It carries with it a rarefied air much like the old-boys’ clubs of days gone by and yet there’s nothing remotely old-fashioned about Slow in the City. Not the people, the pace and certainly not the concept, which takes Comair’s ultra-chic airport lounge idea out of the departure hall and into the big smoke.
The Gautrain is already whizzing along the rails to deposit its first passengers at their destination and the doors at Slow in the City have just swung open. At the oxidised brass-plated reception desk, a phalanx of neatly pressed girls waits patiently for the first laptop-toting traveller to make the short journey from the station across the road to their welcoming haven.
The day is already in full swing. Breakfast meetings and solo diners are seated comfortably in violet-clad restaurant booths and Gregor Jenkin’s inspired magnetic lights are attached to a mild steel surface above their heads, making it easy to adjust the light for teamwork or talk. Designer pastries and a MasterChef-worthy Eggs Benedict are favourites of the early rising crowd.
Over in the wood-panelled (dry-oiled, please. We’re Tonic) corner, the final touches are being put on one of the bigger meeting rooms for a small conference. In total, there are eight bespoke rooms of varying size with different, but complementary, decor schemes and a slap-youacross- the-face stunning line-up of contemporary South African art.
Even the panelling deserves a mention. There are no wall surfaces left untouched at Slow. Whether mosaic-tiled, wallpapered, woodpanelled, pigeon-holed or landscaped, the walls add depth and texture to this most polished of spaces.
In The Observatory, Tonic tables and couches sit comfortably around a giant screen where a slick AV presentation has just wrapped. Team members retire to the two kitsch-free chill rooms next door, The Light Room and The Dark Room. Like its eponymous title, The Light Room is entirely white: white walls, white furniture and a seamless backlit Barrisol ceiling for suffused light. The Dark Room is completely black. It’s a contemplative relaxation space that’s quiet, dark (obviously) and boasts a chaise. Enough said.
It’s no mean feat that natural light offsets the downstairs area of Slow in the City – a space that was ostensibly a basement until Tonic redressed it in an altogether more urbane outfit. This feeling of natural light is helped along magnificently well by the vertical gardens in two adjoining meeting rooms. Creepers and plants grow up the walls towards the sunlight and make for an intriguing setting for after-lunch coffee-slash-work stations as small teams get down to business. The verdant foliage is balanced by traditional William Morris wallpaper and contemporary local art. The real stars of the show though are often the people in the room next door, as the two spaces are mirror images of each other and are divided simply by a glass wall that is more often than not mistaken for a mirror until others move into the room beyond. It’s this eternally satisfying element of the unexpected that takes this entire lounge out of the ordinary.
The cheese has been unpacked onto the grand old workman’s block that was originally sourced from Die Ossewa and now has pride of place in the wine cellar. Cheese platters, biltong platters and other manly-sounding snacks are on the menu in the late afternoon, all best served with a bottle of SA’s finest from the cellar racks. Suited types are making their way to the upstairs lounge for an Italian coffee, a Scotch and a super-fast check-in to their flights – boarding cards are even printed on site.
Is a private bathroom in a public space the ultimate luxury? We think so. Each individual – wallpapered, naturally (French. Elitis. If you must know) – stall is complete with its own designer washbasins, towels and toiletries and, for the practically minded, there are lockers and oversized showers too.
The evening light shines through Mikhele Mathison’s waxed mild-steel screens. These were specially commissioned for the space to reflect the city plan. With the urban landscape in full action beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, they do a sensational job of echoing one of Joburg’s finest attributes. As Philippe van der Merwe of Tonic explains, “It’s such a beautiful interpretation of a simplistic city grid. It’s very clever and it doesn’t fight with anything in the space. It simply adds another layer.” The Gautrain set are pecking at their laptops, swiftly wrapping up business for the day, while the meeting rooms, mini office spaces and Bauhaus-inspired work stations below are quietly being evacuated for the 15-minute hop to the airport. When we watched Up in the Air it didn’t look anything like this. Hang on, it had George Clooney. Oh wait… I’ve just seen him.
WORDS: Danielle Weakley