Sunday, 3 May 2015

South Africa: My very first impressions, on a limited scope

Erm, I’m an Englishman
“Honesty is the best policy,” he told me as he came to chat to me about how much I liked my food. I had the prompt excuse of being an Englishman to be a little circumspect about my sometimes strong opinions.
I guess what was not said, revealed a lot more about what I thought of the entrée and the plat principal. I am not sure I will be trying those menu options again. None of what I was served was entirely lifted off the plate, though tactically, I took in enough not to have to suffer being questioned like I was in another hotel recently.
I had said, in a tweet, if I do get to write Trip Advisor review of this hotel, I would say, “A nice hotel seriously let down by its restaurant.” After our conversation and since this is only on my very first impression, I will reserve judgement on that for now.
Like local is good
When it came to the desert, I expected more, the cheese platter had names like Camembert (French) and cheddar (originally English) which are not essentially local South African cheeses. Reading the menu earlier, I struggled to find things that looked remotely South African cuisine, I guess it is the same experience I had in Bucharest last month.
Why certain hotel restaurants do not see the value to introducing guests to local cuisine really escapes me, it appears to be a lack of adventurousness with a pandering to the rudimentary, which is unfortunate.
Should I have paid up?
In my other blog, I said the hotel had arranged a chauffeur to pick me up at the airport, my understanding of that arrangement was that the shuttle service was free. However, that was not the case, when the chauffeur asked for money, I paid well over the odds for this service, because I had not South African currency on me. Besides, I was too tired to make a fuss of the situation so, I left it at that.
I did not know South Africa drives on the left as we do in the UK, though I instinctively made for the left passenger seat to the driver once my luggage was loaded in the boot.
Getting to my room, not particularly large for a presumably 5-star hotel, maybe I am viewing things with European eyes, I eventually got online and whilst wondering whether the tap water was potable, I found a medium sized fridge with a Brita water filter jug, suggesting I had better filter water before drinking it. However, when I browsed through the hotel directory, it stated, tap water is potable. I’ll use the Brita jug.
I have not done a walk around yet, and I am yet to see the gym or the swimming pool. The reviews of this hotel on Trip Advisor are not entirely glowing, but in general, it does have an acceptable standard.
Dropping stars fast
Before going to the restaurant, I asked for a charge to be put on my credit card so that things could be charged to my room. I was taken aback when I had to repeat myself to the waitress that I had done this as she wondered whether I had credit. That, in my view, is not the kind of question you get asked in a 5-star hotel, in fact, that is a good two stars off in my book.
A lack of attention to particular detail might be the undoing of this hotel, but it is early days yet. The reception should have informed the restaurant without me having to suffer any indignities and the concierge should have checked the receipt slip when I paid, because it clearly stated, “The customer’s signature is not required.” He had handed me a pen to sign when there was no requirement I sign the slip.
What makes a 5-star hotel is extraordinary service, attention to detail, exquisiteness, finesse and the absence of any need for a customer to quibble or to complain. I hope I can find elements of those in abundance over my 13-night stay.
Now, I have to prepare to be embarrassed in the morning, because I had a long interesting chat to the floor manager who had the initiative to engage me in conversation and as we parted, I had given him the address of my blog whilst I ended up with his email address and phone number.
If he ends up reading this, I would have been too honest for my liking. That an Englishman rarely says his mind having been steeped in the art of the understatement does not mean he minces his words in writing.

No comments: