ordinary about Labotessa. Nestled in a corner of Church Square, the beautiful circa 1700s heritage building with its neat, pleasing façade and duck-egg blue hues, announces itself with pride. This is, after all, one of South Africa’s oldest buildings. On entering the hotel, I climb the handsome antique balustrade to the inviting mezzanine level with its mix of old and new. Waiting to meet me is urbane, cosmopolitan co-owner, Johan du Plessis. “Let me show you around,” he offers. First stop is a perfect cappuccino at the hotel’s restaurant-café, Starlings.

How did you come to establish a lifestyle hotel in a landmark property on an historic square in the heart of the Cape Town Central City?

The property was acquired a number of years ago by my business partner and childhood friend, Jan Fourie. We loved the setting on this square – it is very European - and the fact that this truly special building is steeped in history. We had to wait a number of years for the approval process by Heritage Western Cape, but here we are today, opening our hotel!

This is your first hotel. What is your background?

Both Jan and I are based overseas but we grew up in the Free State. Jan qualified as a medical doctor and I as a hotelier. We are both well-travelled and understand quality – sophistication is in our blood – and service: we both come from very hospitable families.

What is your idea of the perfect hotel?

I have extensive experience in opening lifestyle hotels. It is all about giving guests the perfect experience, about meeting the needs of discerning, modern travellers. We wanted to create a welcoming refuge, a home-away-from-home, for guests who appreciate luxury, a good meal and a sense of place. Generally, people often find big, grand hotels intimidating; when you arrive, there are a number of people with titles such as "doorman", "porter", "reception", "concierge" etc. telling you what to do. There are also a lot of rules. Here, we have an intimate establishment that is warm and relaxed, with exceptional quality and attention to detail.

How did you renovate the property?

We demolished the interior of the building and set about creating only six luxury Signature 65 square-metre suites and a voluminous 300 square-metre penthouse, the Governor’s Suite. We could have fitted in more rooms, but for us, it was important for the suites – which each have private elevator access – to be spacious and exude a sense of calm. In this day and age, space is a luxury and very calming. Our guests can enjoy their room, and enjoy Cape Town from their room, too. The in-house restaurant, Starlings, which is a much-loved Cape Town southern suburbs institution known for its legendary breakfasts, is open from 07h00 to 16h00, and offers room service, too. In summer, its tables will spill out on to the square. We do not have another public space for guests. There is no pool or cocktail lounge. But travellers familiar with inner-city living won’t expect that. We do have a boutique, but unlike most hotels that have clothing, souvenirs or jewellery on sale, we have a dedicated parfumerie boutique carrying prestige brands such as Diptyque, Dr Vranjas, and Comme des Garçons. We have blended sophisticated luxury with modern travel trends.

So, I have arrived in my suite, and am taking in the elegant décor, understated furniture and furnishings, and extraordinary views of Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. What other pleasures await me?

We are a five-star establishment, so the rooms are equipped with modern, up-to-date amenities. And the penthouse has it all. Everything is inclusive. We refer to our mini-bar as our lifestyle bar: there are no rules. When you arrive, you will find complimentary snacks in the fridge, such as cheese and charcuterie, if you are peckish and don’t want to go out immediately. Labotessa is also one of only 11 hotels worldwide that carries the exclusive Diptyque amenity range in all its rooms. It complements the Labotessa perfectly.

It seems comfort and convenience are key, with every luxury amenity at guests’ fingertips.

Yes, we have focused on creating on old-world elegance with all the mod-cons of contemporary hotel living.

The interiors are plush and sumptuous, with deep blue hues and other jewel colours, but retain an understated sophistication. What was your vision?

We came up with the look and feel of the interiors ourselves. Most of the suites have the same primary colours. I love blue, I find it very calming! It’s more important to me how my guests feel than the design elements of a room. We played with the interiors so that they talk to the building - its style, elegance, heritage and position - but we ensured they are also very practical and very comfortable. Most of the fittings and furniture are imported (except the mattresses): we’ve used Calacatta marble throughout, Cole and Sons wallpaper, carefully curated accessories, contemporary bespoke artwork created by Cape Town artists Pierre Fouche and Emma Aspeling …

There is a huge “wow” factor here, especially in the palatial Governor’s suite. It is a special space.

It must be one of the largest penthouses in Cape Town! It spans two floors and has three bedrooms and a private plunge pool … there is also a fully equipped kitchen, a 10-seater dining room table and two lounge areas. The huge expanding doors invite the outside in in the most spectacular way. It really is our crowning glory.

Labotessa. It’s an interesting name.

Yes, we conjured it up over a glass of wine!

Boutique hotels have certainly become a modern hotel trend and are in demand throughout the world. Is this the start of a Labotessa hotel group?

Yes … as soon as this property is up and running smoothly we will be focusing on other developments. Europe is already in the pipeline. Watch this space!

IMAGES: Scott Arendse (CCID Online Coordinator); Supplied

Tags: Labotessa hotel Church Square lifestyle hotel Starlings luxury hotel brand Diptyque