The scenic location of upper-middle-class Johannesburg suburb Houghton has not only beautiful homes and blossoming trees but also an ideally positioned hotel in the hub of it all.
The Houghton Hotel is about 20 minutes from OR Tambo International Airport and has nearby attractions such as Sandton and Melrose Arch. It opened its doors late in 2019 and has quickly made a name for itself. Voted Africa’s new leading hotel for 2020 by World Travel Awards it was easy to see why the moment we walked in.
But don’t be fooled by the “demure” exterior, inside the property is huge. You immediately escape from the bustle of the city into an oasis. Spots like these are convenient for Joburgers looking to escape the city just for a weekend but without travelling long distances.
The hotel is spaciously designed with a natural modern aesthetic. The grand entrance has high ceilings streaming in endless sunshine and leading to the dramatic staircase. Calling it a resort wouldn’t be far off due to the many offerings.
Watch the video above for a sneak peek into our stay.
The elegant beach-esque resort feel flows into the rooms which are stunningly decorated to suit the modern opulence but without overdoing it. It’s just right, from the bathtub, the large overhead shower that can easily fit more than one person, to the apt storage compartments, a study area and still space for a couch and TV overlooking the Joburg and Sandton skyline.
Amenities and facilities on offer are the popular The Houghton Spa. The only uncomfortable feeling I have ever had in a spa is fighting the urge to fall asleep. The 30-minute back and neck massage treatment is a must for any staycation.
For those trying to stay fit while on vacation, gym facilities are available at the Fitbar. There are pools situated in interesting areas of the property and an apartment complex for interested buyers. Getting away from it all sounds good but sneaking an email or video call isn’t a bad idea. Luckily there are great private locations to work, take those business calls or just organise a conference room for your business.
As for the food, there are about three restaurants on offer. Pebbles is perfect for poolside, light meals, drinks and cocktails to delicious confectionary sweet treats. Nova Deli is ideal for business meetings, breakfasts and luncheons and the menu varies from morning to lunch. The salsa avocado on toast with poached eggs not only awakens your taste buds (it is spicy) but will fill you up for the day. The menu is also vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Notably, the fine dining restaurant, Séjour, must be mentioned. Headed by young chef Freddie Dias he has bolstered the menu since our last visit.
Inspired by his mother’s love for cooking, stints in fine dining restaurants internationally and his travels, he decided to stay in the country in 2018 after his mother’s death.
Our favourites are still on the menu such as the crispy calamari, asparagus chawanmushi (Japanese custard), the strawberry olive dessert and the line fish. The new additions include citrus cured salmon with yuzu kosho, beetroot ketchup, melon and cucumber which was beautifully balanced.
Always leave space for desserts, because the Séjour S’more with chocolate miso raspberry is the perfect ratio of tartness and sweet, a sumptuous end to a fantastic three-course meal.
With an uptick in visitors since the relaxations of restrictions in level 1, the hotel felt the need to help the hospitality and tourism industry. Launching The Houghton Hotel Academy to train underprivileged youth in partnership with NGO Afrika Tikkun Services, CEO Onyi Nwaerni says they help young people become economically empowered to have careers and be active citizens.
“The group’s dream is to enable young people to achieve that economic empowerment. In order to do that we take them through different stages of their development. We get them through tertiary education and in this economy the better you are educated the better your chances of employment.”
The academy is training 20 people for the next 12 months, their “campus” is the beautiful backdrop of the hotel and they are being educated in finance, food and beverage and cooking skills.
One of the candidates, Zinhle, says the academy means a lot as she can now help her family after being unemployed for three years since completing a finance degree.
As our stay ended, not only did I want to stay but having Onyi’s and Zinhle’s words lingering in my head, supporting local tourism in this era is not only “selfish” but necessary going forward.