Lifestyle/ Travel

Formal glory

Restored and refurbished, Maputo’s Polana shines again…

By Rosanne Buchanan

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THE PLACE

The Polana has always been an icon representing an old-fashioned sense of glamour and world-class sophistication, but over time most would agree that it had become run down. Some say a casino (no longer operational) attracted a seedy element, but after a two-year closure and a whopping $25-million revamp, the hotel has had a facelift that is modern and contemporary, yet still captures a hint of colonial elegance. The original hotel was built in 1922, designed by world-famous architect Sir Herbert Baker in the Palace Style. It is now owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and run by its subsidiary Serena Hotel Group. The city is abuzz with new business ventures, but it is also a leisure city with Maputo’s vibrant nightlife.

WHO GOES THERE

Well-heeled weekend travellers who want to revel in Maputo, where restaurants are plentiful. During the week it’s a flurry of business wheelers and dealers.

THE VIBE

It’s a destination hotel. The elegance of the decor, from the original old steel lift, paddle fans and the expansive veranda have been retained and enhanced by Art Deco light fittings and intricate woodwork reminiscent of the area’s Portuguese and Arabic influences. A mix of antique furniture and modern fabrics blends old with new. Although apparently the stalwart locals
don’t support some of the changes to the hotel (like the fountain on the veranda), to a first-timer it is very impressive.

There are 142 rooms of varying degrees of luxury. The focal point in each room is a carved mahogany bed with a silk canopy. The Penhaligon bath products are a real treat. The restored hotel transports one to another era, far away from the hurlyburly city life that exists outside the hotel. The Maisha spa incorporates Ayurvedic healing and some African-inspired treatments, like a bamboo massage.

THE FOOD

The restaurant has always showcased local fare and the Veranda restaurant now offers themed gourmet buffets with a regular focus on Portuguese fare and typical Mozambican dishes. The Aquarius bar offers lighter Japanese-style lunches like sushi and noodle dishes. A new addition is the Delagoa restaurant, a French fine-dining restaurant (the only French restaurant in Maputo), started as a joint venture with French Michelin-starred chef Edouard Loubet, who has a penchant for using pungent herbs in his cooking.

Most fresh goods have to come from South Africa, but chef Alex Morlot manages to come up with a five-star menu including foie gras terrine, crab bisque, rack of lamb, roast duck and boeuf en croute. Flavours are bold, with ingredients like fennel, sage, thyme, chives and basil sometimes overpowering the more subtle seafood dishes on the menu but it is an interesting experience at the hands of an accomplished chef.

HOW TO GET THERE

Maputo is a 40-minute flight from Joburg and the hotel is only 15 minutes from the airport.

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