WINDING DOWN IN THE WINELANDS
With the current alcohol restrictions having a devastating effect on the alcohol and hospitality industries, we were loath to cancel our long-awaited sojourn in Stellenbosch. The Jonkershoek mountains offer some great walks, there are museums, galleries, great shopping and more. Of the many lauded restaurants, there are more than a handful of plated restaurants that demand a detour.
After a frenetic, gruelling 2020 it was refreshing to head to the Lanzerac Hotel and Spa for a few day’s respite. Knowing that there would be no alcohol on offer, wine tasting was to be replaced with walks in the vineyard, and some spoiling in the spa. The only Pinotage, Merlot and Cabernet to be enjoyed were in the Theravine spa products!
The Lanzerac is where memories are made, from student days to special occasions. Dating back to 1692, the estate showcases the centuries of history and heritage in a fitting, contemporary way.
COOLING OFF ON TAP
After handing our keys to the concierge, I queried the distance from our room to the closest pool. It was a mere hop! Our suite had a private pool, deck and patio, enhanced by sweeping vineyard views. Here we stuck like glue. It was hard to tear ourselves away to explore the charming university town of Stellenbosch in the Summer heat, or to contemplate leaving the room. There is something very indulgent about staying in accommodation that is more luxurious than your own at home, topped with a bathroom fit for a queen.
Any experience starts with anticipation, and mine began when I interviewed Emile Langenhoven, GM of the Lanzerac, on FMR Fine Foods. The hotel had won the accommodation category of the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards. Emile, who has headed up the Lanzerac team since 2014, navigating them through a fire, refurbishments, drought and the current COVID-19 pandemic, remains positive about the year ahead, giving credit to a motivated group of willing and engaging people. I of course, interrogated him about their restaurants and food, and he gave the Wagyu beef burger a rave review.
CUISINE TO MEET THE CURFEW
Dinner at the Taphuis was leisurely and relaxing, despite early closure to allow staff to travel. We chose the airy terrace to appreciate the pretty hues of the golden hour, sipping virgin lemongrass mojitos against the backdrop of the historic buildings. The menu offers something for everyone, with interesting twists. We have a family rule – no one may order the same dish to allow for us to taste as many dishes as possible. The burger was a dead cert for my carnivore companion, so I devoured the luscious Summer mozzarella salad and the piquant crispy Patagonian squid from the ‘small plates’ selection. I was allowed only small tastes of the smoked bone marrow (yum) and the spectacular burger. Nothing small about the mouthwatering burger! As all male eyes were glued to the multi-flavoured Wagyu with its beer glaze, short rib, bacon and Melrose sauce, I discreetly sneaked a few perfect chips off his plate. With the Manor Kitchen currently closed guests and day visitors are loving the Taphuis – the fare is authentic, imaginative and delicious. The Deli too is a drawcard with locals who enjoy the historic setting, or take advantage of their artisanal produce from pastries to platters, all-day breakfasts and take-aways – like their legendary scones.
THE PERFECT PLACE FOR A HEALTHY REBOOT
After 10 hours’ sleep (seriously!), I enjoyed a light and healthy breakfast. The usual buffet breakfast has been re-designed and comes in waves of perfectly portioned dishes. After all the healthy stuff, I had a cured fish plate, and dared a taste of the excellent eggs benedict opposite. The spa beckoned – the view from the jacuzzi and pool is heavenly – here you can inhale the vines and the mountain. My half-day package included a mani, pedi, massage and facial – a real unwind. The effects of the setting, service, food and spa treatments left me feeling drunk on relaxation.
We have a challenging year ahead. Let’s do what we can to be kind, to help others and please, to support local, small businesses, restaurants and wine industries that provide a livelihood for so many families.
‘Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’ sings Paul Young. Lay your hat here and you may never leave…