Happiness is a small hotel in Robertson

Posted by Lorraine Kearney on 13 January 2022

It’s the gardens that first entice. Looking in from the hot street, the shady lawns and abundant flower beds are bewitching, the overstuffed armchairs in the cool green light of the wraparound verandah calling to you.

The Robertson Small Hotel is a tiny slice of heaven in the little Breede River town.

Near the start of the famed Route 62, Robertson lies in the shadow of the Langeberg and Riviersonderend mountain ranges, on the banks of the Breede River, where slow river cruises are the order of the day.

Founded in 1853, it’s one of the oldest towns in the Cape.

It’s also on the longest wine route in the world, running from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, and is surrounded by welcoming wineries, olive and fruit farms. And then there is the Robertson Museum, a Victorian house turned over to the unpacking of the town over the last century.

There is, in a nutshell, plenty to do in and around Robertson. But you may want to forgo all the attractions and instead laze away the days at the refined Robertson Small Hotel, only rousing from your sun lounger by the pool for a meal at the magnificent Small Restaurant, a cocktail at Em Bar, or a massage at the in-house spa, The Wellness Room.

The Art Gazette x Norval Foundation

Here is a haven from the dusty world, an elegant and genteel retreat among well-tended gardens, secret places to sit and while away a quiet hour or two. Each detail is carefully curated to maximise your luxurious visit, starting with the art.

The Robertson Small Hotel has entered a collaboration with Art Gazette x Norval Foundation, born of its ethos of supporting and celebrating contemporary South African art. The hotel’s new collections are curated by artist Morné Visagie, the co-founder of Art Gazette, an online platform for curating collections of art. It features a range of accessible artworks for new and established collectors, from more than 400 artists, in partnership with Norval Foundation.

The Small Restaurant

The restaurant is equally outstanding, the kitchen under the sure hand of Chef Chris Erasmus, he of Foliage Franschhoek fame. Talking about his food philosophy, he explains: ‘Be mindful of what you use. Try to keep your footprint small and give back more than you take. Grow your own as much as you can and keep the connection between farm and plate real.’

Each dish is prepared using fresh ingredients, many locally foraged, to bring every ounce of flavour to the party. The stinging nettle and spinach ravioli nudi is sensational, the smoked tomato risotto a revelation.

The guiding thoughts behind the menu are ‘local as much as possible. And with that, I mean regional and close to home. Fewer ingredients but more flavour. Lockdowns taught us to focus more on local so if you can buy and support small producers do it.’

Chef Chris says: ‘When I cook in Robertson I forage every morning for wild herbs and leaves and veggies from our own garden … I try to grow food wherever I can squeeze in a bin or raise a bed.’

The rooms

With their pared-down palettes of verdigris and blue, the rooms are cool and inviting, the beds wide and comfortable, with quality linen.

There are just 10 en-suite rooms, divided into The Manor House, The Stable and The Pool suites, but each comes equipped with all the small touches that make for a graceful sojourn, such as bottles of MCC in the fridge and black-out curtains. There is the Nespresso machine, the well-stocked self-service bar; and in the en-suite, pure cotton bathrobes you will not want to take off.

The Pool suites each boast a private verandah, complete with sink-into-it day beds and opening directly onto one of the two pools. It is easy enough to roll out of bed, into the pool and straight onto a sun lounger.

The hotel is wheelchair friendly and there is a suite specifically suitable for disabled people.

The spa

Also among The Robertson Small Hotel’s offerings are two Wellness Rooms, sanctuaries of calm. The menu includes full-body massages, luxury gel manicures, Theravine facials and full packages of 90 minutes or more. There is even botox on Wednesday mornings.

And for the not-so-lazy, The Robertson Small Hotel counts personal training as one of its options, for 60 minutes a session, beginner to advanced.

What to do

To get out and about, there are 23 curated Small Experiences – ask for The Small Guide – starting with Owl’s Rest Olive and Lavender Farm. Here, you can learn how to harvest lavender by hand, followed by steam distilling to produce lavender water and essential oils.

At Weltevrede Estate you can tour the wine museum in the old underground cellar, learn how MCC is made – and make your own – or simply sit back for a tasting of Chardonnays and MCCs in the smart tasting room, opened in October 2019. The farm has been in the Jonker family since 1912.

Prices are from R1 700 per person sharing per night, in low season.

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