Daddy Long Legs Boutique Hotel, Cape Town review: Caught in a web of weird

Read our writer's views on this property below

At the Daddy Long Legs in Cape Town, you can scream all you like, writes David Whitley.

The room elicits a double-take upon opening the door. It is bright white and the wall looks like the back end of a spaceship. Either that or an evil Transformer in a snowstorm. The bathroom, meanwhile, has graffiti-like spray paintings all over it and a police car light that clanks into action when you yank on the switch.

This room is Being Mak!One, created by Cape Town graffiti artist Mak1One. He is one of many creative types who have been let loose in Cape Town's Daddy Long Legs hotel.

Unlike many art hotels, so dubbed because they have a few paintings on the walls and the odd design flourish, Daddy Long Legs doesn't mince about half-heartedly. It's as much a gallery as it is a hotel. The lobby and staircases host rotating exhibitions and some eye-catching photography, while each room is designed by an individual artist.

And, it soon transpires, Being Mak!One is one of the more reserved efforts. Emergency Room is more than a little disconcerting. As the name suggests, it has something of a hospital theme, with an X-ray cabinet on the walls and faux blood-spattered canvas curtains. A patient's gown is found hanging up, while the pillows have "Doctor" and "Nurse" written on them. The bathroom comes with a bedpan and a cabinet full of surgical tools.

Other rooms include The Photo Booth, where the walls are plastered with 3240 portraits of Capetonians arranged subtly so the work as a whole suggests the furrowed brow, nose and mouth of an elderly man's face. Perhaps coolest of all, however, is the brilliantly barking Do Not Disturb. The floor has artificial turf and the walls are (allegedly) soundproof. The room is also covered in Braille, which spells out the lyrics to Big in Japan by Alphaville, while small model cows line a shelf. More importantly, the stage lighting creates a performance area and the TV screens loops of karaoke DVDs. Which is where all the microphones — dangling from the ceiling, emerging from the floor and jutting out of the walls — come in. While other guests are supposedly protected from any caterwauling that may go on, manager Francois van Binsbergen concedes the odd bellow has been heard from the overly enthusiastic.

Van Binsbergen says the Daddy Long Legs concept sprang from self-catering apartments that the fledgling hotel group runs further down Long Street. Demand was high so they decided to venture further into a niche market, creating a place that looks like something between a hostel and a hotel.

They also wanted to reflect and show off Cape Town's not inconsiderable art scene.

Beyond the rooms themselves, it is the little touches that make Daddy Long Legs unique. For example, guests in some rooms are given a USB drive full of songs from the African Music Store downstairs to play through MP3 speakers. Meanwhile, the wine served at the bar is Fairtrade certified and a cut of the proceeds from the Emergency Room goes to the local Red Cross Children's Hospital.

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It's an ambitious - some would say absurd - project that has worked delightfully. And the success of the Daddy Long Legs hotel has led to a new chapter in silly accommodation along Cape Town's main drag. A couple of blocks further along Long Street is the newest property owned by the group. The former Metropol Hotel is now the Grand Daddy. Rooms are rather more prosaic, although the hotel bar is very bling. But the most intriguing addition is on the roof.

Go up to the top of the Grand Daddy and you'll find seven vintage Airstream caravans: the penthouse is a caravan park, albeit one with a stylish twist.

Van Binsbergen admits the Airstreams were supposed to go in a bush setting but problems with the initial land the company had bought meant an alternative was needed. And where better to use them than on the roof of the new hotel?

To keep with the Daddy Long Legs theme, each caravan has been kitted out by an artist. The designs aren't quite as extreme as those at the Daddy Long Legs but there are still efforts themed on John and Yoko, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and "1950s utopia".

If this spider continues to reel Long Street into its web, there are going to be many more double-takes to come.

The writer was a guest of Cape Town Tourism.

TRIP NOTES

WHERE 134 Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa. Phone +2 72 1422 3074, see www.daddylonglegs.co.za.

HOW MUCH From Rand775 ($115) a night.

TOP MARKS The complimentary welcome glass of local Fairtrade wine is a lovely touch.

BLACK MARK The staircase up to reception is stylish but a pain in the backside when carrying heavy bags. And there's no lift to take the strain.

DON'T MISS Nearby Ethiopian restaurant Addis In Cape (41 Church Street, addisincape.co.za) does things a little differently — all meals are eaten using sourdough pancakes as cutlery.

At the Daddy Long Legs in Cape Town, you can scream all you like, writes David Whitley.