A royal reception at La Residence in Franschhoek

Entrance at La Residence, Franschhoek

Entrance at La Residence, Franschhoek

There is a name that the famous, the fortunate and the accomplished whisper only to those that they recognise as kindred souls. A country estate among rolling vineyards and plum orchards in the Cape Winelands that understands why the everyday and purely functional is not good enough. A place run by people who know that style is a creative expression of the subtle art of living. La Residence is that name. And it is here that guests who never drop their standards check in to relax.

Not that the staff, who treats every visitor like an heir returning to the family’s country estate, would ever make you do anything as crude as sign in on arrival. Instead, a whole welcoming party of the top members of the hospitality team meets you at your vehicle with gifts and a reviving drink, while they magically make your luggage, mode of transport and any doubts that you are not related to the owners of this château disappear.

Lizelle enjoying breakfast at La Residence

Lizelle enjoying breakfast at La Residence

We arrive two hours earlier than arranged, but general manager, Edward Morton, is unfazed. For many years he kept his perfectionist hand on the award-winning Royal Malewane Safari Lodge, favoured by celebrities like Elton John. He gallantly sweeps us off to lunch in the triple volume dining area, one of many treasure chests of Liz Biden. Liz, the owner and former resident of La Residence, is an adventurous collector of art and furniture pieces from around the world. Slightly smokey antique mirrors, jazzy black and white marble tiles and plush red chairs suggest that this venue could turn into pure theatre for those who love to entertain and be entertained.

 

Lizelle at the La Residence horizon pool overlooking olive groves

Lizelle at the La Residence horizon pool overlooking olive groves

The hotel is nestled on 30 acres of a Franschhoek working farm, providing much of the ingredients of our memorable butternut soup and a cascade of crunchy fresh produce that probably still remembers the hand that decided today is the day they will meet the salad maker. Between main course and dessert, we are treated to a tasting of a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon made from the estate’s own grapes. Plum liqueur and homegrown olives are more ways that La Residence seeks to create a bond between visitors and the fertile soil surrounding them.

Frangipani Suite bathroom at La Residence

Frangipani Suite bathroom at La Residence

La Residence takes great pride in their ability to match a room to a guest’s personality. Our oriental-inspired Frangipani Room immediately feels like home and we scheme and plan how we could stay on indefinitely in this honeymoon suite. North-facing with wonderful views over the vineyards, it is sunny all day and the most private of the 11 suites. The bedroom and lounge area is so spacious, it feels like even the furniture pieces are stepping aside with a subtle curtsy. The bathroom is a little Versailles in its own right with floor-to-ceiling shutters also with views on the vineyards, an abundance of Charlotte Rhys products and enough cupboard space to move in and live here for months.

The Villas at La Residence in Franschhoek

The Villas at La Residence in Franschhoek

To cater for families, La Residence has built a few spacious free-standing villas located slightly away from the main hotel, each with their own swimming pool and private garden with fruit-bearing peach and lemon trees. The vibe here is relaxed and the use of colours lavish, creating a truly happy family space. The little princes and princesses even have their own toiletry sets aimed at little bambinos. Visitors with a passion for cooking might have difficulty staying out of the seductively styled kitchen where villa guests have a free reign. Or, if they prefer, the resident chef will conjure their meals here.

Lounge area overlooking the dam at La Residence

Lounge area overlooking the dam at La Residence

For those who treasure their solitude and privacy, but don’t want to be confined to the perimeters of their own suites, there are several slightly more secluded communal areas to recline in, admire the views, catch up on some reading in the library, picnic on the lawn, catch some sun next to the horizon pool, or stroll through the orchards.

That evening we dine at Reuben’s in Franschhoek village and the hotel immediately arranges complimentary transport to and from the restaurant. We are free to just relax and savour the good wines that this region produces. The next morning there appears to be no cut-off time for breakfast and the check-out time is whenever we are able to reluctantly release our room to the next fortunate visitor.

Lizelle and Jack at La Residence

Lizelle and Jack at La Residence

La Residence is an outrageously classy and comfortable boutique hotel that really celebrates the pleasure of being able to afford the best the world has to offer. What makes us want to return again and again, though, is the people of La Residence. They have perfected the art of attentiveness without intrusion, warmth without too much familiarity. They are the top of the hospitality crop.

– Independent review by Klein Companion, Lizelle Steyn

Need more information? Visit La Residence on Klein Collection’s website to view more property details, images and rates.

Mosaic Farm: a truthful nature experience in Stanford

Mosaic Farm, Stanford

Mosaic Farm, Stanford

Dropping off the kids at my parents’ place in Paarl is a standard detour when my wife and I want to spend some time by ourselves. This time we incorporated the Boland scenic route into our trip to Stanford. Our destination? Mosaic Farm.

I took a shortcut, which landed us on a gravel road. Our desire for some peace and quite was tempered by what turned out to be a 4-hour journey. I should have listened to the GarMap voice prompts…

Finally the beautiful coastal farm village was visible from a distance. We made it, not on time, but still – we were there.

I love the authenticity of Stanford. It is as if you have turned back the clock of time and halved the normal pace of life. Small antiques, coffee shops, art and other interesting things greet you in the main road as you drive past.

View at Die Gat, Mosaic Farm

We arrived at Mosaic Farm and Nadine (the manager on duty) welcomed us with a warm smile. Our bags were taken care of while we were offered a welcome drink in the lounge. Nadine talked us through the list of activities that they offer, informed us about the dinner arrangements and also gave us some history of the place. The possibilities seemed endless: picnic on the beach, nature walks, cycle wine tour, kayaking on the lake, private dinner, and more. One thing was clear: we should have come for two nights! There were so many things to do and see and I wanted to experience them all.

Francois enjoying the outside shower at Mosaic Farm

Francois enjoying the outside shower at Mosaic Farm

We stayed in one of the free-standing lodge suites under the Milkwood trees. These beautifully designed and decorated units were built from stone and other natural materials sourced from the surrounding area. Our bedroom and deck overlooked the lagoon, positioned in a way to optimise privacy and views – with a rather daring outside shower…

The bird life at Mosaic Farm is overwhelming. Their songs created a fitting background to the silence of the nature reserve.

Carien having dinner at Mosaic Farm

Carien having dinner at Mosaic Farm

Our private dinner, with the chef introducing herself and taking us through the menu for the evening, is definitely a unique touch. There is no rush or time schedule here and we ended up having a 4 hour dinner – surrounded by the amazing views of nature, a warm fire place, friendly staff and just the two of us for a change… a winning recipe for a memorable experience.

Milkwood trees at Mosaic Farm

Milkwood trees at Mosaic Farm

As luck would have it – we were fortunate to meet the US-based owners Kathryn and Breese Johnson. With their love for God, nature and people, Mosaic Farm is truly their monument of what they stand for. They are the drivers behind outreach programs that uplift the local Stanford community by focusing on education, rehabilitation and job creation. The Johnsons are also highly committed to bringing the Stanford nature reserve back to its natural indigenous fauna and flora and they are continuously removing invasive trees – a massive project and investment!

Mosaic Farm also caters for exclusive weddings, conferences as well as team building break aways.

Outside deck at Mosaic Farm

Outside deck at Mosaic Farm

Therefore, the question is not whether you should come to Mosaic Farm, but rather whether you will be fortunate enough to experience this level of personal hospitality and service with God’s creation as the canvas. Mosaic Farm is ideal for those who want to connect to nature, looking for a honest and truthful setting where opulence is not the draw card.

Oh, and by the way – you have to go for lunch at Madre’s kitchen on the Sir Robert Stanford estate just outside the Stanford village. Their wines are also great and the tasting is free.

 

Need more information? Visit Mosaic Farm on Klein Collection’s website to view more property details, images and rates.

South Hill – the perfect honeymoon escape in Elgin

South Hill Guest House, Elgin Valley

South Hill Guest House, Elgin Valley

Driving rain, icy cold and howling wind… not exactly ideal weather conditions when escaping to the countryside, right?

Wrong.

For my wife and I, we couldn’t ask for anything better. You see, we were heading off to South Hill Wine Estate in Elgin, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Yes, Elgin might be an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, but for us, the mere prospect of escaping into the country for a night away was good enough.

The pool at South Hill guest house

The pool at South Hill guest house

Although South Hill is rated only 3 stars, in many respects I think it deserves more. It features a guest house, restaurant and wedding venue, wine tasting facilities, art gallery and a honeymoon cottage. The whole guest house can be rented out by groups. Alternatively, guests can rent the rooms individually. It has four en-suite bedrooms downstairs (each with single basins as well as a separate bath and shower) and one extremely spacious en-suite attic room upstairs, which is probably better suited for children. The open-plan lounge and fully fitted kitchen downstairs is accessible to all guests. Guests can also make use of the wood-fired pizza oven on the outside entertainment area, as well as the large swimming pool.

However, we chose to spend the night at South Hill’s honeymoon cottage called the Pump House Suite… well, the two of us and our baby girl, who, I guess, was simply too young to be left with her grandparents.

Chané, Ester and Stephanus

Chané, Ester and Stephanus

The baby cot was already set up by the time we arrived. We immediately helped ourselves to tea and home-made ‘beskuit‘ (the Afrikaans word for rusks) with chunks of chocolate… simply delicious! The rain ceased momentarily, so we quickly ventured outside onto the wooden jetty. Here we listened to the sounds of wild geese as the sun cast long shadows over the farm dam. This was indeed a tranquil place.

Pump House interior

Pump House interior

Fortunately the miserable weather outside was more than compensated for by the cosy interior inside the cottage. The Pump House suite features one en-suite bedroom with a lounge and a small kitchenette, all being open-plan (except for the bathroom). The lounge features a cute antique fireplace, but unfortunately it’s the type where you can’t see the actual fire (you close the metal door and then the heat eventually heats up the room). Large cushions are piled up next to the couches – very useful if you want to sit outside on the wooden jetty, perched over the farm dam. It is obvious that they definitely paid attention to the small details at South Hill: they have small lanterns for romantics who venture outside at night; a mini Weber barbecue for the tong-master aiming to impress his lady; an iPod docking station for music lovers; a chandelier suspended over the bath containing bath salts and candles; they even have a private jacuzzi outside by the suite’s braai area.

The bathroom at The Pumphouse at South Hill

The bathroom at The Pumphouse at South Hill

On that note, I tried to convince my wife that we should try out the jacuzzi. However, it was probably around 10 degrees celsius outside (probably even less than that if you consider the wind chill factor). Furthermore, neither of us thought of packing our swimming trunks. Needless to say, we gave it a pass. Admittedly, maybe self-inflicted pneumonia wouldn’t have been such a great idea after all. We opted for a candle-lit bath instead – a luxury seldom enjoyed in our own home, thanks to our two (very) high octane 3- and 5-year old boys! And thanks to the iPod docking station in the room, were were able to listen to our favourite music whilst doing so.

South Hill's Restaurant

South Hill's Restaurant

The kitchenette has a coffee machine, microwave oven, electric hob, toaster, rusks, fresh milk in the minibar fridge, cutlery, crockery and a sink, dishwashing liquid and other necessities. The facilities are self-catering, but if guests prefer, they can request breakfasts, provided that they inform management in advance. The restaurant is closed on Mondays, so bear that in mind if you need to enjoy lunch.

My wife and I both fell in love with South Hill, and hopefully we will be back soon. I think summers must be equally enjoyable here. And who knows? If it’s not too hot, next time I might even be able to convince my wife to join me in the the jacuzzi. That’s if the honeymooners who will eventually discover this romantic hideaway didn’t book the cottage before I did…

Need more information? Visit South Hill on Klein Collection’s website to view more property details, images and rates.

The Robertson Small Hotel: chic country getaway

Facade of Robertson Small HotelAfter only two years in business, the Robertson Small Hotel walked away with the title of Best Luxury Country Hotel in South Africa at the recent World Luxury Hotel Awards evening in Croatia. Needless to say, we were quite keen to hit the road and find out what all the fuss is about. Even with expectations set sky-high, we were impressed by the thoughtfulness and energy of the people who created this stylish country getaway.

Robertson Small Hotel Pool SuiteFirst, I would credit the architect, Rick Stander, and interior designer, Nica Maree. They created indoor living spaces that are constantly inviting you to step outside or draw nature into your suite. The four poolside suites are right on the water’s edge, with fold-away shutters that open onto the brilliant blue of the pool. The bathroom shutters give you the option of turning the entire suite, from bathroom to poolside patio, into open plan. Double-volume ceilings with several skylights frame old oak tree branches during the day and starry skies at night.

Robertson Small Hotel Pool Suite PatioEven if you’re not staying in one of the pool suites, but opt for a room in the century-old, but chic and contemporary manor house, you can still lounge by the pool and enjoy pre-dinner drinks and complimentary canapés on the L-shaped veranda facing the fragrant garden with its old fruit trees.

Lavender and olive oil products

Riaan and Stefané Kruger, the experienced general managers (previously at Royal Madikwe), ensure that all the finishing touches are in place in terms of service. The lavender and olive oil bathroom products are specially created for The Robertson Small Hotel. The beds are king size and extra length, and you can pick from a pillow menu exactly how high you want to rest your head. Also, every room has an iPod docking station, fresh flowers, original art, plunger coffee, velvety hot chocolate and speciality teas. The laundry service effortlessly passed Jack’s “Could I have this shirt pressed within 45 minutes?” test. And our vehicle had a good de-mudding while we were not watching.

Breakfast at the in-house Reubens RestaurantWith Reuben Riffel as the concept chef at The Robertson Small Hotel, everything that appears on your plate is guaranteed to be a feast. But there is nothing small about the portions. We ambitiously aimed for the 3-course dinner, but had to raise the white napkin flag after mains. So, that was a well-deserved early Sunday night for the new executive chef, Gerhard, and his assistants – after firing up the entire kitchen for just the two of us. The next morning, Tatenda, our waiter with the sunny disposition, was on duty again. Breakfast was anything but ordinary: eggs Benedict, vanilla and saffron poached fruit, shiraz and pinotage grape juice, and only the very best from the baker and cheese maker.

If you are staying for the weekend, and looking for a special place to lunch, we loved Fraai Uitzicht 1798 on the Klaasvoogds Meander, less than a 30-minute drive from Robertson in the direction of Ashton. On a warm day, the lavender is intoxicating and the vineyards form a perfect backdrop for enjoying the fine cuisine and full-bodied regional wines. Ask the friendly German owners about their glasses and how their shapes affect the taste of the wine. This was our first ‘glass tasting’. Oenophiles will have a particularly good time in the Robertson Valley. Springfield with its iconic Life from Stone and old-style, minimal-handling Méthode Ancienne wines, is a must for any wine tour. Graham Beck and Bon Courage are well known for their Cap Classique. Van Loveren’s trees, planted on special days in the history of the family and the country, will tell you many stories while you settle beneath them for a tasting.

Outside seating at Robertson Small Hotel

We recommend The Robertson Small Hotel for couples looking for a relaxing and romantic getaway, or for anybody who wants to escape the crowds during any of the four very popular festivals currently set in Robertson. They are the Hands-on Harvest (February), the Wacky Wine Weekend (June), the Robertson Slow (August) and the Robertson Wine on the River (October).

– Independent review by Klein Companion, Lizelle Steyn

Need more information? Visit Robertson Small Hotel on Klein Collection’s website to view more property details, images and rates.