An old Constantia stay has some new ideas

Posted on 13 April 2018

It surprised me to find a smartphone in the suite at The Cellars-Hohenort hotel. A free smartphone. That was entirely mine to use during my stay in the historical Constantia Valley.

Delightful gardens outside the rooms at Cellars-Hohenort hotel. Photo by Melanie van Zyl

Opened in 1993, this lush yet classical hotel oozes heritage. Resting on the eastern slope of Table Mountain, the fertile soil here led to its farming in the 1750s. In fact, the main Cellars building was the original wine cellar of the initial Klaasenbosch Farm.

Loungers are spread in the garden close to the second pool at the hotel. Both are heated. Photo by Melanie van Zyl

Today the award-winning hotel presents a comfortable atmosphere with charming staff who put me at ease. The innate grandeur and timelessness that caress the property and its sprawling gardens in the oldest wine-growing area in southern Africa could have been otherwise overwhelming.

The handy smartphone you can take anywhere and the lawns outside The Conservatory restaurant, where you’ll find a beautiful breakfast in the morning. Photo by Melanie van Zyl

In a place so dedicated to its history, I was surprised to find this handy smartphone. Preloaded with a city guide and advice on what to do in the Cape Town area, the phone also provided unlimited local calls for free and you can log in to your own social media platforms to Instagram your trip as you explore. The first article that popped up on the device was tips for hiking safely, which impressed me and proved its up-to-date relevance given the recent concerns about (security/safety) on Table Mountain.

Also read: How to stay safe on Table Mountain

Clean, classic rooms with wonderful mountain views. Photo by Melanie van Zyl

I didn’t know what a Relais & Chateux hotel was before visiting (the shame), but The Cellars-Hohenort is one of a handful of South African boutique hotels with the prestigious accolade. The Relais & Chateux is ‘an association of more than 550 landmark hotels and restaurants operated by independent innkeepers, chefs, and owners who share a passion for their businesses and a desire for authenticity in their relationships with their clientele’. Basically, all hotels with this tag to their name are bound to be pretty amazing.

Whether you overnight in one of the entry-level double rooms or a more magnificent suite with sweeping views, ‘The Cellars’, as it is affectionately known, sure is a special stay. Antique furnishings and original works of art dot the walls and floors of the traditional hotel, but it remains modern in its operation with various eco-friendly policies in place.

The hotel is spread across grand restored buildings. Photo by Melanie van Zyl

When checking in, I wondered how stringent the water awareness would be. I was very happy to find a sternly worded laminated letter in the bathroom of my room explaining the seriousness of the critical 6B water restrictions currently in place across the city. Practical advice for visitors was also included, advising guests not to bath, take short showers (although a stricter two-minute guideline would’ve been best) and to reduce toilet flushing. Before the drought hit, the hotel already had eco-friendly showerheads, which restrict flow and energy-efficient lighting in place. They also send off all the used kitchen oil to be converted into biofuel.

The infinite-feeling gardens echo this love of the earth and the afternoon is well spent meandering the pathways that twist between the pools, tennis courts and vineyards.

After an evening enveloped by cosy duvets, find a sumptuous buffet in the morning at The Conservatory (complete with a brilliant DIY Bloody Mary stand).

Do it: A double room with king or twin beds costs from R3825 B&B.


Things to do in the Constantia area

1. A self-guided walking tour of Groot Constantia

Explore the oldest wine estate in South Africa, just a ten-minute drive from the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel. VoiceMap recently added three new self-guided audio tours. Download the VoiceMap app to your phone and load the free tours before the visit. The GPS-enabled audio tours guide you across Groot Constantia’s Museum, the Cellar and the Vineyards offering fascinating insight you don’t find in the displays.


2. Pack a picnic and explore Kirstenbosch

Boomslang Kirstenbosch

In 2015, the Boomslang tree canopy walk was voted the most beautiful object in South Africa. Photo by Melanie van Zyl

The hotel offers free transfers to the nearby botanical gardens and it’s great to use as a hiking base, walk the beautiful Boomslang (a short tree canopy walk) or simply relax in the city’s green belt. Order a gourmet picnic basket at the hotel (from R155 per person) and find the perfect spot on the lawns. Join one of the free guided tours of the garden. They leave from the Visitor Centre (not sure that that should be capitalized) at 10:00, 11:00 and 14:00 from Monday to Friday and at 10:00 on Saturdays. An entry ticket will set you back R65 per person.


3. Garden tours and high tea

Join a weekly guided garden tour in the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel grounds to learn the secrets of the trees, foliage and flowers. The tours take place every Wednesday at 10:30 led by the horticulturalist and gardening guru, Jean Almon. She co-created the gardens nearly 30 years ago. The tours cost R120 per person and includes tea and scones at The Conservatory terrace.


4. Indulge at the Greenhouse Restaurant

Mind-blowing starters at the Greenhouse Restaurant include delicately rolled vegetables and the desert of Mpumalanga mango is just one of the many South African influences you can expect in the dishes. Photo by Melanie van Zyl

A meal you will never forget. The Greenhouse Restaurant boasts an impressive list of awards (currently, it’s ranked number five in South Africa by Eat Out) and, as one guest put it, ‘it’s worth the plane ticket to South Africa’.

In an elegant room, your taste buds will not only be tickled but titillated, tantalized and downright taught that food exists to lust after.

The proudly South African dishes created by Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff were inspirational and my favourite had to be ‘The Butcher Bird’s Pantry’ based on the shrewd Common fiscal shrike that impales its prey on thorns to save for later. The human version is a bronze-coloured stand holding an array of carefully curated canapes, my favourite of which were the slightly sweet bitterballen rolled in buchu honey with soft, molten centres. I tried the vegetarian menu, which was exquisite and just as big a show as the regular menu. The memorable culinary journey consists of ten plates, spans over two hours and costs from R1050 per person.Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, 18:00 to 21:30 for lunch on Friday and Saturday, 12:00 to 14:00.


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