ME­AN­DER­ING THROUGH LIZ MCGRATH’S FLAG­SHIP

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE -

ITHOUGHT I knew bet­ter than Google Maps – and al­most end­ing up in Hout Bay. But as I me­an­der along the tree-lined slopes of Ta­ble Moun­tain through Con­stan­tia I even­tu­ally find The Cel­lars-Ho­henort.

I’m do­ing a Cape me­an­der, tak­ing in the prop­er­ties of the famed Liz McGrath col­lec­tion, and this is the flag­ship. Founded in 1693 as Klaasen­bosch Farm for the chief sur­geon of the Dutch East In­dia Com­pany, the vines were laid out in the 1750s and the Cel­lars build­ing was the orig­i­nal wine cel­lar. In 1906 the Ho­henort (or high place) was built on the orig­i­nal farm­house. The prop­er­ties were sub­se­quently split up, but McGrath saw their po­ten­tial and re­united them as the Cel­lars-Ho­henort in 1993, and set about ren­o­vat­ing them with her own dis­tinct style.

Five-star es­tab­lish­ments while al­ways swanky, can be im­per­sonal, but not the Cel­lars as it’s af­fec­tion­ately known. There’s the dis­tinc­tive and im­pos­ing Cape colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture of the main build­ing, the gar­dens are a riot of roses in full bloom, and the staff are friendly and wel­com­ing. On a warm sum­mer’s af­ter­noon there’s a wel­com­ing glass of iced-tea wait­ing.

The 52 lux­ury rooms and suites are in­di­vid­u­ally dec­o­rated and come with all the trap­pings one would ex­pect from a five-star ho­tel – fresh flow­ers, com­ple­men­tary wine, fruit bas­kets, a well-stocked mini-bar, un­der­floor heat­ing, wifi, DStv and such likes. There’s a dou­ble-storey Madiba Villa set apart in the gar­dens of the ho­tel with its own heated plunge pool.

My suite spoke of the un­der­stated four-poster and plump pil­low el­e­gance, and boasted a mas­sive stone bath in the cen­tre of the large bath­room. The ve­randa over­looked a court­yard with a wa­ter fea­ture and rows of stand­ing roses all mag­nif­i­cently in bloom. I’m told there are more than 2 500 rose bushes on the es­tate. It was a glo­ri­ous sea of white and green. There, I was happy to while away a few hours tak­ing in the late af­ter­noon sun­shine with a glass of wine in hand.

This was af­ter a walk through some of the 3.6 hectare prop­erty that is renowned for its gar­dens. There’s a work­ing vine­yard out front boast­ing some 950 vines, two swim­ming pools – one is heated – and a ten­nis court. There’s the in­dige­nous gar­den and the cool shade of the fern walk and then the herb gar­den was fas­ci­nat­ing, try­ing to work out what would end up on our plates that evening. Tours of the gar­dens can be ar­ranged.

If the gar­dens aren’t ther­apy enough, the Fresh Well­ness Spa is a place to un­wind, it’s menu boast­ing a se­lec­tion of sig­na­ture treat­ments.

And if you don’t want to re­lax, there’s plenty on of­fer in the Con­stan­tia area, in­clud­ing both Groot and Klein Con­stan­tia wine es­tates, wine tours, Kirsten­bosch Gar­dens, hik­ing, horse rid­ing and even the for­est ad­ven­ture zip line. Oh, and of course, there’s Hout Bay over the moun­tain. And a night on the town is only 15”min­utes away.

The Cel­lars-Ho­henort boasts two ac­claimed restau­rants. The award­win­ning Green­house is the tem­ple of ex­ec­u­tive chef Peter Tem­pel­hoff. Sadly it was fully booked when I was there, so in­stead I dined in the more in­for­mal Con­ser­va­tory, a glass-en­closed ter­race built around a 300-year-old oak tree. The menu takes in many Cape clas­sics, served with flair and a de­cid­edly Tem­pel­hoff twist.

The cousins joined me and af­ter a glass of pink bub­bly in the colour­ful and funky Mar­tini Bar, we tucked in. The pulled Malay roti with its lemon atchar was in­spired, as was the cheesy souf­flé with a cheese and gin sauce. We loved the sim­plic­ity of a dish of the best Parma ham driz­zled with olive oil and crispy ca­pers. The grilled tuna with soba noo­dles and miso glaze was a su­perb main, while spring­bok cooked on the braai and served with a skil­pad­jie was ex­tra­or­di­nary.

And yes, we found out sec­ond stom­achs for dessert, a de­li­cious strawberry and white choco­late mille-feuille, a dark choco­late tart with caramelised pears and crème caramel. Great cook­ing.

Break­fast was taken on the ter­race out­side the Con­ser­va­tory, while a whole fam­ily of ducks swam by on the pond. It was a sim­ple af­fair but a dis­tinctly ar­ti­sanal one. There’s a se­lec­tion of muesli and yo­ghurts, and fruits – fresh stewed and dried – but all home-made. The cheese and meat se­lec­tion takes in some of the finest Cape of­fer­ings and as one would ex­pect, a se­lec­tion of freshly baked breads, muffins and pas­tries. It was topped with a sim­ple hot se­lec­tion that might in­clude a Bene­dict, French toast or oats or in my case, smoked salmon with beau­ti­ful or­ganic scram­bled eggs.

I wanted to spend an­other day relaxing in those gar­dens, but the sec­ond leg of the jour­ney came all too quickly – Her­manus and The Marine. It’s an hour-and-a-half drive from Cape Town but I take the scenic route via Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay. And stop for lunch of cala­mari served out of news­pa­per at the old Har­bour at Klein­mond. More next week.

The im­pres­sive Ho­henort Build­ing at The Cel­lars-Ho­henort with the roses in full bloom.

The beau­ti­ful and whim­si­cal gar­dens at The Cel­lars-Ho­henort.

The sim­ple el­e­gance of a suite at The Cel­lars-Ho­henort.

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