Painting the Town Red: A Review of the Radisson RED in Cape Town, South Africa
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To The Point
Radisson RED represents a new direction for a sometimes staid, mid-tier chain. Pros: Fantastic location, artsy vibe. Cons: Room rates can be high, amenities just so-so.
Radisson launched its RED concept in 2016 as a counterpoint to “stuffy hotels and rigid rules” so that travelers can “focus on creating a better trip.” These hotels are “inspired by art, music and fashion.” Basically, it’s Radisson’s answer to Marriott’s MOXY, only with slightly less emphasis on creative co-working and socializing spaces and more of an app-driven experience.
The brand includes six properties so far in Brussels, Campinas (near São Paulo), Glasgow, Minneapolis, Portland (Oregon) and Cape Town, where I was able to book a short stay and check out the chain’s ethos.
Something wonky happened when I was trying to book this hotel. One-day room rates were around $190 for the night in February that I needed to stay there. The next day they were $286.
The award rate was 44,000 points, and the Points + Cash rate was 10,000 points plus $241.
Unsure of why the prices had jumped, and not wanting them to go higher, I hurriedly booked a room. The reservation ended up being 3,933 ZAR ($286).
Later that day, I found a rate of just $210 on Trip.com, so I filled out Radisson’s best rate guarantee form with supporting documentation, including screenshots of the Trip.com rate.
Within a few hours I received a response from a Radisson Global Best Online Rate Guarantee Specialist stating that because the Trip.com pricing was in dollars rather than South African Rand, my request was being denied. I replied immediately, saying that the booking details on Radisson’s site had also been in dollars and the screenshots I’d sent reflected that. I received a second denial shortly thereafter.
Thinking what else I could do, I found a rate on Hotels.com for 3,153.75 ZAR ($223.50), so I submitted that claim instead. Within another few hours, I got a response saying that Radisson’s BRG team had been able to verify it. They offered me a further 25% discount so that my final tally ended up being 2,365.31 ZAR ($168).
Because the rates I originally looked at were in dollars on Radisson’s US site, I thought denial of the Trip.com rate was bogus and was a way that hotels weasel out of best-rate claims. Luckily, I was able to find a comparable rate in ZAR that worked, and the rigmarole was well worth it to save about $110 that night.
I paid for my stay using my Chase Ink Business Preferred to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on top of my regular Radisson Rewards earnings of 10x points per dollar.
The 252-room hotel is located at the edge of the V&A Waterfront, which has become the primary tourist hub in the city. It is right across a plaza from the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa and the Silo Hotel.
The hotel is a five-minute walk to both the ferry to Robben Island and the rest of the attractions around the waterfront, including the Watershed which houses stalls and mini-boutiques from local designers and artists.
The Table Mountain Cableway would be a 15- to 20-minute drive, and the beaches of Clifton would be about the same. My Uber to the airport the morning of my stay cost 225 ZAR ($16) and took 20 minutes.
The hotel has three entrances. The first is along the road into the V&A Waterfront. You can also access it on the other side via another plaza where there is no auto traffic. The third entrance is through its restaurant, which opens onto the plaza in front of the Zeitz MOCAA.
The building has several interesting sustainability features. Its façade is constructed from heat-resistant Corobrik to cut down on temperature-control needs, and the cooling system incorporates seawater to reduce energy usage.
I arrived via Uber, so I came in through the road entrance. The overall look of the lobby is cheerfully industrial, with a lot of natural light, bright colors (including red, of course) and shiny fixtures, such as the birdcage-like overhead chandeliers.
Between the two lobby entries is a long, low table with stools where you can set up your computer and work or sit around with a cup of coffee. Behind it stands what looks like traveling cases for amplifiers that had been modified to hold clothes.
There is a huge honeycomb-like white fixture separating the main lobby area from the reception desks.
Each cubby holds items on sale including books, games and T-shirts like these:
The reception desks are located along a wall running between the two sides of the building and behind the honeycomb.
Two check-in agents were there to greet me. This reminded me of Andaz hotels, where any available agent comes up to you with a tablet and takes care of what you need. Here, though, you had to be standing at one of the computers to actually get anything done, so I ended up waiting around for both check-in and check-out. I don’t think this design was well planned or executed since it leaves people to mill around. You’re meant to do everything electronically using an app (I’ll get into that later).
Near the elevators, is a cart from which you can help yourself to juice … or a gin and tonic.
There is also a foosball table and a mini Ping-Pong table plus a coffee machine.
I had a chance to look around since both the check-in agents were busy when I arrived. But when one freed up, I walked over to check in. She offered me something to drink then went over the details of my stay. She told me about the hotel and its amenities, then asked if I needed any help planning my day. I declined and she sent me up to my room on the sixth floor.
The hotel is pet-friendly and has a Boston terrier named Baxter as its mascot. You might see him wandering around the hotel, and he even has a beer named after him at the rooftop bar.
There were colorful posters on the wall when I stepped off the elevator.
The hallway looked slightly institutional, but the walls were a buttercup yellow and room numbers are painted in huge red numerals right on the doors.
My room had a pared-down, Scandinavian sensibility.
The bathroom, located by the front door, had a frosted-glass swinging door. The wall tiles were white with red grouting, which was a cool look, though there was not much room to maneuver.
It had a single sink with limited counter space, and a shower, but no tub.
Bath products in the half-glassed-in shower included sweet almond and aloe vera shampoo and jojoba seed and vitamin E conditioner.
The toilet was on the other side of the sink.
A red and white mural by South African artist Cameron Platter, who also designed the panels on the building’s exterior, decorated the wall behind the king-size bed.
On either side of the bed were multi-level white nightstands.
One side of the bed was equipped with a telephone and the remote for the 55-inch television on the opposite wall. Power outlets and USB ports were on both sides of the bed.
Switches for the lights were also conveniently located.
A huge window with electronically controlled day and blackout blinds were a nice touch, and gave me a view of the waterfront and the Cape Grace Hotel.
If I looked the other way, I could see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.
Between the window and the bed was an oversize picnic table with a bench and two mismatched chairs.
The crate on top of it held a kettle, a French press and coffee and tea as well as a wrapped toffee candy.
The bright red sidebar, meanwhile, had the room-service menu (to order via the app), . . .
two bottles of complimentary water . . .
. . . and a fridge with a single bottle of milk in it. The hotel suggests you “BYOD” and stock your own minibar.
The closet was spacious, with one section for hanging clothes, and another with shelves and a safe.
Information on Wi-Fi, restaurants and how to use the app for keyless entry was found on the back of the door.
Wi-Fi was free, but not fast.
Overall, I thought the room was spacious and cheerful, if not exactly as warm or as inspiring as the Radisson RED brand aims to be.
Food and Beverage
The hotel’s main restaurant is called OUIBar + KTCHN and is located on the ground floor. Odd spelling and capitalization aside, it did offer some interesting elements. There was a self-serve counter with non-alcoholic drinks, sandwiches and pastries. And, there was a wall of televisions where you can film selfies that cycle through a slideshow.
The dining room included a big bar and a variety of table types with colorful chairs.
Large windows overlooked the plaza toward the Zeitz MOCAA . . .
. . . and a small outdoor patio where you can drink and dine.
The menu featured items like burgers, fish and chips, pizzas, healthy salads and daily specials like a rib-eye steak with fries, or buckets of craft beers. The prices were reasonable, with most options under 125 ZAR ($9).
Up on the hotel’s seventh floor, however, was the real pièce de résistance: the rooftop pool bar.
I entered through the indoor bar, which was lively on a Saturday afternoon, with folks sitting around at long tables.
Out by the pool were more tables, and a red truck that had been converted into another bar. This is where Baxter’s Bitchin’ Blonde beer was on tap.
The menu was the same as OUIBar, plus a few different sandwiches and burgers, pizzas and snacks, like fried chicken strips and cheese and jalapeño balls.
I wanted to get to the Zeitz MOCAA that afternoon, so I skipped lunch. I ate dinner outside the hotel as well since there are such fabulous restaurants in town and the menus at both of the hotel restaurants didn’t seem that interesting or special. Still, it’s good to know you can get a decent meal at a reasonable price if you do want to stick around.
Speaking of the rooftop, the main attraction here was the pool. It looked like a sunken shipping container — a nod to the V&A Waterfront’s industrial past.
However, I would not want to swim there since it was green and murky and covered with a layer of grime and dead insects. At least there were great views of the Zeitz MOCAA from the roof, and people did seem to be enjoying themselves in the sun on the day I visited.
Near the elevators, there was a small gym with a few cardio machines, some weights and a Smeg fridge with water.
On a wall between the elevators and the gym is a huge spa services menu, including massages ranging from 30-60 minutes for 300-850 ZAR ($21-$60) via the hotel app. The hotel also has four events and “game” studios for meetings, though I did not see those.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Radisson RED Cape Town. Though the room décor was spare and the bathroom spartan, I liked the Scandinavian minimalism and the bright red palette, not to mention that huge window in my room.
The hotel’s public spaces were cool and I enjoyed the thoughtful artistic touches. I also loved the location. I know the V&A Waterfront is touristy, but this hotel is set away from it just enough to avoid the hordes. It’s also perfect if you want to visit the Zeitz MOCAA (which is the one thing I wanted to do the day of my stay) or Robben Island, and it’s a quick drive to popular sights like Table Mountain and some of the best restaurants in town.
I’d say the rate I paid – around $170 – was appropriate for a property of this quality and caliber, while the $286 I originally booked was not. I was disappointed at how hard it was to get Radisson to honor their best rate guarantee. When they finally did, it was definitely worth it.
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