Images Credit Liz McGrath Collection
Cape Town is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations that many, with good reason, argue is the most beautiful city in the world. This city at the bottom of a continent is filled with a rich heritage, natural beauty and so much to do and see. Nearby Cape Town is Constantia where you’ll find a bucolic valley filled with miles of farmland and wine fields. Surrounded by the wine region and against the gorgeous backdrop of Table Mountain is the region’s more elegant country house hotel, the Cellars-Hohenort.
Just a short drive outside of Cape Town and on the other side of Table Mountain are the rural farmlands of Constantia. The cosmopolitan setting of skyscrapers, apartment high-rises and mega malls fades away, morphing into winding country roads that weave through the mountainside and towering pine trees. The city towers are replaced with beautiful white Dutch Colonial farmhouses surrounded by rows and rows of geometric vineyards.
The Cellar-Hohenort is a Relais and Chateaux property that has become renown for providing the quintessential Cape town epicurean experience. The hotel is set on beautiful grounds with centuries old trees and lovely gardens bursting with colorful and fragrant flowers, outdoor sculptures, and perfectly coiffed hedges. On the grounds, guests will enjoy time in their forest of 300-year-old Chinese camphor trees, enormous oaks and south African yellowwoods. It could not be more picturesque with snowy white ducks that frolic in ponds unless waddling and quacking around the property.
The Cellars-Hohenort was built in the 1690s as the home of a shipping magnate. It in its early days, the property was one of the first farms and wine estates in South Africa. In 1991, hotelier extraordinaire, Liz McGrath, took ownership of the wine farm or cellars and eventually the Hohenort manor house to create the five-star Cellars-Hohenort.
Cellars-Hohenort is a comprised of several Dutch Colonial buildings including the manor house, farmhouses, and stables that have been repurposed into one of the region’s top hotels. The buildings are a walk through Dutch colonial history with well-preserved heritage items mixed with ultra-modern touches. The ambiance is elegant and sophisticated yet relaxed and unpretentious. The design and décor throughout is a treat to the eye and with bright and vibrant colors so it never feels old and stuffy. Throughout are lovely fresh cut flowers, paintings and works by masterful local artists.
The five-star country house hotel is the ideal size of only 51 rooms and suites to allow for their charming staff to provide a warm and personalized service. The Cellars-Hohenort’s accommodations are impeccably decorated, generous in size, and flooded with light though large windows or French doors. The décor is sophisticated with fresh cut flowers in every room, rich fabrics drapes with floral patterns, and a king-sized uber comfortable bed. The excellence in hospitality impresses with the well-stocked complimentary minibar as well as a welcome basket of fresh fruits and a bottle of wine to kick off the stay.
The Hohenort building is the original manor house and features several spacious accommodations exuding old world sophistication with Edwardian furnishings, high ceilings, and oversized bathrooms. In addition to the historic character of the manor, all the accommodations have gorgeous mountain views some of which have spacious verandas to take in the beautiful vistas.
The Premium Suites were once the farms stables and have been meticulously renovated into expansive accommodations flush with creature comforts as well as a large bathroom with soaking tub and separate shower. Guests will love their light and contemporary décor, separate living space as well as its own private terrace ideal for morning breakfast al fresco or perhaps an afternoon snooze on the chaise lounge.
As Constantia’s quintessential country house hotel and as a Relais and Chateaux member, the culinary expectation is high for the Cellars-Hohenort. The Cellars-Hohenort has risen to, if not surpassed, the requirements of the most demanding palate and is home to two of the region’s most heralded restaurants, the Conservatory and the Green House.
The Green House holds a perennial position as one of the country’s top 10 restaurants by such awards as the ‘Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards’ and a slew of other accolades. The tasting menu should not be missed to fully explore the talent and innovation of their culinary team as well as to celebration of local ingredients which are then expertly paired with the wonderful wines of South Africa.
The Conservatory is an exceptional dining experiences in its own right known for is classic South African cuisine using local ingredients many of which come from the hotel’s vegetable gardens. The setting could not be more picturesque in glass enclosed room so as not to interrupt the views and proximity of the gorgeous natural surroundings or the gardens, forest and Table Mountain. Some guests will opt to dine al fresco of red brick patio under the awing of a 200 year old oak tree in the center of the space. It is truly romantic as twinkling lights flicker as loving couples share the extraordinary dining experiences.
Another memorable celebration of food culture is the High Tea service at Cellars-Hohenort. It is one of the most popular activities of the day, especially on weekends where Capetonians get together for celebrations or just a meet-up of friends. This is not your ordinary high tea; it is an outstanding gourmet offering of sweet, savory nibbles, those uber fluffy scones and yummy finger sandwiches. Needless to say there is a complete offering of fine teas as well as South African bubbles. The setting is beautiful as well either in the Conservatory, al fresco on the terrace or in the lovely living room setting of the Palm Arch.
There’s so much to do at the Cellars-Hohenort that travelers will never get bored. At the country house hotel guests can spend hours just exploring the beautiful gardens of the hotel or strolling thought the forest of 300 year old Cyprus trees. The hotel has tennis courts, golf courses nearby and two solar heated pools that are an ideal place to spend a few hours sunbathing between dips. There also a small spa offering a range massages, facials and beauty treatments.
An ideal way to spend an afternoon is an invigorating hike through the gorgeous forest trails to the Table Mountain range. Cellars-Hohenort is located near the world-renown Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens which showcases the unique diversity of the Capes floral varieties and is the largest of South Africa’s botanical gardens.
Groot Constantia Winery
This is after all Constantia and South Africa’s oldest wine producing area. The cooling bay breezes and fertile soil created an environment for cool climate wines in particular their world-class sauvignon blanc. A short distance from the hotel are fabulous cellar doors well worth a visit for their exquisite wine tastings or a lazy afternoon lunch. Not to be missed is Groot Constantia, which is South Africa’s oldest winery, and produces an award winning Pinotage.
Pinotage is a blend of Pinot grapes and Hermitage and a unique South African blend. Pinotage is a robust wine with peppery, chocolate, red berry and its overall savory notes make it ideal for pairing with gamey meats, roast pork or the South African springbok. Visit the Steenberg Vineyards for their beautiful contemporary winery, restaurant and tasting experience especially their sparkling wines and sauvignon blancs.
There is a certain gravitas about the Cellars-Hohenort. It emanates from the visionary who sought to create the perfect holiday in beautiful surroundings. This avant gard hospitality icon created an ambiance with the creature comforts of elegant interiors, fine dining, the highest level of service. It was her unsurpassed attention to detail that ensured that her formula for a flawless vacation was carried out to the highest standard. Liz McGrath was the life force that created one of South Africa’s finest holiday experiences for her guests at the Cellars-Hohenort and the other two fine properties; The Plettenberg in Plettenberg Bay, The Marine in Hermanus, that make up the Liz McGrath Collection. She sadly passed away a few years ago but her attention to the details and the endless pursuit of providing the perfect South African holiday is alive and well in the properties in her collection.
Constantia in the greater Cape Town area is a gorgeous destination surrounded by some of the top wine producers in the world. The Cellars-Hohenort is a five star hotel stay offering the finest accommodations, dining, and services all beautifully set all in gorgeous garden with the picturesque Table Mountain as a backdrop. For all of these reasons and more, Cellars-Hohenort is a South Africa’s quintessential country house hotel.