The Silo, Cape Town, South Africa

Spearheaded by British designer Thomas Heatherwick and hoteliers Liz and Phil Biden, The Silo is Cape Town's most expensive hotel; quite the transformation from its grain silo origins.

As Africa's most expensive, most hyped city hotel, The Silo is something of a hot commodity. Reimagined by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, it's located in the elevator portion of an historic grain silo complex. Owners Liz and Phil Biden have transformed the building, which was once at the heart of South Africa's industrial and agricultural development, into a fun and fanciful destination along the pedestrianised V&A Waterfront and docklands.

Ascending to The Silo's check-in desk is a feeling that stays with us for the duration of our stay. From this height the views are 360 degrees. The stone-set rooftop pool is strictly residents only and practically every staff member knows our names.

Horizontally challenged, The Silo doesn't offer a great deal of space to wander in public areas - a proportional contrast to the over-sized bedrooms for those lucky (and wealthy) enough to call themselves "guests". Hotelier Liz Biden has splashed her golden brush over each of the hotel's 28 bedrooms, with a double dip of exuberance and bucket loads of razzmatazz. With Instagram-famous, pillowed-glass windows, chandeliers in the bathrooms and a complimentary minibar that's restocked daily, rooms deliver their promise of indulgence.

A great spot to visit with friends (preferably those with deep pockets and a liking for contemporary art) this is not somewhere many can afford to stay too long, but is undeniably somewhere worth indulging your curiosity (if only for an evening tipple).


If you've flown long-haul, sleep is probably high up on your agenda. Beds at The Silo are exceedingly comfortable, with linens crisp to the touch and pillows fluffed to bursting point.

While everyone ogles over the free-standing baths framed by pillowed-glass windows, it's the power showers that have real appeal for us, along with the choice of robe - will it be the silk or towel today? Bathroom shelves are stocked with a mixture of products including those from Cape Town-based Charlotte Rhys and the ever-classic Penhaligon's.

Decorated with multiple sofas, banana-leaf pattern rugs, zany ceramic lamps and lime-lacquered cabinets - the list of design features is infinite - bedrooms feel more like miniature homes than hotel suites. The minibar is stocked full of complimentary goodies, including an elaborate snack box which demands to be eaten (literally, the label reads: "Eat Me"), soft drinks, wine, water and beer - all of which are replenished daily. It's enough to feed and water a small family. And if you are, a small family that is, then the family rooms spread across two floors, make cabin fever highly unlikely - especially with views of the docklands.

What's for breakfast?

Break your fast with a selection of freshly baked carbohydrates. An afternoon-tea stand loaded with pastries, cinnamon-flavoured mini doughnuts, cheeses, smoked salmon and fresh fruits arrives to your table with in moments of your seating. It's quickly followed by a delicate portion of rose petal granola (sampled on a rose-gold spoon). Then it's on to the à la carte. Avocado and eggs on toast topped with sumac and feta is just the ticket.

How about lunch and dinner?

The sixth floor's Granary Café has a brasserie-style menu that's a good option for lunch or dinner. Grab a spot on the leopard- or giraffe- print banquette and peruse South African chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert's menu - which includes a small raw bar selection. Confit pork belly and steak frites are among the more popular plates on offer, but for something more "casual" - oysters and Dom? - guests can make tracks for the rooftop which offers a condensed menu. Order dessert to the room; the apricot sorbet with miso caramel and sesame sponge will melt in your mouth.

Is there a bar?

The Willaston Bar - named after the first ship to export grain from the original silo building in 1924 - shakes up a varied drinks menu, including a selection of coffees, cocktails, gins and wines by the glass. Come just before sundown, occupy a butter-soft, blue leather bar stool (or a seat at one of the velvety jewel-toned booths) and take in aerial views of the V&A Waterfront as the sun melts away over the horizon.


There's a gym, a spa on the fourth floor, a rooftop pool and free parking for hotel residents on P3. On level P3 you'll also find The Vault - The Silo Hotel's private art gallery exhibiting upcoming African artists. See something you fancy? Let the concierge know and they'll slide a price list under your bedroom door.

Things you should know

Breakfast is included in your room rate. Once you've had your fill, head to the mezzanine level to explore the compact, but cosy Library. The Library runs a book-exchange policy ­so make the most of it and offload that book you've been reading (well, hauling around in your bag for the last six months) - and make tracks for the resident's rooftop pool with something new.

Within a short walk I can find…

Easily seen from the rooftop of the hotel, Robben Island is situated 9km offshore. Owing to the fact that it was the forced home of Nelson Mandela for 27 years, during his time as a political prisoner of the apartheid regime, pre-booking is advised.

The Zeitz MOCAA gallery (South Africa's answer to Tate Modern) sits directly below The Silo - ask the concierge for private art tours.