12 November 2013 by Kate Turkington

Port Elizabeth style

Port Elizabeth used to be known as the ‘Windy City’ until the local tourism decision-makers decided that the ‘Friendly City’ was perhaps more welcoming. But be prepared to be blown away anyway, as I was, by one of the smartest, coolest and most stylish places to stay in the city.

Jazz Trio by Sam Nhlengethwa

It’s called the No5 Boutique Art Hotel, a member of the classy Mantis group of properties, and it sits just a block away from the Indian Ocean off Port Elizabeth’s famous beachfront, Summerstrand.

The interiors have been lovingly and meticulously designed by Maurette van Eyssen, and they're a perfect reproduction of art deco design at its best – expect bold lines, sophisticated interiors, elegant furniture and rich colours. You could be forgiven for thinking that you were back in the heyday of the 1930s.

But it’s not only the design that captivates. This is called an 'art' hotel, and from the moment you first step into the modish reception area until you fall asleep in your king-sized bed, you’ll understand why.

Art deco style Art deco style

South African art of the highest international quality is everywhere.

An iconic mixed media work by William Kentridge dominates the lobby. Called Wittgenstein’s Rhinoceros, it’s a clever, whimsical take on an argument that German philosopher Wittgenstein is reputed to have had with Bertrand Russell – is that rhino in its various forms real or imaginary, or governed by the rules of science? However, don’t be alarmed – you don’t have to know about Schrödinger’s cat in the box to appreciate the work.

Wander along the passage and be drawn into the evocative night scenes of Henk Serfontein. Glimpses of life in the dorpies (little towns) of the Karoo come poignantly and dramatically to life.

South African art of the highest international quality is everywhere.

Another huge work – this time of a township jazz scene by Sam Nhlengethwa – fills another wall. Miriam Makeba is singing her heart out as a lone piano and double bass follow her every note. The painting is not just a tribute to one of South Africa’s best-known singers and Struggle activist, but it’s a tribute to jazz in general.

You’ll eat your fine dinner or inviting breakfast under the gaze of Robert Hodgins’ satirical painting, Happy Birthday, Mr Chairman, as well as some of his other inimitable works, amid gorgeous pieces of hand-blown glass. As you wander around the hotel, look out for the eye-catching bronze Artist Muse by Maureen Quin, paintings by Hanneke Benade, art deco porcelain figures, and any number of other fascinating works of art.

Artist Muse by Maureen Quin Artist Muse by Maureen Quin

This small hotel, with its nine suites plus a Presidential one, is at once so stylish, so different, so elegant, such a feast for the eye, and yet it exudes an atmosphere of calm. The simplistic planting of the gardens complements the style of the house, and the relatively small space gives the illusion of much greater space. It’s all very soothing.

Even if you don’t stay here, go for high tea, catch a classic movie in the intimate Mountbatten movie theatre, sip a glass of bubbly in the Champagne Lounge, down a single malt in the Whiskey Lounge, pamper yourself with a massage at the Healing Earth Spa, or float in one of the two swimming pools and just listen to the sound of the nearby surf.

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