South Africa’s best gourmet getaways

Posted on 17 April 2014

Fancy hotels beyond your budget? Rather get a taste of the vibe in their on-site eateries. Renowned restaurant critic JP Rossouw rates his favourite gourmet getaways.

The Saxon Boutique Hotel, The Oyster Box Hotel and Cellars-Hohenort Hotel

While the rack rates at hotels such as Saxon Boutique Hotel may seem steep, the value you get in their restaurants is actually very good – for world-class cuisine like this, you’ll pay a lot more in any other country you visit. And dining at these restaurants is a fine way to buy a few hours of feeling like royalty!

Five Hundred at Saxon Boutique Hotel

Sandhurst, Johannesburg

Five Hundred at Saxon Boutique Hotel

The setting
A secluded haven of luxurious tranquillity in the heart of Johannesburg. Ten acres of sculpted gardens host an African-themed hotel that lists Madiba and Oprah among its big-name guests.

The vibe
Privacy and discretion are paramount as many a famed personality comes to stay. At the same time the (very many) staff are relaxed and hospitable.

The crowd
High-powered business people, politicians, the rich and famous … it’s the hotel of choice for the masters of the universe. And it’s a surprising mix of young and old.

The rooms
Each suite has a private butler, so you can be sure your every desire is catered for. Large in size and luxury in appointments, you’ll never want to leave.

The food
You have to eat at Five Hundred once in your life. A separate lift takes you up to this intimate restaurant with its beautiful open kitchen. Watch chef David Higgs and team create works of multiple-course culinary art.

Highlights
The service is impeccable and the wine list is majestic. Enjoy the winepaired menu to experience many gems, all well-matched to the cuisine.

Need to know
Don’t arrive at the imposing gates without a reservation; they’re very strict about security.

Contact
Tel 011-292-6000, www.saxon.co.za

The Ocean Terrace at Oyster Box Hotel

Umhlanga Rocks, Kwa-Zulu Natal

The Oyster Box Hotel

The setting
Sumptuous, decadent and slightly OTT, this colonial heritage hotel in Umhlanga sits right on the rocks on the edge of the sea and overlooks the red and white lighthouse.

The vibe
The KZN coast always chills people out, and so it is at this high-society hotel with its ‘white mischief’ ambience. You feel as if you’re on a movie set, or perhaps in Casablanca.

The crowd
A mix of business types and international families as well as a good smattering of locals who come for the great spaces and views.

The rooms
Very elegant in an old-school fashion; expect florals and bold artworks. Rooms overlook the garden or sea and come in suite, cabana and private villa options.

The food
The Grill Room is the finer diner and a marvellous space in blue and white, but the Ocean Terrace is first choice for its superb curry buffet – 12 or more curries of superb authentic flavour with all the trimmings.

Highlights
The afternoon tea in a spectacular atrium under chandeliers from London’s Savoy Hotel with a pianist in attendance is a must.

Need to know
The terrace area at the pool is a fine option for a drink, but be sure to make the trip up to the Lighthouse Bar with its astonishing views.

Contact
Tel 031-514-5000, www.oysterboxhotel.com

The Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort Hotel

Constantia, Cape Town

The Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort Hotel

The setting
An historic building on a property that has one of the finest privately owned gardens in the world, with superb views of Cape Town’s green Constantia and trees dating back to the days of Simon van der Stel.

The vibe
Well mannered, unhurried and sedate. This is the acme of Constantia living and a glimpse into another, gentler age.

The crowd
Very popular with international visitors and a more mature market or anyone who loves history, gardens and fine cuisine.

The rooms
Suites, veranda rooms with lovely views, or a choice of smaller rooms; each individually decorated in a blend of modern and traditional, and very tasteful.

The food
Eat at The Greenhouse, where Peter Tempelhoff’s cutting-edge cuisine comes in the form of tasting menus that blend seasonal and local in often-playful plates – molecular cuisine alert! A small and very pretty space makes it even more special.

Highlights
In the main building, The Martini is a bar where you can indulge in your taste for Champagne and a variety of cocktails (or single-origin coffees during the day).

Need to know
Surprisingly, the service at Greenhouse can be erratic and not always at the high level of the cuisine. Though it always remains courteous, it can be flaky.

Contact
Tel 021-794-2137, www.collectionmcgrath.com

Zachary’s at Conrad Pezula Hotel

Knysna, Western Cape

Zacharys at Conrad Pezula Hotel

The setting
High on the Knysna Heads and with its own golf course, this hotel is a modern African-inspired showpiece of grand proportions.

The vibe
Slick and cool, the spaces are elegant and bold. There’s a definite Bond-movie ambiance here – quite different to the usual Knysna tone.

The crowd
International, well-tanned and travelled. Golfers come for the famed course of the same name.

The rooms
All the mod-cons in rooms and suites that are eco-toned in wood and earth colours, and extremely comfortable with views galore.

The food
Zachary’s is one of the country’s finest restaurants, both in svelte looks and because of chef Geoffrey Murray’s innovative cuisine built on ingredients that come mostly from the on-site garden. For easier eating, Cafe’ Z alongside is an excellent option too.

Highlights
If you can afford it (about R86 500 a night for six people) stay at Pezula Castle, one of three the hotel owns on Noetzie Beach. If not, a visit to the beach to look at them longingly is a must.

Need to know
The hotel and spaces can feel a little reserved and austere; go as a group to liven things up.

Contact
Tel 044-302-3333, www.conradhotels3.hilton.com

Mosaic at Orient Hotel

Francolin Conservancy, Pretoria

Mosiac at Orient Hotel

The setting
The most fantastical Moorish Castle set in a game conservancy outside Pretoria – it’s all arches, minarets, mosaics, plush fabrics and ornate furnishings.

The vibe
It has such a fantasy-world feeling, everyone seems to be walking around in a happy daze. With only a few suites, it’s very intimate.

The crowd
A mix, but mostly locals with a good return visitor rate. Also a favourite with the power brokers and diplomats of Pretoria.

The rooms
Ten suites with evocative names such as Samarkand and Kathmandu beckon in romantic rich tapestries, hanging chairs, dark wood and high views over the bush.

The food
Restaurant Mosaic is the playground of chef Chantel Dartnall and her inventive menus. No expense is spared in terms of ingredients, while the plating and attention to detail is superb. Dine a` la carte or choose the chef’s multiple-course menu.

Highlights
The wine list is simply incredible. With bottles from all over the world and at very reasonable prices, you’ll struggle to choose. Luckily, there’s a truly gifted sommelier…

Need to know
It’s a little way out in the puzzling back roads of Tshwane, so take a local or make sure your GPS is well charged.

Contact
Tel 012-371-2902/3, www.the-orient.net






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