Friday, May 16, 2014

Craig's Cape Town Report: A closer look at five Cape Town and Winelands properties

New Frontier's MD Craig Smith spent some time visiting a selection of hotels and guesthouses in Cape Town and the Winelands in February 2014. Here are a few thoughts and notes from the trip... (if you like this report, you'll love the New Frontiers Agent Zone! Contact us about for more information on accessing this invaluable resource, full of educational reports such as this, special offers, maps, travel packages, insider information on all things Southern Africa!)

Majeka House

A privately owned 19 room hotel, in a suburban setting in Stellenbosch. The orderly neighborhood belies a quirky, idiosyncratic side to the hotel, which is a mix of nostalgic and very contemporary elements. It certainly gives it a unique appeal - bright blue sun loungers outside for instance contrast with the classical French conservatory style dining area. It does all work in an interesting way.

The 12 Premier collection entry-level rooms are housed in one wing, and perfectly well sized for the lead in room type - also good for small groups, while the 3 garden suites are larger, well laid out and share a common pool. There are two - large - pool suites that open onto a semi-private pool (shared between the two rooms and would only be private if both were taken, a great option for families). If not taken privately, hope that your neighbors look good in a swimsuit!

The 2 mountain suites makes best use of the views, stretching towards the Stellenbosch mountains and would be the first choice for top end clients.

Wow factor: the restaurant delivers in a big way, intimate, yet sophisticated, with a huge selection of wine by the glass, and suggested pairings with each course. Definitely do one dinner here. The breakfast is the best I have seen anywhere in the world, the inhouse patisserie chef creating masterpieces that reflect the French ownership.

Hmmm factor: it's not on a wine estate and the setting is suburban, although the excellent pricing reflects this, and the grounds themselves are an oasis. It's not an issue once you have settled in. You do ideally need a car or pre booked tours from here

Good for: two swimming pools (one a retractable roofed indoor pool), and large rooms make this good for families, while the sophistication would appeal to couples. And small groups work well here, combining common room types with a level of small boutique hotel quirkiness.

Le Jardin

I like the Devon Valley. It leads off from one of Stellenbosch's main access roads but quickly becomes rural, with a beautiful mountain setting and small boutique wine estates. Le Jardin is a private house available on exclusive use rental, but more than a villa, as the charming Joanne is based there, fresh from managing a concierge service in London. Sometimes villas can be so anonymous: this is a home, opened to the public, in an elegant Herbert Baker 1920's style house, with the facade and verandah flowing onto a croquet lawn and down to a private dam. 4 rooms in total sleep up to 10 bringing children sharing options into the mix, and this is truly a children's paradise. A huge swimming pool, resident dogs, a zip line into the dam and gardens that run forever, the kids will be exhausted by evening!

3 of the rooms are housed upstairs, with the master suite large and the other two rooms adequate, while a "honeymoon" suite is outside by the pool - the least convincing of the bedrooms but due an imminent refurb. The house makes the most of the gorgeous Cape weather, and meals can be served on the verandah, more formally inside or alongside the dam where a giant pizza oven is housed. Staff can prepare informal braais, or cook a mean pizza, but it isn't catered and a chef would be extra if you wanted this.

Wow factor: the Arabian style gazebo next to the pool, with big floppy couches and cushions and drapes. You wouldn't want to spend the day anywhere else.

Hmmm factor: it's a private house and quite English- country in feel inside with heavy curtains and carpets - although not dark in anyway, just a very teeny bit dated. Sell it as a very good 4* and you'll be spot on. The price is pretty much 4* too!

Good for: Families! Especially multi generational ones. I haven't seen a house that works this well yet for this market.

Manna Bay

It's new and it's moved! The previous location was the somewhat nondescript area of Vredehoek in Cape Town, and was sold, to re-open in the more central area of Oranjezicht. The highest band of houses before Table Mountain National Park starts, the views stretch over the whole city and the glass fronted building maximizes this and the Cape light. The views outside are matched by the art and the elevated space inside, contemporary, creative and bold. The back part of the boutique hotel houses a full length swimming pool, front glassed gym, fire pit and a raised sundowner deck.

All the rooms are unique: imaginative, playful and exceptionally stylish, looking out either towards the city and bay, or up towards the mountain. The suite has its own sizeable piazza (balcony doesn't do the size justice). The rooms are all a delightful mixture of glass, colour and wallpapers - some more elegant, others more quirky.

Wow factor: everything just flows beautifully, from the outside in

Hmmm factor: the wallpaper in the Black and White room made me dizzy!

Good for: definitely a couples retreat

Alphen Boutique Hotel

The 300 year old estate is still owned by the Cloete family, but has been leased to Paul Kovensky who was given free rein to inject some adrenalin into the historic building, which he has done with gusto. His restaurant and club background shows, as gold and purple velvet now rubs shoulders with priceless antiques and paintings by Cape masters. It's very Armani meets Cape Colonial, and is certainly bold if not a little incongruous. It's popular too with locals who come to hang out at the deli and outside Ibiza style evenings (more of that later). The rooms dispose of any historical aspects and I think work better: white, contemporary shells, with rich splashes of deep purple and royal blue. There are three suite sizes: 40sqm Cool suites, larger Amazing Suites which take extra beds in the lounge and Stunning Suites, which have full his and hers bathrooms and private patios or balconies.

Wow factor: Definitely the on-site deli, serving French style patisseries in a French Huguenot setting

Hmmm factor: The house DJ at the outside bar 4 days a week. It brings lots of locals. Is it a club or is it a hotel?

Good for: younger generation - the rooms and vibe would appeal to those who don't come to Constantia for the peace and quiet.

The Marly Boutique Hotel

The newest addition to Camps Bay, and one of the few with elevated, unrestricted views of the Camps Bay beach and Atlantic Ocean. Rather inelegantly set above the restaurants of the promenade and accessed by the parking garage, there is a price to pay for its beach-side location, and there is always going to be some noise from what is the busiest - but also vibiest - strip in Cape Town. The plus side is that there are countless restaurants and pavement cafes to choose from at any time.

With only 11 rooms, it is definitely a boutique option, and the sister property to the Alphen (there are good combination rates to maximize two very different parts of the city). 6 suites are sea facing, with sizeable balconies and loungers: the one superior sea facing suite and one deluxe sea facing suite have outside jacuzzis and enormous outside areas. Less impressive are the mountain facing suites, which look towards the Twelve Apostle mountains, but also the Camps Bay bowling would be a pity not to have sea facing views when staying here. The rooms are a symphony in white and light greys, clean, crisp, contemporary and perfect for a summer beach stay. There is a small but adequate pool; breakfast is included and served downstairs at one of the cafes.

Wow factor: the size of the two larger suites

Hmmm factor: the inescapable fact that you are atop a busy commercial centre.

Good for: couples - and try always for the sea facing option. A combination with the Alphen is a intriguing concept.

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