When Tobias Alter was planning his first steps into the hospitality business in Cape Town, he was clear what kind of hotel he wanted to create: far from just providing a bed for out-of-towners, the pad would offer a meeting place for Cape Town's creative crowd. It's the reason he chose the city's Central Business District (CBD) as the location, rather than the hotel-crowded V&A Waterfront. Transforming two heritage buildings - a stucco-covered art deco edifice and an older Edwardian beast - into an edgy, independent stay, he persevered with a vision for a property that would be as comfortable throwing a party as it was offering shelter.
Our two rand? He's succeeded. This sultry city stay felt distinct from any other Cape Town stays we've tried. Doing away with the bellboy service that's so common in the city, Gorgeous George offers a Soho House-esque experience (without the membership). The hub here isn't the lobby, but the rooftop restaurant, bar and pool. The rooms? Just a bonus. Couple all that with a slick design style that marries the hotel's (and the city's) history with 21st-century hospitality, and we're ready to worship at Alter's, um, altar.
A studio bedroom, left, and local artwork in the lobby. | Photo credit: Gibson Photo
Interiors designed by Jo'burg's Tristan du Plessis are masculine and moody, the tenebrosity of sculptural concrete and steel beams lifted by a colour palette of greys, greens and burgundy. Art lovers will be impressed; in the lobby, you're greeted by a bronze pig, standing sentinel beside a map of the city centre made from 1,800 hand-painted Delft tiles, an artwork by Cape Town ceramicist Lucie de Moyencourt. The ceiling - a coiffed cloud of colourful netting - floats above the statement carpet below. Throughout the hotel, graphic serpentine loops by locally based multidisciplinary artist David Brits are splashed across walls.
Hidden in a less flashy part of the city, there's a touch of exclusivity in Gorgeous George's character. The urbanity; the polish; the flair: visitors can expect a memorable stay.
All 32 industrial suites - studio, one- and two-bed - merge nods to the city's history with utilitarian design. Expect brass details, acres of raw concrete, splashy artworks and a proclivity to put books in any unused spaces. Each room has a hand-painted wall mural from local artist David Brits, plus Delft-style tiling behind the kitchenette area.
Bedrooms merge utilitarian design with nods to the city's history. | Photo credit: Gibson Photo
Our room had a khaki-toned feature wall, leather headboard, graphic wall art, coloured pipework and concrete beams. The rug took inspiration from Dutch pottery design, while shelving offered eclectic reading suggestions: a biography of Steve Jobs, Dickens' Great Expectations and Chaos by James Gleick. Useful, if you want to while away a few hours reading on the luxurious burgundy velvet sofa. Bathrooms are compact but smart, with metro-style tiling.
You'll find a rotary-dial telephone, Marshall bluetooth speaker, smart TV, WiFi and ghd hairdryer in each room. A Smeg kettle means you can brew up some organic rooibos tea or, using the fresh ground coffee provided, make a decent cup of joe in the morning (there's a Nespresso machine, too). The history of colonial Cape Dutch is represented in blue-and-white ceramic tea cups. A drinks cabinet offers sweet treats and beef biltong (for a price), plus a selection of South African tipples.
What's for breakfast?
Head upstairs to Gigi restaurant, on the houseplant-hung, jungle-like covered rooftop. Breakfasts are big, bold and sassy. Opt for a camping-style fry-up (boerewors sausage, bacon, tomato, buckwheat, mushrooms and eggs) or piled-high toast offerings. Our avocado and eggs arrived loaded on sourdough from a local bakery, with a field's worth of salad precariously mounted on top. If you're not one for coffee, try the hot chocolate, a Cape Dutch-style dark and devilish cocoa.
Lunch and dinner
Also up on the roof (perfect if you're peckish after a dip in the pool). The menu swings from Asian-influenced to Mediterranean flavours, but it's all veg-packed and vibrant. Start with a small plate of line-caught game fish tartare, followed by a big plate of Saldanha Bay mussels, served Thai-style, with coconut, lime, chilli and lemongrass.
Is there a bar?
Yes. Jump out the lift at Gigi's and you'll find it just before you head outside. The spaces up here all slickly interlink, but each has a distinctive feel. In the bar, heavy wooden shelving, Moroccan-influenced cushions, mismatched furnishings and curios aplenty add a studious vibe.
The hotel is compact, but on the roof (again), you'll find a deceptive plunge pool that extends under roofing into a jungle mural-painted room (another by David Brits). Slick sun loungers crowd the pool. There's no gym, but you can get a pass to Ignite Fitness, next door.
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
Pretty standard. Large-size toiletries in rooms, green cleaning products used where possible, and a sustainable, ethically sourced menu in the restaurant (including exclusively line-caught fish).
What about accessibility?
The hotel is accessed via a flight of steps, so it's probably not suitable for wheelchair users.
Rooftop dining at Gigi's, left, where the menu is vibrant and veg-packed. | Photo credit: Gibson Photo
What's the crowd like?
Cape Town's creatives have made the rooftop their home - and out-of-towners are predominantly savvy travellers looking for a taste of the city beyond the V&A Waterfront.
Within a short walk I can find…
Hold up - walking isn't really a thing in Cape Town (unless you count jogging the Sea Point promenade). This is an Uber-obsessed city - most of what you want is a short drive away.
Having said that, the CBD itself is walkable. Take a stroll to find the artisanal, bean-to-bar Honest Chocolate (the café is dreamy), hand-crafted sunglasses company Ballo (eyewear made from upcycled materials by a team pushing for positive social change) and The Athletic Club & Social, a classy cocktail spot around the corner.
The ultra-Instagrammable Bo-Kaap neighbourhood is also 10 minutes' walk away. Tensions between tourists and residents have been charged by increases in property taxes and gentrification issues recently, so we'd keep your phone in your pocket and instead head to Monkeybiz, a non-profit dedicated to reviving traditional African beadwork.
Things I should know…
The hotel is located on St George's Mall, a pedestrianised street, so if you're arriving by car, you'll have to walk 40m to the front door. The CBD is pretty safe, but the area can still feel a touch dicey late at night.
This article contains affiliate links, which means SUITCASE may earn a small commission if you click through and book.