1. The Queen Victoria
As regal as the name suggests, The Queen Victoria is perched on the Portswood Ridge overlooking the V&A Waterfront, with the iconic Table Mountain providing the backdrop to one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
The soaring foyer and mesmerizing spiral staircase dominate initial impressions, with ‘royal purple’ accents a recurring stylistic trend throughout the hotel. It’s trendy without being clinical and luxurious but approachable – every element of the contemporary property oozes class. The rooms circle the central atrium on three levels with the Presidential Suite and its wraparound balcony crowning the property.
On the ground floor is Dash, the sophisticated restaurant that offers meals throughout the day, culminating in a noteworthy 4-course Tasting Menu offering in the evenings which mixes Cape heritage and international trends to provide a quite unique culinary experience. A live pianist sets the tone during dinner service from Tuesday to Saturday and a statement fireplace separates the restaurant from the adjacent bar. Indeed, the bar is a great spot for quick meetings or itinerary-plotting sessions for the day ahead – with a mind-bending offering of gins from around the world as well as some of the city’s best coffee. Guests also have the option of waterfront dining at sister property Victoria & Alfred Hotel’s restaurant, Ginja. There, fare is relaxed – but still refined- and offers reach-out-and-touch proximity to the Waterfront’s yacht basin and the most magnificent views of Table Mountain. It’s the perfect spot for a sundowner, too, as the V&A Waterfront comes alive around you.
Rooms are larger than your average city boutique hotel offering – there are 32, with three suites at ‘The QV’ – resplendent with marble finishes, dark wood and that recurring regal purple accent. Divided into Deluxe Rooms; Premium Mountain Facing Rooms; Junior Mountain Suite, Executive Suite and Presidential Suite, none are smaller than 38m2 and all include an array of complimentary amenities including ‘proper’ coffee, tea and biscuits and luxurious 300 thread count linen. Somewhat unusually for such a stylish property, children of all ages are welcome.
For a more exclusive experience, The Manor House and The Dock House form part of the Queen Victoria precinct. The Manor House is a butler-service offering with just four luxurious suites and Dock House is a Victorian-inspired getaway with just five rooms and a solitary suite, with a separate pool area and direct access to the V&A Waterfront.
Visit the official website at: www.newmarkhotels.com
2. The Last Word Constantia
Constantia is more synonymous with its wine estates – the first to be established in the Cape and home to some iconic names – than stays, but the suburb to the South of the Cape Town CBD is an underrated option for tranquil stays. The Last Word Constantia is one of three family-owned properties – the others are in Franschhoek and out-of-the-way Long Beach – that focusses on a ‘home stay’ experience, where nothing is too much trouble for the dedicated in-house team.
Set unobtrusively back from the road on a bend on the oak-lined Spaanschemat River Road, but just 20 minutes from central Cape Town, The Last Word Constantia is may as well be a million miles away from the city centre. The lush gardens, sunken pool and airy space make guests feel like they’re out in the countryside – Constantia is hardly ‘the city’ – but such is the tranquility that relaxation is almost mandatory. The in-room arrival fruit and cheese platter is a hint at the quality of every element of a stay at the property – generous, varied and of impeccable standard. What better way to start a stay than to take the platter out into your private outside space, open a bottle of local wine from the minibar and delight in the tranquility of the gardens?
The first think you’ll notice about the property is the way that light plays an integral part in inspiring a feeling of calm – glassed passageways, oversized windows and wide doorways opening onto patio spaces invite the Cape’s famous golden sunshine into every corner. Neutral, comfortable furnishings, deep pile carpets and opulent bathrooms are a signature – everything you touch has that degree of heft that denotes quality. Freshly-cut flowers abound throughout the hotel, bringing the lush gardens, inside. The nine bespoke rooms are available in four categories: 95m2 Elegant Suites; 70m2 Pool Suites; 45m2 Superior Rooms and a combined 118m2 Family Suite, with two bedrooms and a private lounge area.
In-house dining is a lavish affair – with breakfasts an especially big hit – but guests can also make use of the adjacent Peddlars On The Bend restaurant for a hearty and comprehensive dining offering, across the spectrum – with a world-class bar, to boot. If your arrival or departure falls outside meal times, the team will put together a cute travel box for you, linked to your preferences and dietary requirements.
Eight prestigious wine estates, boasting some of the country’s finest restaurants, are within easy reach of The Last Word Constantia, and Table Mountain, Cape Point, the world-famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the bustle of central Cape Town are no more than 20 minutes away by car – just be mindful of the infamous Cape Town traffic between the Southern Suburbs and the CBD during the two daily rush hours.
Rooms from R2 800 per night, depending on category and seasonal fluctuations. Breakfast, drinks, spirits, chauffeur, concierge and itinerary planning are all included in the rate.
Storm shutters separate the bedroom and bathroom in the upstairs Elegant Suite, which also has a small balcony. Throw open the shutters and enjoy uninterrupted, private views of The Table Mountain National Park from both oversized bathtub and cavernous double shower.
Visit the official website at: Last Word Constantia
3. Majeka House
There’s a very good chance that there’s no property like Majeka House, anywhere else in South Africa. Set in the heart of the residential suburb of Paradyskloof, yet within a short drive of some of the country’s best wine estates, Majeka somehow manages to shoehorn a quirky and luxurious 23-room boutique hotel stay into a bed & breakfast-sized space – without any trade-offs.
Vibrantly decorated in a creative partnership with acclaimed designer Etienne Hanekom, the interiors are welcoming, but cutting-edge – the kind of style you wish you had in your own home, but would never be able to commit to because you’d get it wrong, and the result would be impossibly gauche. Rooms are split across four categories – Premier Collection (compact without shirking extras like minibar and premium coffee station); Garden Alternative (with double showers, if that tickles your romantic fancy); Mountain View Selection (effortlessly stylish and overlooking the property’s herb garden) and Poolside Choice (just two rooms, which share a semi-private pool – perfect for larger families or groups travelling together). Floral wallpapers that extend to the ceilings in some rooms evoke a lush feel, and stylish fittings are conversation pieces in themselves. Add an honesty bar and plush amenities – including the transcendent waterfall-inspired bathroom shower heads to the mix – and there’s little to touch Majeka in the category, anywhere else.
A significant contributor to the magic of Majeka is the fact that the property also includes a destination restaurant – Majeka Kitchen – regularly awarded as one of the country’s finest. The tasting menu makes the most of a newfound focus on local ingredients, with options of four to seven courses, with or without wine pairings, comprising a spectacular offering including dishes like ‘Octopus, Lemon, Unripe Papaya, Nasturtium’ and ‘Lamb Ribeye, Daikon, Nettle, Boerenkaas’. Presentation is astoundingly beautiful without being pretentious and the substance somehow exceeds even the style. The dining area offers oases of space in which guests can enjoy their meal, with statement ghost chairs and towering French-inspired high-backed armchairs offering intimate spaces to conspire over a languid dinner.
If the tasting menu is a stretch after a long day in the winelands, the M Lounge – effectively the bar area, but so much more than that description offers – is a great place to enjoy smaller, less complex (but no less tasty) bistro bites with a bespoke cocktail or a glass from the succinct, interesting wine list.
Breakfasts are lavish buffet affairs, with the long table framed by the restaurant entrance packed with the freshest fruits and juices, healthy smoothies and choice meats & cheeses – backed by an imaginative ‘hot’ menu that effortlessly caters for dietary requirements.
The on-site spa – adjacent to the indoor heated pool – is yet another astonishing value-add to keep guests cosseted in luxury. Majeka is one of those places you long to return to, even while out exploring the majesty of the Cape winelands.
Look out for owner Corinne’s collection of pig sculptures of all shapes and sizes, scattered throughout the property. What started as a collection inspired by a gift from her mother, returning guests from around the world regularly bring back additions to the menagerie – a cute and quirky touch that reveals much about the relationships visitors form when they stay at Majeka.
Visit the official website at: www.majekahouse.co.za
4. La Residence
Opulence and sophistication are the hallmarks of La Residence, a boutique hideaway nestled against the mountains in the picturesque village of Franschhoek. While discrete service is an important part of the property’s offering, there’s very little else that’s subtle about it – in the best possible way. A stay at La Residence is a bold statement, with sumptuous décor, bold flavours from the kitchen, an astounding wine list and eye-catching views.
As one of South Africa’s premiere arts, culture and gourmet centres, Franschhoek is a hedonistic playground that’s home to more than 40 wine estates which offer an array of opportunities, from concerts to art exhibitions and cellar tours to tutored tastings. The tiny village is also home to as many as 8 of the country’s top restaurants at any given time.
The village’s sybaritic bent is reflected in the styling of the 16 rooms at La Residence, split between six Luxury Suites and five Superior Suites around the main building, and five multi-bedroom Vineyard Suites that lie a short walk away. In true boutique hotel fashion, each room is individually decorated to a theme – from the Tibetan Suite in deep oranges and plush maroons to the Armani Suite that takes inspiration from the fashion brand with chic neutral furnishings presided over by a mammoth painting of a ballerina. The Frangipani Suite houses a bathroom that wouldn’t look out of place at Versailles and the sumptuous Maharani Suite is all crystal sconces and a bed surrounded by marble steps. The Vineyard Suites are more family-friendly and private, with many having their own plunge pools and bespoke service offering the opportunity to operate them almost completely independently of the main hotel. They front up to the property’s own Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz vineyards, which produce a limited quantity of wine each year, named for owners’ family members.
Art is a major theme at La Residence – as it is across all properties in The Royal Portfolio – thanks to founding owners Liz and Phil Biden’s passionate relationship with the works of local and international artists. There are plenty of commissioned works to complement feature pieces from as many as 35 different artists, with works rotating through the property from the Bidens’ own collection, on a regular basis.
In keeping with the area’s culinary reputation, dining at La Residence is a five-star experience, with many of the elegant dishes emanating from the kitchen of Chef Lennard Marais built on fresh, local ingredients – many of which are grown on the estate itself. While there are plenty of menu options available to suit every taste, across each of three daily sittings, consultation with the chefs is encouraged to help tailor menus for each guest’s preferences and dietary requirements. The dining area – known as The Great Hall – is dotted with dazzling chandeliers and spills out onto the al fresco ‘Persian Alley’, so-named for its strip of gorgeous Persian carpets. An in-depth Ricardo Roux-curated wine list focuses on the regional influences on South African wine by the glass and bottle, with an extensive list of vintage champagnes.
The list of inclusions at La Residence is extensive, with only meals outside of breakfast, reserve wines, spa treatments, curio shop purchases and off-site activities, incurring additional fees. There’s even a complementary shuttle service into the town.
Suites at La Residence are charged at R5 700 per person, per night, depending on season and room class. Children aged four and below stay free in Vineyard suites with a charge for those aged five and older. Children older than 10 are welcome in the Superior & Luxury Suites.
Book a Chef’s Table experience to gain an intimate understanding of the lengths the kitchen team go to, to produce the stunningly-beautiful meals at La Residence. Take a stroll through the estate gardens to select fresh, seasonal ingredients with the kitchen team, who will tailor a four-course menu according to your selection and tastes. At dinnertime, the meal is prepared right before you, with the chef explaining each process and combination – all complemented by a perfect wine pairing.
Visit the official website at: www.theroyalportfolio.com
5. La Petite Ferme
If a winelands stay is more your speed, Franschhoek (‘French Corner’ in Dutch) – about an hour outside Cape Town – is a good bet. Perched on the hillside above the charming French-influenced village – a historic throwback to the Huguenots who fled persecution in France to settle here, La Petite Ferme sits at the gateway to the Franschhoek Pass.
Its elevated position gives visitors the chance to look out over the town itself, surveying the vineyards and quaint grid of streets from a luxurious perch. Something of a fixture on the Franschhoek Fine Dining scene, its restaurant is home to some imaginative seasonal dishes, prepared with some style by Chef Kyle Norris and his team. Quite out of character with many of the surrounding establishments, the restaurant offering provides astonishingly good value for money for genuinely high-quality food, in terms of both produce and presentation.
The restaurant has indoor and outdoor sections looking out over the valley, giving guests the option of dining in either the stylish interior or sampling glorious views rolling out beyond the property’s own vineyards. Indeed, the wines produced by La Petite Ferme are only available at the property and make up the bulk of the wine menu, for a truly unique experience – terroir at its most hyper-local!
The accommodation offering is limited by number rather than appointment, with eight rooms split across Manor House and Vineyard Suites, so attention to detail is impeccable. Only one of the Manor House Suites doesn’t have vineyard views, while all of the Vineyard Suites – so named for their touching-distance proximity to the vines – have private patios and individual plunge pools. A recent revamp has updated their look, and while each is uniquely decorated, there’s a golden thread of on-trend refinement and quality that runs through the décor, in each. The designers have made the most of the abundant natural light and focused everything around showcasing the magnificent views of the Middagkrans Mountain Range. Smart TV’s, WiFi, underfloor heating and minibar are de rigeur…
The newly-established Tasting Room beneath the restaurant is equally gorgeous on the inside or lawn terrace, and offers the chance to sample the property’s wines in greater depth.
The four-times-daily ‘Vine Orientation’ experience offers an in-depth exploration of the La Petite Ferme vineyards and paired tasting of six of the property’s wines, with canapes from the restaurant.
Visit the official website at: www.lapetiteferme.co.za
6. Kensington Place
Kensington Place is a small boutique hotel that delivers big on value, considering the amenities, décor and pristine location. The property sits just off the top end the restaurant haven of Kloof Street – but may as well be a million miles from the bustle of the city. Higgovale is one of the city’s most exclusive areas, set in the foothills of Table Mountain – and a rarity in that it’s somewhat sheltered from the gale that pummels most of Cape Town’s higher-lying residential areas, almost year-round.
Converted into a hotel from a residential property, Kensington Place is a welcoming space, with the reception area decorated in warm wood – almost as warm as the welcome from the team. A glass of bubbly accompanies the minimal paperwork required, before guests are shown to one of the eight well-appointed rooms. The upstairs rooms in the main property have great views out over a green vista across the road, with the city and the harbour sparkling in the background. One room sits adjacent to the main building – seconds away – but offers additional privacy with its own patio and seating area. The presence of loads of tasteful art and an unsecured plunge pool means that only children older than 12 are able to enjoy the beauty of Kensington Place.
Rooms are individually decorated across two categories, with several common denominators including king-sized beds, vanity, minibar, complimentary drinks, underﬂoor heating and free high-speed Wi-Fi. A cute touch in each is an ‘Emergency Kit’ alongside the bed, to cater for the rigours of adventures in the city – featuring headache tablets, cold meds, rehydrating solution, plasters and the like. The beds are a major feature – extra length and seemingly extra width, buried beneath mounds of pillows and extraordinarily soft linen – making the option to have breakfast served in-room a tempting one. The bathrooms are all cavernous and a recent renovation has seen the majority of baths converted to showers, in the spirit of helping conserve water in the drought-prone Cape.
The menu at the in-house restaurant is concise, but full of artfully-presented but homely options, including several variations for those with dietary requirements. The minimalist nature allows for seasonal focus, and all the food is fresh and vibrant, accompanied by a similarly curated wine list featuring one or two familiar Cape faces, alongside some more unusual varietals.
The concierge team is able to offer eerily accurate suggestions for external restaurant experiences to cater for any taste, should you wish to venture out into the ‘real world’ for a meal. Test their local knowledge and prepare to be wowed.
Visit the official website at: www.kensingtonplace.co.za
7. Ellerman House
Set on 1.5 acres overlooking Bantry Bay on the Atlantic Seaboard, Ellerman House may just be Cape Town’s most exclusive and luxurious boutique hotel address. Once a private residence, the sprawling property is a work of art in itself –and a haven for lovers of all typesof art, with over 1000 artworks spanning four generations of South African artistson display in the rooms and public areas,and the spectacular on-site gallery.
Revel in the work of everyone from mid 19thcentury pictorialist Thomas Bowler to the pioneering 1930’s works of Gregoire Boonzaaier, Maggie Laubser and Irma Stern. From there, the rise of more experimental art is represented by works from Walter Battiss and Alexis Preller and onwards to more inclusive art from towering figures like Gerard Sekoto and George Pembe. The gallery, specifically, is home to thought-provoking contemporary works from artists like Benon Lutaaya, Heidi Fourie & Blessing Ngobeni. Not many people ever get to see the work of landscape maestro J.H. Pierneef or social commentator WilliamKentridge ‘in the flesh’ –but Ellerman House is home to several examples from each artist. All the works are regularly rotated throughout the property, and such is the property’s devotion to showcasing art,that visits to the iconic Zeitz Mocaa gallery at the V&A Waterfront are part of the includedoffering.
The main building houses 13 rooms, each individually decorated and all with private terraces that offer uninterrupted views of the ocean. Two Villas operate almost entirely separately, for those who want the luxury of privacy, with private chef and hospitality teams dedicated to catering to every whim. Villa One and its three or five bedroom configuration is the only place in the hotel that welcomes children under 14 –the towering bronze spiral staircase in three bedroom Villa Two is probably too treacherous for small, enthusiastic humans.
Service is discrete, but engaging, with every staff member well-briefed on every guest’s preferences, to deliver a seamless stay–there isn’t even a formal check-in process, with an emphasis on preserving the feeling of being welcomed into a home.The lengthy list of standard inclusions is also tailored –for example, the in-room minibars are stocked to each guest’s exacting specifications. Luxury transfers to and from Cape Town International Airport include on-the-go WiFi.
The Wine Gallery is home to another array of art –this time, of theliquidvariety. The very best of the7500 bottles of the finest South African and international wines are showcasedin abeautiful10foot tallcorkscrew sculpture that forms the centerpiece of the space. The backdrop to this tantalising artwork is a ‘Terroir Wall’, where visual representations of the soils from South Africa’s finest estates offer both aesthetic and educational value. Beyond thatis the Brandy Tasting area and a beautiful counter which hosts daily Wine Tastings from select cellars. The ground beneath visitors’ feet is steeped in history –two short staircases beneath the corkscrew lead to the Champagne Cellar, stocked exclusively with rare and special vintages of Dom Pérignon.With the focus on such high-end winesand champagnes, they’re one of the few things at the property that aren’t included in the price of a stay –though almost all wines are available by the glass, with mealsand the daily tutored wine tastings also offer the chance to sample magnificent examplesfrom within and without the country’s borders.
Back in the main building, with its panoramic view over some of the world’s most expensive real estate, is a 24-hour pantry, filled with all manner of snacks and drinks for guests to sample –seemingly unnecessary in light of the extraordinary food which issues forth from the kitchen, but perhaps welcome after a hard day(and night!)of taking in all that theCape has to offer.
Sundowners on the terrace are worth rushing back to the hotel for after a day exploring Cape Town
–exquisite cocktails, impeccable service and live music combine for a truly magical, memorable experience.
Visit the official website at: www.ellerman.co.za
There we have it! The best African boutiques and hotels the continent has to offer. Let us know your boutique and hotel activity experiences in the comments – we’d love to hear about it!
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The Seven Best is an online guide featuring curated lists of must-sees, must-dos and more as you plan your journey to amazing locations around the world!