It’s not as if Cape Town, South Africa’s waterfront capital of glamour, needed another notch in its already seriously stylish belt, but when Sol Kerzner, the outsized hotel impresario responsible for South Africa’s Sun City, Atlantis Bahamas and Atlantis The Palm in Dubai, One&Only Resorts, and Connecticut’s very own Mohegan Sun, says he wants to return to his homeland with a waterfront resort that will be the social center for Cape Town’s gorgeous and moneyed, well, by God, that’s what he’s going to do.

When I saw it, just a few weeks ago, the new One&Only Cape Town on the V&A Waterfront was something of an inauspicious sight, full of mud, dust, loose wiring, and the footprints of thousands of construction workers. The resort, a 91-room main building and 40 suites set on a private island in the adjacent marina, was racing to meet an April 3 opening day deadline. I had my doubts. But Lesson No. 1 in South Africa: never underestimate the power of Mr. Kerzner. The property opened—on time and with the requisite celebrities on site to toast its arrival (Nelson Mandela, Matt Damon, Mariah Carey).

And what of Kerzner’s vision of creating the city’s next great social hub?The hotel, designed and decorated by Adam D. Tihany in a restrained Bali-goes-on-safari style, is anchored by over 14,000 square feet of dazzling public space. There’s Gordon Ramsey’s Maze restaurant, a Nobu outpost that looks like a bento box on steroids (above), and, in between, an enormous bar and lounge with 23-foot-tall windows looking onto the marina and Table Mountain beyond (above, top). (There’s also, in an odd homage to Paris, an on-site boulangerie.)

Set among the rather insipid establishments of the V&A waterfront, it's a downright seductive space. Add to that rooms and suites that are positively huge and kitted out like nothing else in the city (iPod docks with surround sound, Nespresso machines, and Tihany’s covetable custom-made furniture) and it looks like Kerzner’s got his wish.

Amy Farley is a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo Credit: Jackie Caradonio