A stay­over in Fran­schhoek hooked MICHELLE HARDIE for its lo­ca­tion and com­fort

Getaway (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - La Clé Coun­try Lodge WESTERN CAPE

A place to spoil all your senses in Fran­schhoek

Hir­ing Jac­ques Eras­mus of Cape Town’s Hemel­huijs, who is ad­mired for his tal­ent in both in­te­ri­ors and cui­sine, to de­sign Le Clé des Mon­tagnes’ new lodge was a clever move by the owner. Here, Jac­ques has mixed style and the im­por­tance of food in bring­ing peo­ple to­gether. The ef­fect is im­me­di­ate as you en­ter the lodge: the kitchen is to your left (you are wel­come to help pre­pare meals or just chat to the staff while sip­ping your wine at the kitchen ta­ble) and straight ahead, a lit­tle fur­ther in, sits the ma­hogany 10-seater an­tique din­ing ta­ble framed by a dou­ble-vol­ume space that makes you feel grand as you sweep into this stately space. The at­mos­phere is best de­scribed by two pithy ad­jec­tives, ‘ca­sual lux­ury’, which I pinched from a thank you in the guest­book. Eat­ing here is a real fam­ily af­fair, but with strangers. I spent my evening with a cou­ple who had one foot in Dubai and the other in the UK. We ploughed through hearty dishes pre­pared by Me­lanie Shep­herd, who serves a Chef’s Ta­ble three times a week. (If you want to eat alone, the staff will find a pri­vate nook for you.) Her hus­band Scott, also a pro­fes­sional chef, man­ages the lodge and took me on a lo­cal’s view of the vil­lage, which was a treat. Both are sea­soned hosts and know their stuff. I like the ar­chi­tec­ture of a loft room, so I opted to sleep in one of the two up­stairs at the lodge. Down­stairs there’s a room tucked away to the side, with a pri­vate court­yard, and two gar­den rooms open onto the ve­randa, pool and grapevines lin­ing the land­scape to­wards

the Fran­schhoek moun­tains. If you want a hide­away, book the court­yard room, but the lofts (with a shared sit­ting room) are just as pri­vate, al­beit smaller, and cost less. There is also a li­brary where I found a book­case full of ob­jects, the sort you might find in the home of a col­lec­tor. It’s hard to be­lieve this gor­geous house was once the owner’s of­fice. BEST FEA­TURES There are many: the lo­ca­tion (after a two-minute walk, I was in the buzz of Fran­schhoek’s main drag); the re­fined but sim­ple decor; the cui­sine and warm, well-trained staff. I also loved walk­ing in the gar­dens and vine­yard to the end of the prop­erty. Look­ing up, sur­rounded by moun­tains, the soli­tude and beauty were all mine. COST From R3 550 B&B (sleeps two). The lodge can also be booked for ex­clu­sive use. CON­TACT la­

There’s a long, deep, soft seat in here for a post-lunch snooze

FROM TOP My nest for the night. A de­canter of dry sherry and as­sort­ment of treats in my room were on the house; the en­trance hall is as sim­ple as that of a well-ap­pointed home.

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