Wine-country style and substance at La Clé Country Lodge

Posted by Michelle Hardie on 26 July 2018 Tags:,

A stayover in Franschhoek hooked Michelle Hardie for its location and comfort.

La Clé Country Lodge. Image: supplied.

Hiring Jacques Erasmus of Cape Town’s Hemelhuijs, who is admired for his talent in both interiors and cuisine, to design Le Clé des Montagnes’ new lodge was a clever move by the owner. Here, Jacques has mixed style and the importance of food in bringing people together.

The entrance hall is as simple as that of a well-appointed home. Image: supplied.

The effect is immediate as you enter the lodge: the kitchen is to your left  (you are welcome to help prepare meals or just chat to the staff while sipping your wine at the kitchen table) and straight ahead, a little further in, sits the mahogany 10-seater antique dining table framed by a double-volume space that makes you feel grand as you sweep into this stately space.

Guests get to know each other around this magnificent antique table, which is the centrepiece of the lodge. Image: supplied.

The atmosphere is best described by two pithy adjectives, ‘casual luxury’, which I pinched from a thank you in the guestbook.

Eating here is a real family affair, but with strangers. I spent my evening with a couple who had one foot in Dubai and the other in the UK. We ploughed through hearty dishes prepared by Melanie Shepherd, who serves a Chef’s Table three times a week. (If you want to eat alone, the staff will find a private nook for you.) Her husband Scott, also a professional chef, manages the lodge and took me on a local’s view of the village, which was a treat. Both are seasoned hosts and know their stuff.

A nest for the night. A decanter of dry sherry and an assortment of treats in my room were on the house. Image: supplied.

I like the architecture of a loft room, so I opted to sleep in one of the two upstairs at the lodge. Downstairs there’s a room tucked away to the side, with a private courtyard, and two garden rooms open onto the veranda, pool and grapevines lining the landscape towards the Franschhoek mountains.

Outside the courtyard room at La Clé Country Lodge. Image: supplied.

If you want a hideaway, book the courtyard room, but the lofts (with a shared sitting room) are just as private, albeit smaller, and cost less. There is also a library where I found a bookcase full of objects, the sort you might find in the home of a collector. It’s hard to believe this gorgeous house was once the owner’s office.

Best features There are many: the location (after a two-minute walk, I was in the buzz of Franschhoek’s main drag); the refined but simple decor; the cuisine and warm, well-trained staff. I also loved walking in the gardens and vineyard to the end of the property. Looking up, surrounded by mountains, the solitude and beauty were all mine.
Cost From R3550 B&B (sleeps two). The lodge can also be booked for exclusive use.


This article first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Getaway magazine.

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Our May 2018 issue features the ultimate Karoo road trip, magical Qolora on the Wild Coast, a Lesotho shootout (wild versus luxury); hiking, boating and fishing on the Gariep Dam, we explore Scotland’s Isle of Skye, plus lots more.