Great Hotels: Lanzerac Hotel & Spa
Granted a second-chance honeymoon in Cape Town after 14 years of marriage, Ami Doshi Shah and her husband revel in the opulence of Lanzerac Hotel & Spa where the wine, grown in the hotel’s very own estate, keeps flowing, and the elegant decor stuns.
35 minutes into our drive from Cape Town Airport to the Cape Wineland town of Stellenbosch, we had arrived at the pearly gates of heaven, metaphorically and figuratively. Without our kids and granted a second chance honeymoon after 14 years of marriage, my husband and I had apparently decided that we were going to relive our misspent youth as we rolled up to impossibly stunning grounds of the Lanzerac Hotel & Spa in our sexy Suzuki Celerio rental (South Africa‘ s equivalent of a Toyota Vitz) with D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar not so melodically blaring from the struggling speakers, reminiscent of a scene from Ali G.
We obviously missed the words “EST 1692” emblazoned on either side of a pair of white pillars flanking a seemingly endless oak lined red brick avenue, the messaging an elegant proclamation that Cape history and fine heritage was Lanzarac Hotel & Spa’s alma mater. Needless to say that the valet service at the reception must have been side eyeing our pathetic attempts at clawing back our romantic youth of the 90’s as we sophisticatedly sipped (yes, pinky finger out) on our welcome glass of Lanzerac Methode Cap Claissique Blanc de Blanc, “fresh” from the estate’s vineyards, as we checked in.
The first European settlers arrived in the Cape a mere four decades prior to the establishment of the property, in 1652, courtesy of the Dutch East India Company. Lanzerac is the third oldest farm in Stellenbosch then called Schoongezicht, meaning ‘wonderful view’ – an apt name for the property nestled in the Jonkershoek Valley.
Just two years ago, a fire in the Manor House razed the building to a mound of ash and dust with just the hundreds year old brickwork standing proud, as soot covered monuments of what once was a legacy of over 350 years of Cape Wineland history. In a mind-boggling 13 months, with the assistance of interior designer, Con van der Colff, the Manor House was entirely rebuilt, now housing the elegant reception area, a stunning farm-house style open plan lounge with double height vaulted ceilings trussed by weathered pine. Velvet Chesterfield sofas snuggle around open fireplaces and intricately patterned tufted Persian rugs. The walls are flanked with traditionally gilt-framed vignettes of the surrounding mountains in oil on canvas and one large wood and glass cabinet with an array of silver chafing dishes, urns and ladles and antique blue porcelain dishes and serving bowls – perhaps objects that remained unscathed after the destructive fire, or perhaps static symbols of the history and wealth of those who resided here. It seems that the rebuilding after the fire gave the current owners the opportunity to revamp the 53 guest rooms, their conferencing facilities and the hospitality offering including the fine dining, Manor Kitchen, pub-style, Taphuis, Craven Lounge and Lanzerac Deli.
Each restaurant boasts delightfully conceived menus highlighting the incredible provenance of locally sourced ingredients for which South Africa (the Cape particularly) is deservedly renowned for. But the figurehead of every meal is the accompanying wine from Lanzerac’s Wine Estate, producing arguably some of the best wines in the region.
At the Tasting Room, my husband and I perched ourselves around a toasty fireplace for a 9:00 am session of trying some of Lanzerac’s tipple. Guests of the hotel get a complimentary tasting of five wines from their Premium Range including their ‘highly lauded’ Pinotage and in my opinion, the ‘not too shabby’ Syrah. Two tastings in, all modicum of my civilized behaviour flew out the window when a Ploughman’s Platter from the adjoining Lanzerac Deli was served on the table. A smorgasbord of fresh bread, crackers, cheeses, cold cuts and pickles had me forgetting that we had literally just had breakfast twenty minutes before. My husband looked on in wide eyed amusement as I offered him a mouthful while I had another. I mean, don’t judge but where else is it socially condonable to drink wine for breakfast? Sophisticated wine tasters on the adjoining table were gently swirling their glasses, smelling, gargling and elegantly ‘disposing’ their wines into the stylish metal spittoon on the table. I, on the other hand, drank every single drop and some of the wine my husband didn’t finish. Hands up, I’m in the ‘Never Waste Good Wine’ camp.
My enthusiasm for the wine tasting eventually led to me collapsing on our king sized bed for a mid-morning nap. In line with the boutique approach to hospitality, each of Lanzerac’s 53 rooms has its own aesthetic fingerprint. Our suite didn’t disappoint. Through a separate lounge, you walk through to find a room bursting with walls lined with floor to ceiling palm fronds and French doors leading to an expansive patio overlooking a private garden with fragrant jasmine and herbs. Oh. And a Jacuzzi. Yes. Our big pimpin’ dreams had been realized, albeit in a place that oozed so much refinement that any notion of non-sophisticated behaviour may be a desecration to this place! Too late.
Despite the devastatingly intimidating beauty of Lanzerac, warm smiles and a professional yet affable manner in which the staff approach guests did further endear and put us at ease. In our 2 days at Lanzerac, we celebrated the chance to be together – a moment to be silly and pamper ourselves a little when “adulting” can sometimes make you forget how to appreciate each other. We experienced that, in a place of absolute luxury and perfection at every single turn. It felt indulgent, and it was. After all, if one year of marriage feels like a milestone then 14 years is the metaphorical equivalent of scaling Kilimanjaro. Barefoot.