Despite air con as noisy as an old bus and forgetful waiters, this South African wine hotel still has the wow factor
- Ted Thornhill checked into the Lanzerac Hotel and Spa in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town – and was impressed
- However, during his stay there were a series of face-palm moments involving wine lists and room service
- Ted still gives the hotel a four-star rating. Read on to find out how it pulled the stars out of the bag
That’s what I inked into the guestbook of the Lanzerac Hotel and Spa in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, just before I left.
Despite the faults.
Lanzerac is a quite beautiful, elegant historic hotel set in lush, expertly trimmed grounds
Of which there were many.
Let’s see – our first-night restaurant reservation wasn’t noted, a waitress offered my 19-month-old daughter Emma a full-size adult chair to sit down on when a table was eventually secured, the waiter tried to take our food order without even offering us the wine list (Lanzerac bills itself as ‘Wineland’s finest wine estate), after we ordered a waiter wandered around the restaurant offering our mains to various tables, the air conditioning in our room was almost as noisy as an old bus, the mini-bar fridge seemed to have lost the ability to refrigerate, housekeeping hadn’t bothered to remove the previous guests’ half-drunk bottle of sauvignon blanc left behind in it and room service arrived at 7.20am with a breakfast we didn’t order.
And there’s more.
The entrance to Lanzerac is quite something – a tree-lined thing of beauty, as this image shows
The hotel nestles in an eye-catchingly dramatic landscape. It doesn’t take long to reach by car from Cape Town
On the night we did order room service because Emma had fallen asleep they rang the room to tell us it was on its way – despite the fact that we had placed the order at reception in person with the explanation that we were trying to keep noise in the room to a minimum. So the telephone ringing wasn’t exactly ideal.
It was a smorgasbord of face-palm moments.
But still – wow.
Why? Because Lanzerac is a quite beautiful, elegant historic hotel set in lush, expertly trimmed grounds amid the sort of dramatic hilly scenery that moves people to write poetry.
There’s the wonderful tree-lined driveway, the showstopping lawns (yes, showstopping), the mighty oak trees, the lush vineyards and buildings that ooze opulence.
Ted’s room was similar to the one, pictured. Elegant, but the air con was as noisy as an old bus
Swanky: The country-house style bathrooms, with modern touches, are one of the best features in the hotel
The Lanzerac wine estate happens to be in an superb location – to visit other wine estates.
And one nearby that’s firmly in the ‘unmissable’ category is the Delaire Graff Estate.
It has the lot – incredible views, extremely posh restaurants, exuberant landscaping and a wine tasting experience that’s top notch – and affordable.
It’s the Beverly Hills of vineyards.
Another extremely worthwhile escapade is lunch at the Joostenberg Wine Estate.
Rustic: The Kraal
I say ‘wine estate’, but it’s more than that. It’s a deli, it’s a butchery, it has accommodation and it has a restaurant called The Kraal, which offers the most wonderful Sunday lunches and Friday suppers. The menus change regularly, the food is sourced from local farmers and the setting is something else – wooden tables placed amid fruit trees and wild olives. Unforgettably splendid and rustic.
It’s a hotel that begs to be explored.
I did two laps of the grounds with Emma in the pram on the first morning, just gawping at the magnificence of it all.
We ran around the helipad, strolled past the beautiful outdoor pool and bar set amid verdant foliage and wafted through halls panelled with rich woods.
At one point I took a wrong turn and ended up in a bedroom garden, which had a cast-iron old lamppost on the lawn. It was like stepping into Narnia.
The 53-room hotel suffered a devastating fire in 2017 but has risen from the ashes in grand style thanks to the efforts of builder, decorator and interior designer Con van der Colff, who oversaw the renovation work.
The estate dates back to 1692 and van der Colff and his team worked carefully to transform the buildings from ember to splendour.
One of the most impressive buildings is the 94-year-old Governor’s Hall (by the reception desk), with its impressive double-volume vaulted ceiling comprising 13 exposed one-ton spruce pine trusses, leathered marbled floors and sandstone-clad fireplaces, along with gorgeous pieces of antique furniture.
Our room, meanwhile, in the cheapest price bracket, was pretty decent despite the mini-bar/air conditioning fiasco.
It featured a grand king-size bed opposite a wall-to-wall wardrobe unit – which also housed a big TV – an exquisite, country cottage-style bathroom with a standalone tub, rain shower and his ‘n’ hers sinks – and a private walled garden (though this was mostly paving).
The wardrobe was very dark and overpowered the room a bit, but it was still an inviting boudoir.
The staff, meanwhile… yes, there were some missteps, but they were brimming with bonhomie and enthusiasm.
They could be a world-class team if they tightened things up a bit.
And the food in the restaurant – Manor Kitchen – was never going to jeopardise the insertion of the ‘wow’, either.
The 53-room hotel suffered a devastating fire in 2017 but has risen from the ashes in grand style thanks to the efforts of builder, decorator and interior designer Con van der Colff, who oversaw the renovation work. One of the most impressive buildings is the 94-year-old Governor’s Hall (pictured)
The reception area is glamorous and sits just to the side of the magnificent Governor’s Hall
The spa facilities are top-notch, with guests afforded lovely views of the vineyards as they receive their pampering
Lanzerac has a beautiful outdoor pool and bar set amid verdant foliage (pictured)
The bumpf in our room said that the chef creates ‘masterpieces’ for the guests.
That’s overstating matters a tad. But he did create consistently well-executed classic dishes.
Think stuffed chicken supreme, blackened sirloin of beef, pan-fried farmed seabass and oven roast pork belly.
Every guest gets a voucher for a complimentary wine tasting and cellar tour, which is well worth doing, writes Ted
Food for thought: The restaurant at Lanzerac serves up well-executed classic dishes
Room rates at Lanzerac Hotel & Spa start from ZAR 4,550 (£250) for a double room, inclusive of full English breakfast, wine tasting experience and tax. Visit www.lanzerac.co.za or call 0027 21 887 1132.
Rating key: one star – poor; two stars – ok; three stars – good; four stars – very good; five stars – exceptional.
For more on South Africa and all it has to offer visit www.southafrica.net.
And for more on some brilliant local experts – including great white shark, wine and graffiti specialists – you can meet up with while you’re there, check out southafrica.net/meetyoursouthafrica.
The distribution of plus points continues for one of the principal activities on offer at the hotel – quaffing wine.
Once we were finally given the wine list on that first night the sommelier, Tinashe Mukosi, presented himself, and he was top drawer – a chirpy chap and very knowledgeable (mind you, if he hadn’t been, given that it’s a wine estate, they might as well have packed up and gone home).
Not only did he decant some good wine, but also some tips on the area’s specialities.
And then there’s the on-site wine tasting.
Every guest gets a voucher for a complimentary wine tasting and cellar tour, which is well worth doing.
The wine produced here is renowned, especially the Pinotage – a cross between the Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut) varietals invented in 1925 by Professor Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch.
In 1959 Lanzerac became the first wine estate in the world to put the term Pinotage on a wine bottle label.
Last but not least, there’s the spa. I didn’t try it, but my partner had a facial there and reported back that it was an excellent facility (I had been doing laps of the grounds again).
So I’m pretty sure that if I ever return, I’ll be writing ‘wow, again’ in the guestbook.
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