Although most of my travel is with my kids, every now and again I relish escaping with their father for just a night or two to remind ourselves why we have kids in the first place… that they are the symbol of our love for each other AND that we actually miss their company after a few hours apart!
A few weeks back we got a lucky invitation to enjoy a night at the Cellars-Hohenort hotel in Constantia… you didn’t have to ask me twice!
Cellars-Hohenort is situated on nine acres on what was once the historic Klaasenbosch Farm and the Cellars building was the original wine cellar on the farm.
I’ve been to this iconic hotel in the heart of the leafy green belt of Constantia many times, for launches, lunches and the like. “Cellars” has a very special place in the history of my marriage as it was one of the places we would retreat to as a couple when we were dating and needed to get out of our parent’s places! We would often pop in here for teatime treats or early evening drinks.
But this visit was to be very different, and very special. Not only were we kid-free for 24 hours, but we were to be enjoying a night at the hotel, a massage in the spa and dinner in the recently renovated Greenhouse Restaurant.
In fact all our senses would be stimulated in this stay, starting with….
The first sense to be indulged was sight. Just the drive up to this secluded haven of a hotel is relaxing – we drove up through the suburb of Constantia via oak lined avenues and past boutique vineyards – and arrived feeling calmer already!
The hotel is everything you would expect from a historic 5 star hotel. Grand heritage buildings, gorgeous gardens, plush, contemporary interiors. It has got it all.
Our suite was nothing short of luxurious, with a separate lounge area, private patio overlooking the garden and large en-suite bathroom.
Having visited the Cellars many times before I knew that their gardens are some of the best in Cape Town… but never had the opportunity to explore them for myself. Until now!
I knew this would be the very best time to take a meander along the winding garden paths and discover the secret spots and hidden gems of the expansive green space and indulge in my sense of….
The sounds which accompanied my walk around the grounds were only natural, pleasant sounds – no screaming, fighting or iPad games to be heard! To be honest, one cannot underestimate the sheer bliss silence when you are a parent – and that was the over-riding sounds during our stay at the Cellars.
From the peaceful quiet to the tinkling of the pool waters, the croaking of a few frogs in the forested parts of the garden to the gentle hum of insects going about their business this was an escape in more ways than one – an escape from the noise of life. And I loved it!
Our walk around the garden started off just outside our room, where we discovered the first of the two swimming pools, and then followed the garden path down via the fern walk, through the clivia garden, past the ducks – fluffing their white feathers next to the pond, over the pretty pedestrian bridge, under the towering camphor trees, through the kitchen garden, via the Hanepoort vineyard, past the second swimming pool and eventually to the impressive rose garden to indulge our sense of…
The Liz McGrath Rose Garden, named after the owner of this beautiful hotel who oversaw it’s revival and ultimate success from 1992 until her death in January 2015, boasts a collection of 2500 roses! Many of the beautiful blooms are rich with heady aromas not found in too many roses these days.
I indulged myself and wandered through the terraces, enjoying the unique scent of each one for as long as possible, until it was time to indulge my sense of…
Cellars-Hohenort is home to the Fresh Wellness Spa which offers full body treatments, facials and mani-pedis. The ultimate in pampering for me is a massage, and I was fortunate enough to have an appointment with relaxation!
I enjoyed one of the spa’s signature treatments, the aptly names 5 Senses Signature Massage which included aspects to stimulate all 5 senses. Featuring natural oils and ingredients such as Avo-Shea body butter, volcanic stones, tropical bamboo sticks and unique massage techniques it was a bespoke treatment that lived up to it’s promise. I floated out of the spa an hour later ready to indulge in my sense of….
A few weeks prior to this visit I had attended the relaunch event of The Greenhouse Restaurant – home to Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef, Peter Templehoff, and was excited to see the beautiful renovations that had taken place to the dining area and gorgeous new decor. I also had been fortunate to sample some of the dishes, including the exquisite “4 degrees of cheese”, so I knew to expect a culinary experience!
I was not disappointed.
We embarked on a 7 course multi-sensory journey of distinctly South African flavours as we sat down to enjoy the African Origins menu paired with wine. (Based on food and wine pairing experiences of the past, I knew to arrive hungry!)
Seated in a private corner of the restaurant, we were greeted warmly by our baritone-voiced waiter who put us at ease immediately with his wide smile.
The menu we choose was a set one with 7 courses featuring a combination of African and Oriental influences with plenty of playful and beautiful elements and the bread “nest” got us off to good start with an assortment of interesting breads to choose from including a crispy flat bread, ciabatta and brioche buns served with an assortment of flavour enhances including French salted butter, red pepper butter with biltong dust and a garlic ailoi.
Our amuse-bouche was a wild mushroom cheesecake with a macadamia crust, sherry jelly and some dried mushroom toppings, served with a dune spinach and soy salad.
The next item on the menu was the interestingly named ‘Release the Kraken!’ This consisted of octopus, game fish and winter melon on a squid ink and ginger smear, and a crispy rice cracker on the side all served with a powdered dressing made with liquid nitrogen that gets added to the plate at the table, releasing a dry ice mist that plays on the mythological story of the Kraken – the legendary sea monster. With delicious Asian flavours, this had sweet, salt and “umami” elements.
At this point I should say that each and every item on the menu at The Greenhouse was presented beautifully, often with sensory elements that all added to the experience of dining here – and involved all 5 senses in the experience!
I loved how each course had something different, presented by a different waiter in a different way. This meant that our meal was, in fact, eaten at a slow, leisurely pace, allowing us to enjoy each dish for it’s uniqueness and creating anticipation as we waited to discover the next step on our culinary journey!
A highlight of the meal included the wholegrain stout bread dough that was brought to our table, resting on a hot Himalayan salt slab, and covered with a glass cloche, to rise in front on our table during our meal before being whisked off to be baked as an accompaniment to our cheese course later in the meal.
Another highlight of this sensorial meal was the “4 degrees of Cheese” course which I mentioned earlier. I had been looking forward to showcasing this to my husband and just before the dessert course I had my chance… An assembly of South Africa’s most awarded indigenous cheese, Huguenot from Dalewood, the cheese is presented in 4 ways – from hot to cold. Starting with the most delightfully light cheese souffle with a grappa sauce, followed by an elegant cheese flower created with a delicate shavings, then a panna cotta and finally a cheese ice-cream, if you can believe it! As a dedicated cheese lover, I loved it all and found it an especially clever way to transition your palette from savoury to sweet… to enjoy the decadent desserts.
Unfortunately I can’t recall exactly which desserts we indulged in on the night, by this stage my mind was being taken over by my stomach and my whole body was calling for bed, but what I do recall is that the last course was paired with the Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc Noble Late Harvest 2010, one of our favourite sweet wines… which was a fitting end to this memorable meal.
I can highly recommend visiting Greenhouse for a meal to remember. We were blown away by everything – the atmosphere, decor, service and food were all world-class and contributed to one of our best foodie experiences to date.
The African Origins Menu we enjoyed is R820 without wines or R1200 when paired with wines. The restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday evenings.
The next morning we took it slow…. waking up on our own body clock is a luxury we don’t take lightly!
Breakfast was served at The Conservatory, just metres from our room, and we seated ourselves next to the large windows overlooking the gardens and mountain beyond. After a few slices of fruit, I discovered that Eggs Benedict was on the menu – and obviously had to order it! And then after one last turn via the rose garden, it was back to reality for us. The novelty of a few hours alone together meant we left feeling revived and relaxed, ready to tackle the challenges of modern day parenting, a busy work week and an endless inbox with renewed vigour…. knowing exactly what we need the next time life gets a bit much!
The Cellars-Hohenort is a luxurious escape from the city, beautiful and indulgent, it’s the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, or just to escape, spoil yourself and generally live your best life! Double rooms start at R3 850 a night.
Images: Kathryn Rossiter