News & Reviews Africa South Africa Review: The Silo, Cape Town

The Silo, Cape Town
Room type: Deluxe Superior Suite
Duration: 18th > 19th February, 2018

After Ellerman House provided the finest hospitality since Hitler seduced Neville Chamberlain in 1938, I was reluctant to try any other hotel in Cape Town.  Yet my dear readers insisted, and my life is at your mercy.

We first visited The Silo in September for a show-around and lunch.  It didn’t leave the best impression.  It had the feel of a W to it, which is only a compliment if you’re having a midlife crisis or 12 years old.  The hotel lobbies only purpose: to escort you towards the elevator and take you to the higher floors, exactly as per The Upper House – but that’s where the similarity ends, as I do not recall The Upper House lobby hosts simply pointing at things and hoping for the best.  No one ever won employee of the month for pointing at things.

The rates at The Silo are more eye-watering than the view they speak so fondly of, particularly for Capetonians, but even for Parisians, internationally wanted drug lords or Bill Gates.  A 41 sqm room starting at $1200/n – they must be charging more per inch than a gigolo.  They emphasised the view as the selling point, and with higher room categories offering large, glass, floor-to-ceiling views, they may have a point, but for those who did not win the lottery or have a surname made up of 9 hyphens and 28 vowels, you may be stuck starring at some low-end hotels, whilst those on the hill at Ellerman House will be blissfully watching the ocean whilst scoffing down pints of caviar and snorting lines of happiness.

The staff at The Silo must have heard how great Ellerman House is, and just decided to give up.  Why compete against something that good?  Every day they must show up to work and get the hospitality equivalent of a 7-0 thrashing, so I totally relate as to why they acted like work was for their own amusement, than to care about the customers. Even during lunch we ended up complaining due to the service being so lacklustre and the food taking so long, that I assumed it was being caught first.  You would think in this brief encounter that I would not come back.  Yet neither you or a team of psychiatrists can figure out what’s taking place in my head, so just 6 months later we were staying prior to our trip to La Residence in Franschhoek – a property under the same group as The Silo.

If they were after making a good first impression, showing up late to collect us wasn’t the perfect start.  Sure, they use the same limousine company as Ellerman House, but somehow end up with the rejects, so must pay them late or ask their drivers to follow the same standards as the hotel.  I really do like the cars though, as they stack them with seemingly everything: water, hand lotion, sanitiser gel, sunscreen, sunglasses cleaner and mints.  Everything you need for a date on the beach; it’s just missing the Barry White CD and condoms.  There was not enough time to use any of them, as traffic was surprisingly light and we were at The Silo in no time.

The Silo’s location is part one of the reasons to stay here.  It is located on the waterfront, sat on top of The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.   The Royal Portfolio brand is very similar to the Kit Kemp portfolio: almost entirely owner inspired by Liz Biden, with a large focus on only being standardised from the lack of standardisation.  Art is prominent, design is king and style is everything.

There is a lot to admire in this hotel. Our suite really was beautiful, the food was superb, the location is great and whilst not exactly bustling with facilities, they offer both a small spa and gym.  The icing on the rooftop is the pool and bar.  I just have to keep coming to the price, as it’s unfathomable for me that they can charge these prices.  It’s further cemented by just how disappointing the service was once again.  As we ventured to the rooftop bar and asked about an item on the menu, all our waiter could do is grab a chef to explain it to us.  Later on, we asked someone else what drinks were available, and he too did not know and had to grab a chef.  And yet we went up later on, ordered some drinks, then couldn’t find anyone for 30 minutes so left without having anything.  It doesn’t feel like anyone is in charge, or any focus has been spent other than on admiring their own creation.  I cannot emphasis enough how different it is compared to Ellerman House, where the staff feel like they are part of the property and deliver a world class service.

As with so many hotels, the hard product does a great job of showing that thought has gone into delivering you a luxurious experience, but all the staff are doing is following a handbook to deliver it.  It is the owners who implemented the ideas, the staff are just following those orders.  Having also stayed in La Residence, I can tell the owners deeply care about their properties, but the same cannot be said of the staff.  You may get some pillow spray and fudge during turndown, and you may also admire the different his and hers bathrobes, but you’ll then have to deal with clueless staff somehow delivering a service that is meant for one of the most expensive city hotels in the world.

You can consider many factors in your choice of hotel, but for me, feeling a sense of homeliness is what draws me to properties like The Connaught and Ellerman House.  The Silo is currently the place to be, so the only way it will feel like a home is if you live in a refugee center.  It has a view, but even having stayed in one of the rooms with beautiful glass views of the mountain, the main thing that stood out was  the Radisson’s swimming pool and the city harbour starring back at me.  Definitely not worth a premium for.

I feel The Silo is more a place to admire, than it is to stay.  You can enjoy nearly all the benefits of the hotel without getting a room.  Go to the rooftop bar, eat in their superb restaurant, walk around and then check into Ellerman House.  Cape Town seems to live in some mystic bubble where everywhere you go the food is incredibly good, and even more incredibly it’s cheap, so why not take advantage.  The breakfast isn’t worth sticking around for either, with no buffet, but a large selection of pastries, meats, cheese and fruit brought over and a la carte offering of about 10 items, including English breakfast.  Of course, the bill was entirely wrong on our departure – all in their benefit, but you won’t have this problem, as you’ll read this and not be staying there anyway.

Worth Knowing

During our stay Cape Town was suffering one of the worst droughts in its history.  Every hotel had restrictions in place at the time, all of which was entirely fair and justifiable.  For once, I am not criticising, but informing of what they did.  I was most grateful that they avoided introducing a minimum persons per shower quota; I envisaged it being quite uncomfortable when my fiancé and I have to share a shower with 4 other strangers.

They leave a leaflet on your bed that outlines how you could help conserve water, along with what they have done to try and help too.   Their recommendations are:

  • Limit showers to 2 minutes
  • Flush less often.  I consider it the perfect excuse to take home with me for when I forget to flush. Just savin’ the environment, honey
  • Use your towel more than once
  • Suggestion to use hand sanitisers instead of washing
  • Don’t bath – in fact, there’s no plugs, so you couldn’t have one.
  • Be considerate.  This one I struggled the most with.  

Overall, nothing to worry about.  Except being in The Silo, when you could be in Ellerman House.  

The Good

  • F&B offering
  • Location

The Bad

  • Service
  • Service again, for emphasis

The Luxurious

  • Excellent hard product, providing you’re willing to pay for it

Conclusion

There are definitely reasons to stay in The Silo, but none convincing enough for me to do so.  To have anything resembling a decent room, you will need to spend north of £2,000/n, and then you have to smile whilst the service and hotel accountants are shafting you.

The biggest disappointment is to have given The Silo two chances and see it fail both times.  Fool me once and all that.  The service had not improved one little bit since our lunch in September, so of course the inexcusably high prices becomes an even bigger factor.   The room is beautiful, incredibly well thought through and offers some good (but not Ellerman House good) views, and I am a huge fan of the food, but there’s so many interactions with the frontline staff where it leaves you wondering how low their recruitment criteria must be. When management is around, everything suddenly gets done, but they cannot be there for every interaction, otherwise they would no longer be management. If you must be near the harbour, dislike the One&Only, plan to be out most of the time and have no care for money, it will fit you well. If the rooms were half the price I would start to re-evaluate my stance and be a bit more lenient, but until then, see above.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 3rd Oct '18

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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