By Brandon Schultz
When a hotel self-describes as a “national treasure” and the “most cherished hotel” in the country, it sets almost unachievable expectations, but The Oyster Box delivers. Along the Indian Ocean in Durban, South Africa, The Oyster Box is an opulent vestige of travel’s glorious, glamorous past, and it’s all by design. Though almost completely renovated from 2007-2009, the hotel hasn’t lost sight of its heritage, either in style or service, and maintains an elegant vintage aura emanating throughout thoroughly modern facilities and offerings. The Oyster Box attracts actors, models, business moguls, and world royalty including both Prince Harry and Prince William, but the red-carpet treatment extends to all who visit.
In total, The Oyster Box includes 86 individually appointed rooms, suites, and villas (including 8 garden villas with private plunge pools) with either tropical garden views or stunning ocean vistas. All are luxurious, but it’s impossible to compete with the Presidential Suite. The 4840-square-foot suite spans two floors and is accessed by private elevator revealing two bedrooms, his-and-her marble bathrooms, functional kitchen, dining room with seating for eight, private study, and a living area that includes a baby grand piano. Fresh flowers and flat screen televisions grace most rooms, and a 24-hour butler will see to every imaginable whim. If 180-degree ocean views aren’t magnificent enough, enjoy the scene with sunset canapés, delivered daily. Pillow and soap menus invite total personalization, along with a customized drink and snack bar. And, despite incredible proximity to the beach along Durban’s Golden Mile, and the hotel’s picturesque pool with red and white umbrellas echoing its iconic red-capped lighthouse, guests of the Presidential Suite will also want to take advantage of its private infinity plunge pool.
Those who frequent finer hotels are no stranger to exquisite High Teas, and The Oyster Box regularly hosts one of the most visually stunning of these afternoon respites, with colorful cakes and confections piled high amid the romance of The Palm Court.
A curry feast is a rarer find. Served nightly at the Ocean Terrace (with the ocean view you’d expect from such a name), a minimum of eleven meat, fish, and vegetables curries are offered with homemade condiments including chutneys and raitas alongside naans and roti, and it’s an experienced that shouldn’t be missed. Be sure to try the hotel’s signature Durban lamb curry.
The Oyster Box is also home to the legendary Grill Room, where the fine dining experience has been cultivated for decades by a maître d’ of more than 50 years. Indulge in sumptuous traditions of culinary grace including tableside preparation and the beloved 1920s hors d’oeuvres trolley serving 18 “old world” appetizers.
For the most exclusive culinary experience, reserve the wine cellar beneath the Oyster Bar. Here, private dinners for up to ten beneath a glass ceiling and surrounded by award-winning wines, some of which will be paired with your Chef’s Table meal.
While the entirety of The Oyster Box exudes relaxed refinement, the ultimate rejuvenation comes from the spa onsite, and even here the hotel seeks exceptionality. Traditional treatments are available, but specialized services include chakra massage, cupping, four-handed massage, reiki, hot stone therapy, and uniquely crafted Indian and African journey experiences. Still, the most desired treatments are found in The Oyster Box’s Turkish hammam, from cleansing ceremonies to the temperature therapies of the hammam’s octagonal, heated marble slab. Elsewhere among the spa’s extensive facilities you’ll find the Tranquility Lounge, the Health Bar & Buffet, a salon, and an ornately decorated plunge pool with water jet therapy set amid custom ceramic artwork for the ultimate experience of unsurpassed tranquility.