Discovering Stellenbosch for the first time must be incredible, however, the more we return, the more we bond with this gorgeous town and its marvellous people.
By RUBIN VAN NIEKERK & ALAN SAMONS
Heading to Lanzerac from Cape Town airport is a laid-back forty-minute drive that takes you through charming countryside past Spier towards Helshoogte. Lanzerac nestles cosily at the foot of the Jonkershoek mountains and travelling there in style with Toyota’s flagship C-HR was most enjoyable. Our extroverted luxury-grade model had an expressive bi-tone design with a black roof, roof pillars and side mirrors, which contrasted sharply with its radiant white pearl colour. In the rainy conditions the odd shy ray of sunshine peeping through the clouds revealed the white to be a stunning shimmering, luminous colour. Our trendy car blended the mix of SUV and hatchback so well that we wondered why we had not bought one yet. During the 2018 South African Car Of The Year competition, this great allrounder stood out amongst SA’s top ten cars. Typically Toyota, it comes with all the bells and whistles your heart could desire and with a six-year service plan for extra peace of mind.
Arriving after a long flight delay we were personally welcomed by Patrick Fisher, the Operations Manager, and he whisked us through check-in and we were given a quick orientation before being taken to room 104. It was raining and cold, but oh-so toasty inside. Cape Town’s wet winters are miserable if you have to face it every day, but as a visitor, it can be so romantic.
Alan nearly fainted. “This is sooo meee!” he squealed as we were shown our gorgeous room. And boy, what a room it was. Decorated with more than just a nod to its French name and history, the room was filled with French antiques and the walls were painted in a pleasing shade of eau de nil. That’s posh French for “colour of the Nile” and it can vary from greyish-green to yellowish-green sludge. It’s so much more glam than Vaal River green.
Having only reopened in July after a thirteen-month renovation, the hotel is looking simply stunning. The main reception and bar had burned down, necessitating the rebuild and refurb. In this case, it should be refab. If you haven’t been to Lanzerac, it truly is fabulous.
The drive up to the manor house is lined with old oaks and with its imposing gable, it is breathtaking. At the time of our visit, it was being refurbished as well, but will open in time to host guests when season starts. What adds to the hotel’s character is the playful combination of antique and modern elements. Its very chic, but not at all stuffy or overly formal.
On our first night, we enjoyed a divine meal at the Manor Kitchen. With Alan being vegan, we are always concerned about making unreasonable demands on the chefs. We needn’t have worried. The food was great, and Alan even had vegan cheesecake. Service was attentive, as to be expected and diners can enjoy watching their food being prepared behind the enormous glass windows that afford a great view of the kitchen.
Breakfast is served at the Manor Kitchen as well and we indulged in a glass or two of MCC and Rubin had some oysters to start. Following breakfast, we popped into Stellenbosch, only five minutes away, to take in a gallery or two and buy some second-hand books at Verbatim, surely the prettiest bookshop in town. Art lovers have a variety of galleries to choose from and if sculpture revs your engine, a visit to Dylan Lewis’s sculpture garden is not to be missed. The garden is open by appointment only, so be sure to book.
Soon enough it was lunchtime and we made our way to the Deli for a wine tasting and lunch. Lanzerac produces some rather fine wine and we thoroughly enjoyed the chardonnay and also the Pinotage, for which the farm is rightly famous. The only grape variety developed in South Africa, Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery was first to use the name Pinotage on a wine label when they marketed the 1959 harvest of Bellevue under the name Lanzerac Pinotage during 1961. Following the tasting, we were left with a bottle of Mrs English 2016 and each were served a platter. Rubin had a ploughman’s platter, while Alan obviously had veg.
The vegetables were so delicious and beautifully presented, it caused a bit of platter envy.
Elizabeth Katherina English bought the farm Schoongezicht in 1914 for £18 000, subsequently renamed the farm ‘Lanzerac’ and transformed it during her nine years of ownership into one of the most modern wineries in the Cape. The Lanzerac Mrs English 2016 is a limited selection of the finest Chardonnay barrels of the particular year. Subtle in flavour, this elegant wine is ideal for summer drinking, with or without food. If you prefer red wine, however, the Pinotage 2015 is excellent. Full-bodied and smoky, you can’t go wrong with this well-priced wine. If you really want to impress, Lanzerac’s premium range is just the ticket.
The day spa is a beautiful space located just a short walk across the lawn from our room. Alan enjoyed a facial with TheraVine products. He immediately hit it off with his therapist and they chatted like old friends throughout the treatment.
Complete with roaring fireplace, the welcoming interior of the lounge offers comfortable seating, plush rugs and an adornment of interesting memorabilia on the walls. The Craven Cigar Lounge honours the heritage of the Estate, with Doc Danie Craven and his dog Bliksem frequenting Lanzerac fondly over the years. Comfortable and intimate, the bar serves fine local and international spirits, fine wines and craft beer. Small plates of tapas are ideal to nibble on while kicking back with a glass of something refreshing.
Dinner was a simple meal enjoyed at the Taphuis in the main building. Now rebuilt after the fire, two objects were kept as a reminder of the destruction – an old photo, still in its charred wooden frame, now neatly box-mounted; and an antique cash register. Again, the food was delicious and we were sad to think it was to be our last meal at Lanzerac. But all good things come to an end, and we are sure to return to this historic and utterly romantic spot.