As Sandton's oldest hotel, the Balalaika is in fact older than the business district itself. The Balalaika started out in the 1950s as a countryside tea room that was a popular stopover between Joburg and Pretoria. Hotel rooms were later added and decades later as the skyscrapers of the flashy new Sandton business district began to grow around the original Balalaika, the hotel sought to retain its ‘human-scale’, and countryside feel.
Over the years the hotel grew to accommodate 330 rooms, spread over two leafy low-rise courtyards, each with a swimming pool and gardens at their centre, that represent a luxurious amount of outdoor space compared to many other newer Sandton hotels. Away from the hotel's bustling lobby, the hotel feels more like a resort, especially down by the swimming pools where flight crews from Europe like to spend their days lapping up the sun on the loungers.
Accommodation at BalalaikaThe hotel has a total of 330 rooms split over the original Balalaika building and the connected Crown Court building with an option of 220 king rooms and 110 twin rooms, 8 of which have spacious balconies with garden views. The entire hotel was renovated in late 2020/2021 and the rooms given a bright and airy makeover, and a new clubhouse-style VIP lounge was also added.
Events and conferencing at BalalaikaIn the middle of the business district, The Balalaika has ample conferencing and meeting facilities, with the largest of the nine conferencing halls seating up to 300, all equipped with the usual essentials like PA systems, projectors and smart TVs.
A new addition launched in the Covid-era is the hotel's high-tech Live Stream Studio kitted out to host fully live-streamed events, such as awards ceremonies as well as hybrid conferences. Not dissimilar to your average TV set, the studio has a stage with multiple large screens for hosts to view teleprompters and Zoom rooms as well as green screen backdrops, and a full set of HD cameras and other audio-visual equipment for ensuring the highest quality streaming. The studio can be combined with the use of the hotel's other conferencing facilities allowing for truly hybrid conferencing.
Dining at BalalaikaThe hotel's premier restaurant is The Bull Run, looking out directly onto the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the decor is all about the bulls and the bears, money, dosh, lucre. So you'll find references to trading on The Bull Run's menu, big screens of moving images of New York City, a wonderful mosaic mural of Benjamin Franklin watching over you at The Dollar Bar and of course the landmark bronze bull outside.
Close to 20 years old, The Bull Run has retained its reputation as a fine steakhouse, and with its recent multi-million rand renovation in 2018, is now an attractive stop too for after-work drinks. Check out the cocktail menu, taste the 'adult' shakes or order some bubbly on tap. No-fuss culinary sophistication is the guiding thought behind the menu with an impeccably curated selection of steaks, seafood, wines and cocktails.
The salads are super-sized and delicious, and there's a great range of sides. Arrive hungry as the menu is generously portioned and pop into the wine cellar and check out Oscar's corner for the best recommendations of the day. There's something to suit all tastes in a space as comfortable for lunch as for a date night or a suit-and-tie business dinner.
Opened in 2021 is Coffee on twenty, the hotel’s on-the-go coffee bar in the lobby area. The artistic barista has a thing for latte art and we’re told he can build anything on a latte. Just off the lobby is Lord's Bar, a cosy English-pub style bar where the hotel's unique heritage is on display. Check out the variety of framed newspaper articles about the hotel, some of them dating back over 50 years, for a unique snapshot of Sandon's history. Breakfast at the Balalaika is served at The Conservatory overlooking the gardens where it's instantly possible to leave your cares behind and imagine you aren't even in the heart of the Sandton rush at all.
The Protea Hotel Balalaika is part of the Marriott hotels group, so make sure to sign up for free to become a Marriott Bonvoy member, giving you access to huge discounts, sometimes of up to 35% off the usual room rate.
Get there with the Gautrain: Protea Hotel Balalaika is a ten-minute walk from the Sandton Gautrain station.