Drinking in Mbeki's folly and Zuma's triumph at The Rosebank hotel

#37. Have a drink at The Rosebank hotel’s Circle Bar. With conversation across the land being dominated by whether SA President Thabo Mbeki should be forced to “fall on his sword” — after a high court ruling that was meant to decide the fate of his greatest political foe, Jacob Zuma, instead put the failure of the Mbeki presidency back in the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight — it may be time to start drinking.

The Circle Bar at The Rosebank, Thys Dullart

And the newly refurbished The Rosebank is just the place to do it. Despite occupying the corner of Tyrwhitt and Sturdee Avenues for decades and being at the heart of a suburb that has had a few fashionable moments, the Rosebank Hotel was never a go-to destination. True it had a famous bartender (spoken of far and wide for his lack of good humour) and a great Sunday breakfast offering during the 90s but the hotel was forbidding, dark inside and unwelcoming, its design and interiors dated.

For more than 12 months I have driven past that corner en route to work and watched as the new owners, Hospitality Property Fund, knocked the hotel down to a shell and then started refurbishing with a budget of R254-million.

There’s little doubt that The Rosebank (as it has now been renamed) is about to take top spot in the area as the most stylish place to be seen meeting people and then seen again, taking the title from the once fabulous Hyatt Hotel — now at the mercy of the Gautrain construction and the closure of Oxford Road and of an all round lack of imagination in responding to this.

So what does The Rosebank have going for it? For one thing the interiors make you feel as if you’ve stepped into that international man of mystery Austin Powers’ shag pad (circa 1970).

Inside The Rosebank, by Thys Dullart

Lots of colour, velvet textures, shaggy carpets, mood lighting and themed music specially selected for the time of day.There’s an attention to detail that’s often lacking in Joburg’s finer establishments as well as a quirky and playful attitude evident as much in the Ally McBeal unisex bathrooms as in having a resident “bathologist”, who is employed to advise guests on their selection of aromatherapeutic baths.

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As for the bar, it’s speciality is serving cocktails – until now difficult to procure in Rosebank as even the favoured Thursday nightspot Katzy’s unashamedly prefers to serve the single malt crowd. The bar itself has great shots of Joburg as a backdrop and bead-fringed perspex booths in which you can be the life of the party by commandeering the control panel that allows you to change the colour of the lighting.

The circles at The Circle Bar, The Rosebank, by Thys Dullart

The menu is vast and was according to my source designed by an “award-winning mixologist”. To update the menu, he should perhaps be thinking about what ingredients one might use to mix up a “Mbeki’s folly” or a “Zuma’s triumph”.

I think the hotel may need to put in a bigger order for bitters.

* The great photos are by The Times photographer Thys Dullaart. The Rosebank can be contacted on: +2786 174 7444 or rosebank@therosebank.co.za

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