This is a difficult visit to pigeon-hole. The Pepper Club calls itself "luxury 5 star hotel and spa" and, on check-in, there's certainly an experience of some opulence. I'd actually call the reception area, with the auto-play piano, more "boutique hotel", but the check-in process felt welcoming to me. The desk clerk went into a long soliloque around all the facilities the hotel had to offer - far to much for me to take in. However, the overall impression was that there was much to do here.
The auto-play piano: I've never heard one play so many wrong notes
The lifts: Royksopp playing 24/7 to a video that's a semi-erotic story of a young couple in love checking in, then experiencing the hotel. Oh, by the way, after floor 16, there's only one of the two lifts you can use, and the programming on them doesn't always prioritise. I was pleased to be on the 14th floor, so I could use either.
The room my company had booked was actually a one-bedroom apartment. Very generous in room sizes and appointments, with two 42 inch plasmas, one in the bedroom and one in the lounge. Both the lounge and bedroom had Table Mountain views and a great wraparound balcony was nice to stand on (no furniture) when the wind was low.
Moments after checking in, a waiter brought up a bottle of complimentary wine and tray of nibbles. I'll keep the wine until my girlfriend joins me here, and the nibbles weren't to my taste, so I left those. No-one has cleared them away (this is now day 10), though I've noticed that each day, fewer of the nibbles remain. Someone is eating them (I wonder who?)
And here we have the first indication that "luxury 5 star" is more of an aspiration than fact. The details, always the details.
In my room, I found it impossible to turn off the hall and living room lights. I found the master switches (one by the door and one by the living room TV) but neither worked. Nor did the air conditioning, meaning that the fantastic wraparound picture windows onto the balcony created a glass hot box mid-afternoon that made the whole suite impossible to use.
And then there was the WiFi. Free throughout the hotel, but up and down like a pleasure beach donkey. I did report the air conditioning and lights to Reception on the morning after checking in. I was told someone would take a look.
I did report the air conditioning and lights to Reception the morning after first reporting them. I was told someone would take a look.
On day 3, someone came to fix the air conditioning. It working for 3 hours.
I called Reception and they sent the guy again, who fixed the air conditioning again. This time, it lasted 12 hours. On the third visit, the guy told me he's have to get an electrician in also, to fix the light swiches.
On day 4, with the air conditioning appearing fixed, an electrician turned up in the morning (8:30am) to install a new master switch by the door. Now installed and working, but nothing was done to the living room master. So if you happen to be staying in room 1401, you can only turn the hall and living room lights out by the main appartment door.
Interesting note around the air conditioning. Now it works, and the way it's installed in my bedroom, it blows straight into my face when on. As a result, I have to switch it off when in bed, no matter how uncomfortably warm it is.
More on the room:
One of the noisiest hotel experiences I've ever had, because of the Long Street partying that goes right through the night. Not helped by badly fitting doors that not only let in the noise, but vibrate like a jet engine coming into land when Cape Town's famous high winds blow. Not conducent to good sleep.
This hotel operates a "turn down" service. Now, for me, I don't care whether someone comes into my room, closes the curtains and turns down a corner of the bedspread. I could do those things myself, and often do at home.
Turndowns usually involve a little square of chocolate on the pillow but not here. Here, turndown is more random. Some evenings, you get all the curtains closed. Other nights, just the bedroom. One evening, I had a knock on the door at 6:30pm asking if the lady could "tuen down". Two nights, no-one came at all. No consistency, no management.
So, currently I'm here with work and 7 other colleagues are staying here. One has had two phones stolen from their room, another can't put anything away safely as there's no safe in the room, another hasn't had their balcony cleaned in 6 weeks, meaning that it's covered in bird droppings and smells - this despite asking on three occasions.
If this is starting to develop a theme, right, and that theme is "service". I've spent the last few years living mostly out of hotels, and I've never come across service that's so inconsistent and poor.
Another example: breakfast service. I'm sure all the tables are made up correctly at the start of service, though whenever I arrive, I've always had to find my cutlery from other tabels, and very often a salt and papper, or butter dish, or side plate. It's not that there are too few staff, it's just that they don't scan (the room, eye to eye). It feels as if there's no real management or supervision in place there to make sure that things run smoothly. On most mornings, I've needed several attempts at getting someone's attention to get my coffee, and simply orders like "a single fried egg, over easy" are interpreted as anything from two eggs, sunny side up to an omelette.
Another one: evening food. One evening, I was served the worst beefburger I've ever had. A few nights later, one of the best fillet steaks. The fillet steak, in particular, was cooked to perfection - though the same couldn't be said for my colleagues' steaks, that were randomly cooked, rather than as per the order. Interestingly, the steaks came with seasonal vegetables and potato fondue. Veg were nice, couldn't say about the potatoes, as we got french fries instead (for no apparant reason).
So, back to "dear diary":
The hotel operates a fress shuttle bus to the V&A Waterfront and also to it's Camps Bay restaurant (Petter Club on the Beach). I met my work colleagues there for our Friday evening out. What a location! What a view! What a wait, even for the pre-dinner drinks. Then another very long wait after asking for the menu. And another before the waiter took our order. And so on...
The food itself - inconsistent. One diner thoroughly enjoyed a meat platter (the "Butcher's Block"), whereas others, including me, ate a very uninteresting chicken schnitzel.
The shuttle bus is a real plus here, as it saves the taxis in both directions. Last one from the Beach Club is 10:30pm, and there was room on it for all of us. Box ticked!
WiFi had been as reliable as politicians' promises up to now, and it was really important for me to have a reliable connection today. I was booking the tickets for my girlfriend's flight over to Cape Town. I had originally asked the Pepper Club receptionist if they would offer me a similar rate for our "holiday" stay as they had offered the company for my business stay. This was point-blank refused - "we can only offer the rack rate" - which was showing as £398 a night on ebooker. Dear reader, you won't be surprised by now if you hear that I decided on a different hotel.
Back to WiFi. Nothing. All night. I missed the fight option I wanted and the "free WiFi" cost me around £300, the difference between flights I could have purchased the day before, if I could have got online.
WiFi works. Ah, it's down again. Just don't expect to be able to use Skype, Viber or any SIP client using this WiFi. It's too unreliable and the speed just won't cope with video. I've now given up trying and back to using a local SIM card (CellC offers good UK rates, by the way).
Now, though, neither of the TV remotes work. Probably the batteries. I saw probably because as I write this on day 10, the TV remotes still don't work.
Another colleague joins us. She's been booked in from Friday but is now arriving a day early. The Pepper Club manages to find her a room, but this does mean she'll have to move rooms tomorrow. No matter, we are all together in the same hotel.
Newly arrived colleague checks out of the first room, then asks the receptionist to arrange for her baggage to be moved. On arriving back at the hotel in the evening, she checks with reception, who have now forgotten who she is and can't find any record of her. Eventually they do find her, someone pops up to the rooms to check then returns to say "sorry, your bags are all open. Oh, and there's a bicycle in your room".
Off to Pepper Club on the Beach again. Whjat a difference in two weeks. What a location! What a view! What a wait, even for the pre-dinner drinks. Then another very long wait after asking for the menu. And another before the waiter took our order. And so on...
The food itself, this week, was very good and I had a very memorable steak - ostrich this time, which reminded me (for some unknown reason) of Wetherspoons. But good food, well cooked and served - eventually - well.
On the bus again in the morning to the Pepper Club on the Beach. They offer free use of changing rooms, showers and towels, so ideal for those wanting a day on the sand. Make no mistake, this is quite a visionary concept, linking a city centre hotel with a beach resort. And it works. Until, that is, you have to hand your towel back BEFORE going back into the changing rooms to shower. Asking for a second towel seemed to really spook the lady I asked, but she did go off and find one - a small hand towel. How to spoil a great concept!
A lady at Reception very kindly checked the Table Mountain status then booked and printed out tickets for us. The saves money and queuing and I'd highly recommend asking at your hotel, wherever that may be.
Later on in the day, two of our party asked if the receptionist could assist around the Robben Island trip. Her response of "You can't possibly do that now today" felt to them as if they'd be scolded by an irrited teacher.
So that's it so far. I leave in 2 weeks, though I'll be back soon in Cape Town for another 2 months. Some of my colleagues will be here for another 4 weeks. I'm sure there'll be more little incidents to tarnish our stay, but I'm also sure you're probably bored of reading this now. I do hope, though, that this report is seen as observational and objective, as I seek to report facts here, not make judgements. I'll leave that to you, dear traveller.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bound by Loop, Long, Pepper and Bloem Street, Pepperclub Hotel & Spa is situated in the heart of bustling Cape Town and at the foot of renowned Table Mountain and Lions Head. The hotel not only offers the ideal location, but also five star comfort and personalised service to suit the needs of both leisure and business travellers. Inspired by New York's chic interiors, the hotel consists of 210 generously appointed suites, all of which include spectacular views of Cape Town. Facilities at the hotel include, among others, the intimate Odeon cinema, a fully-equipped gymnasium and a swimming pool with panoramic views. Cayenne Spa, tucked away on the 8th floor of the hotel, offers sanctuary for guests with its modern aura and eclectic menu of modern treatments. Located on the ground floor is Pepperclub's exclusive Paparazzi Bar & Lounge and in-house restaurant, Sinatra's, which combines a stylish and modern setting with a menu inspired by European continental cuisine. The hotel also offers guests scheduled complimentary shuttles to the V&A Waterfront and Camps Bay, home to one of South Africa's most beautiful and picturesque beachfronts. It is here that you will also find our beach club facilities. Hotel guests will have exclusive VIP access to the beach club's showers, private lockers and changing and restroom facilities. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Pepper Club Luxury Hotel Cape Town Central
- Pepper Club Luxury Hotel And Spa
- Pepperclub Hotel & Spa Cape Town, South Africa