Sunday, May 31, 2015

HOTEL CHECK SOUTH AFRICA, La Residence Franschhoek

We return to a colourful hotel in Franschhoek, the Cape Mecca of food and wine. At La Residence every room is not just different, it is an individual world ...

Sitting in the Victorian bathtub facing olives, purple lavender and tall Cape mountains we sampled the complementary wine from the minibar. La Residence Nicole Charlotte 2013 "reminiscent of the deep purple plums..."

And we agreed deep purple is right for this luscious hotel. With its eclectic and opulent decor, it suits those who can appreciate arty individuality and generous luxury. Staying there we felt like kittens on a satin cushion…purring.

The relaxed and friendly resident manager and his team make you feel like personal guests, and you accept your hosts’ extravagance along with their thoughtful caring….

Owner Liz Biden is an art lover. She continuously travels and finds the perfect piece for every corner. She makes a romantic world of colour and form, continuously evolving as she swaps out bits to get perfection.

When we got to know our very own room – the Tang room – we got into the lavish mood of colour and texture, beautiful handmade furniture, silken sheets and puffy pillows, and that memorable bath and terrace looking at the mountain with a glass of La Residence’s own wine from the free minibar.

The Franchhoek mountain soars up out of sight - seen from the bath or one of the sofas in the lounge style bathroom

Like all rooms the bathroom is vast and includes choice items of furniture, sofas and easy chairs. Doors open out onto the terrace and garden, what feels like your very own rose garden, your very own olive grove, and your very own mountain towering up into the sky. All rooms have views.

Very Provencal, very Cape...
It was a short one night stay – and a highlight was dinner. We felt truly like pampered guests

Eating splendidly 

Tasting meal
The dinner is served only to hotel guests and feels very exclusive and romantic, under the high colonial ceilings, with fire burning, candles flickering, and only 6 other guests there. The cost was 600 zar per person for a tasting meal including three glasses of wine.  Sitting on soft velvet chairs, it was a long and lingering meal, with the sommelier advising on a different wine for each course.

Fire burning and chandeliers glittering in this exclusive dining hall just for guests
It was autumn and some 15 deg C in the evening

My divine cheese souffle tartlet

I started with a puffy almost floating cheese soufflé tartlet and salad including sour green apple paired with a glass of Glenwood Chardonnay as explained by our sommelier "To match the creaminess of soufflés and touch of acidity of the salad ". then followed sweet corn soup and an apple sorbet to refresh the palate, then the main course of line-caught kingklip (the Cape’s best, perhaps the world’s best fish). Paired with wooded Chenin Blanc to "give depth to the kingklip".

Paired with my starter
Rickety Bridge Chenin blanc paired with the kingklip

If I had chosen the starter with prawns and asparagus, the wine choice would have been  Babylonstoren Chenin blanc unwooded.  At dessert time we hopped over the paired wine.

Lunch on the terrace
Again, only hotel guests were there, the meal was delicious even had a gourmet touch, and the prices reasonable.

Lunch on the terrace facing the palms, pool and mountain

Mediterranean salad including fried crumbed feta
The pool with the scent of roses

Breakfast by the fire
In the dining room quietly at our chosen table. Apart from the full essential buffet items a choice of hot dishes.

Franschhoek farmhouse breakfast ( not for vegetarians) included beans, bacon, egg (cooked any way) tomato, mushrooms. My choice was instead home done granola - something all our Cape hotels excel at with fresh and crunchy seeds, eaten with home-made natural yoghurt, raspberries and golden Cape gooseberries (different from green Northern gooseberries).

The buffet included home-made breads that gain flavor from the freshness and wholeness of locally grown wheat - eaten with a good selection of local cheeses and cold meats.

Eating in Franschhoek village
The hotel lies on the outskirts of the small village of Franschhoek, perhaps 15 minutes walk. But the hotel offers a free shuttle on demand (5 mins) and bikes. So for those staying a longer time this is a perfect opportunity to dine at some of this destination's gourmet options - like Reubens, Le Petit Ferme and The Tasting Room. But do book your table in the village when you book your hotel stay with Select Collection  - these three restaurants get booked up one year ahead in season and even out...

Reubens in the centre of Franschhoek


There are 11 luxury and superior double rooms in the main building. As mentioned each a world of its own. The superior have balconies in two directions – one of the Superior rooms is the Maharani suite – known as the Elton John Suite after the star’s visit.

Le Chambre Bleu (superior room) with doors onto terrace in two directions - just below the Elton John suite.

Hibiscus Suite - a treasure or a comfortable sofa in every corner

One of the choice items in the lounging bathroom of the Tang suite

You float to sleep on the velvet bed of the Tang suite. No other bed looks like this. And no one room looks like any other room

Family options
For families they offer a nearby annex of Vineyard suites (villas) with one to three bedrooms.
Here the ambience is almost Bohemian - Bohemian luxury, with giant paintings and extraordinary living/ dining  rooms for each suite - with each living room encompassing a collection of moods with conversation corners and dining tables, plus beautiful objects. Giving the feeling that the artist was making long free strokes from her jewel colored paint box.

An artistic living and dining room in the Vineyard villa annex - suite comes with two bedrooms
We saw two interleading suites that together offered 5 bedrooms, 2 pools and 2 living rooms. The resident manager who showed us around said that  a number of extended families come back year after year to claim this relaxing and joyful space.

Arty living dining room of the 3 bedroom Vineyard suite 
Whimsical flowery bedroom in a Vineyard 3-bedroom suite

Another bedroom in the 3 bedroom Vineyard suite - art of a collector

Private pool of a 3-bedroom suite (Vineyard suite 5)
The two bedroom suite that can be occupied together with the three-bedroom suite...

A bedroom in one of the  2-bedroom Vineyard suites
We also saw a one-bedroom suite in the Vineyard annex with generous and colorful bathroom. There are two more two-bedroom Vineyard suites which we did not see (without pools)

One bedroom suite in the Vineyard annex

Yet another individualistic bathroom to lounge in

The vineyard annex has also a common pool and common lounge, kitchen and dining room.

Bathing by the vineyards by the Vineyard annex with a view of the Franschhoek mountains
Back to our room. We were very happy in the Tang suite – in particular moments in the bath with view out through double views to the mountain. Sip wine here - generously provided in the complimentary minibar / or on the wide terrace with table and chairs, sofa and sun lounger.  The vivid purple of lavender caught the eye under the silver green olives beyond a voluptuous rose garden where peacocks strutted. Very Med, very Provencal.

Our private terrace looking over the vineyards - with a foamy cappuccino and biscuits

And the mountain soared like Capetonian Alps beyond and above - as if you owned it.
It takes a few hours to the top we were told - hiking and picnic can be arranged with guide - and lots of other activities - the concierge  and reception have their fingers on the pulse of happenings.

La Residence in a nutshell

Floating and bottomless luxury where you are the personal guest of the hotel manager and his team. You grow to love the extraordinary eclectic interiors for their bohemian flair and individualism. Only guests can eat in the restaurant, which is surprisingly gourmet. But just  5 minutes by free shuttle to the Franschhoek village and its gourmet offerings. 11 very spacious rooms with terraces/balconies and 5 vineyard suites with 1 to 3 bedrooms, two with private pools.

Note: La Residence is part of the Royal Portfolio, which among others includes Birkenhead House in Hermanus. For more information on La Residence click HERE, and on Birkenhead House, HERE.

Images are just iPhone snaps by Select Collection on a visit late April (autumn in the Cape).

PS: for our previous blog with the 2015 Eurovision winner as guest blogger - Måns Zermerlöw - click HERE.

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