12 June 2003. The Westcliff Hotel today officially launched Jacaranda Hill, its gem of a showpiece, a classically elegant conference centre development which has taken shape over a fourteen-month period at a cost of $3 million (US).
Situated in magnificent sculpted gardens which are the hallmark of The Westcliff hotel, the venue has been named and furnished in a manner which pays tribute to both the historic and horticultural legacy of our country and our city. Named for its spectacular views of the dense Jacaranda carpet in the Highveld Spring, Jacaranda Hill’s meeting rooms - The Erica Room, The Strelitzia Room and the Protea Bar - evoke the country’s magnificent botanical heritage.
The imposing “Mediterranean Imperial” style of the building, reminiscent of the Sir Herbert Baker houses like Arcadia which grace Parktown and Westcliff Ridge, has been expertly interpreted by Graham Viney, one of South Africa’s leading designers. His work reflects a master craftsman’s attention to detail in everything from the architecture and the décor to the furnishings and soft finishes which bring an inimitable charm to Jacaranda Hill.
The imposing Arcadia Ballroom, complete with a generously proportioned, hand-crafted fireplace, is illuminated with glorious chandeliers, enhancing the effect of its dramatic double-height ceilings and archways. Pelmets, swags and three-and-a-half metre drapes in duck-egg blue, evocative of “Marie-Antoinette’s bustle-back skirt”, to quote London-trained curtain manufacturer, Angela Swaine, bring a timeless elegance to the room. These were specially made so as not to obscure the natural light which floods the building on the west side and also so that one can “read the arches” from inside the Ballroom.
Paint-effects expert Freya Lincoln spent weeks gilding the silver ceiling domes in the Reception Hall which leads from the Ballroom to the sunny Balcony Terrace. Allegorical murals conceptualized and designed by Viney were painstakingly researched, executed and crafted over a three-month period by Cape Town-based artist Ella-Lou O’Meara, whose work adorns surfaces, homes and buildings across the country and as far afield as the United States. Her murals have been painted in watercolours and acrylics on a gesso base and sealed with matt acrylics.
Viney took his inspiration for these scenes from the work of Rex Whistler whose murals abound in eminent houses and buildings in England; in fact a petulant Lady of Good Hope, similar to the one in the Reception Foyer is to be found in the bedroom of Lady Edwina Mountbatten’s stately home and is rumoured to look rather like her.
Jacaranda Hill’s two murals, entitled “Time” and “Weather”, have been contemporarised with a playful, African feel. The Rain Queen reclines on an African Crocodile chaise longue, while she and her Thunder Chief are surrounded by symbols drawn from the flora, fauna and culture of Africa - frogs, a drum, an mbira, a tonteldoos bush and a soet-doring mimosa amongst others. In fact Ella-Lou picked up many of the rocks, stones and grasses illustrated in her scenes from the steep hillside behind The Westcliff Hotel. The Weather mural is arranged around a wind indicator and attached to a weather vane which stands proud on the red-tiled roof of Jacaranda Hill, quite at home amongst the Sir Herbert Baker-style barley-twist chimneys, where it plays in the Highveld breezes.
The delicate pastels of the gardens compliment the “traditional white” Herbert Baker finish of the building and garden walls. The Summer Terrace, with its spacious lawn and panoramic views is situated on the high ground above Jacaranda Hill. Perfect for alfresco receptions, garden parties and summer weddings, this airy space is bordered by pink Simplicity and white Iceberg roses along with London Plane trees and ornamental citrus shrubs with underplantings of Baleria, bordered by Box hedges. The subtle theme of pink, white, blue and mauve shades extends to the wall arches and pergolas, planted with fragrant Star Jasmine and Wisteria. Designed by Glen Wagner of Landmark Studios and installed and maintained by Real Landscapes, the gardens include a host of indigenous shrubs, trees and flowers - from Agapanthus, Cape Royal Plumbago and Strelitzia to Baleria, Arum Lilies, apricot Clivias, Combretum and Yellowwood trees. At night the area will be lit to dramatic effect by spotlights on the hillside, well concealed by the established Silky Oaks and wild grassland behind.
The meeting venues within Jacaranda Hill are richly fitted with classic Regency-style furniture designed by Pierre Cronje and built in solid wood selected from mature mahogany. Crafted by Cronje’s team of Cape masters, the pieces boast perfect dovetails and dowels, and feature precisely inlaid decorative veneers and edge bandings, with the escutcheons and embellishments characteristically found in gilded original period pieces. Each dining-table chair, sideboard and server has been carefully aged by customised distressing and hand-finished by traditional French polishing.
While the furnishings and finishes of Jacaranda Hill are unique and customised, so too is the service that guests will enjoy at this traditionally-styled, but contemporary venue, which features state-of-the-art technical and culinary equipment and expertise in a gloriously sumptuous setting.
Guests are assured of an extraordinary culinary experience, presented in keeping with the silver service of The Westcliff’s renowned fine-dining restaurant, La Belle Terrasse. The highly flexible menu selector makes provision for special health, dietary and religious requirements.
In addition to a variety of menus which are available for corporate functions, private parties and weddings, guests will also be able to choose themed functions for special occasions. Set upon a baronial banqueting table, amongst the opulence of crisp white linen, sparkling crystal, gleaming silver cutlery and polished candelabra, The Rand Baron’s Ball features a seven-course set menu and brings back the splendour of an era when affluent mining-magnates and pioneers established the illustrious Westcliff neighbourhood. More contemporary is a sophisticated Jazz Evening of dining and dancing, where guests can enjoy contemporary South African cuisine while they dance the night away to the rhythms which inspired Sophiatown and have since been modernized to reflect the mood of Africa’s vibrant cultural heritage.
Enquiries, bookings and reservations for Jacaranda Hill should be directed to Banqueting Sales Manager, Shamila Manulal.