Close

Hotels Fit For a Sugar King

Claridge's, London

Claridge’s, London

By Mary Gostelow

When sugar baron Pepe Fanjul is in London, he always stays at Claridge’s (so much easier than having his own place).

Before he arrives, staff consults photos to make sure his personal furniture is arranged, and his wardrobe—stored during his absence—is hanging just so. He returns, in other words, to his own room, which takes the word bespoke to another level.

Pepe Fanjul was one of the stars on the recent three-part hit TV series on the BBC, Inside Claridge’s. Other major roles were played by Noma owner/chef René Redzepi, who is usually based at his number-one-in-the-world restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the hotel’s George Clooney-like general manager, Thomas Kochs. Pepe Fanjul can also star at his own hotel, the 7,000-acre Casa de Campo, a Leading Hotel of the World resort in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana Corporation, a holding company of Pepe Fanjul and his brothers.

Talking acreage, “paradise on earth” is the translation for the Zulu word shambala, the name of Douw Steyn’s 30,000-acre safari estate three hours’ drive north of Johannesburg. Steyn’s own home there, a two-floor Palladian beauty with seven thatched villas for guests, overlooks the dam he built to form a 74-acre lake, where hippos now live aplenty. Shambala’s luxury resort, Zulu Camp, is one of elite travel’s hidden secrets, so far only discovered by Middle East royalty and global celebrities who helicopter in direct.

At Shambala you stay in one of eight beehive-shaped villas right by a river. There are no rules, no set times, eat what you want whenever, go to the spa, go on yet another wildlife-filled safari (there are so many antelopes, cheetahs, giraffes, lions and zebras you cannot believe your luck). Unlike most safari lodges, Shambala revolves around you – as Manager Conrad Meyer says, every guest is treated like royalty.

Douw Steyn, by the way, is way more successful than most of the world’s royals. A close friend of Nelson Mandela, his many ventures include insurance concessions in his native South Africa and the UK. In London, he recently paid $105.3 million to buy the Belgrave Square home of the late investment banker Bruce Wasserstein. Back in Johannesburg, Steyn also owns the ultradiscreet Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa, and he is building Steyn City, near Pretoria.