Since selling my guest houses I have stayed at a mix of self-catering and guest houses in Franschhoek, and have been very disappointed. Franschhoek Boutique Hotel GM Llewellyn Lambert took pity on my Franschhoek accommodation experiences, as documented in Sour Service Awards on this Blog, and invited me to come and stay at the hotel. He had showed me around just after it was completed a few months ago, but this was my first stay.
The hotel is not very visible, and not at all from the main road. It is behind Allora restaurant, a double story building with only six bedrooms. Parking is in the open area below the hotel. On the downstairs level is the spacious Reception, lounge and dining room, with tables set up for breakfast for 12 guests. A large fireplace dominates, and with the gusting south-easter a fire had been lit during the day. The interior design was done by Carol Cornwall of Cornwall Interiors in Durban, who does the interior for all Maingard properties, and who had also done the decor for La Coq, the former Allora restaurant.
What is unusual about the hotel is that none of the six rooms have the same decor – each room has a name, which reflects a particular link to its Mauritian owner Mr Maingard, and the decorater used a unique approach for each room. However, each of the rooms offers the same facilities, even if the colour scheme and mood of each room differs. Each room has a fireplace, air conditioning, underfloor heating, and a ceiling fan, a flatscreen TV, a bar fridge as well as a wine cooler, a desk with 2- and 3-prong plugs conveniently located above the desk, an orchid on the desk, a ghost chair at the desk, and lighting which can be switched on and off centrally from one’s king bed. The bathroom has an oval bath and a spacious shower, with bathroom amenities at the wash basin and in the shower. I stayed in the Blanc Room, which was decorated in white and grey tones throughout, which Llewellyn described as soft and feminine, popular for wedding couples, and he chose this room for me. Llewellyn tries to get a feel for his guests during the booking process, and chooses what he thinks will be the best room match. The other room names are Aztec (reflecting the geometric trend), Hennessy (a masculine room, with old leather and antique wood), Palm (reflecting the two properties which Mr Maingard owns in Mozambique), Sapphire ( a multi-colored room with tones of Bo-Kaap), and Hestia (after the Greek God of Architecture, being very linear and grey, and is popular due to its possible link to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘)!
What I loved the most about Franschhoek Boutique Hotel is how quiet it is, despite a gale-force south-easter over the three-day stay. There is no staff sweeping outside one’s door at 7h00, no one talking outside one’s room early in the morning or late at night, or any traffic noise from the village streets, which I used to hear increasingly from my former guest house. The only time that I heard anything was when the Franschhoek Wine Tram returned to its parking area on the same property, and a particularly boisterous group of tasters returned on Saturday afternoon at 17h30, singing ‘Shozoloza‘ at the top of their voices.
Breakfast was set up in the lounge/dining area, a bowl of fruit, three cereals, and milk, with orange juice. They have denim napkins, Oryx salt and pepper grinders, and use St Tropez cutlery. The cooked breakfast menu is impressive, and Nosipho was a star in the kitchen, making the most delicious breakfasts. I am relatively new on Instagram, and Nosipho’s Eggs Benedict with salmon and toast is my best-liked photograph to date, and tasted as good as it looks. On the second morning she made a Health Breakfast, with spinach, poached eggs, and tomatoes on wholewheat toast. On my last morning she prepared scrambled egg inside a croissant. Llewellyn made me a dry cappuccino every morning, knowing how I like my cappuccino, having been the manager of Café Benedict when it opened near the smaller Pick ‘n Pay in Franschhoek in 2010. Nosipho worked with Llewellyn when the restaurant first opened, and has moved with him since then.
Best of all about the breakfasts at Franschhoek Boutique Hotel is the generous breakfast period, being 8h00 – 11h00, meaning that one can really sleep well as well as sleep in. Llewellyn told me that most of their guests ordered breakfast-in-bed yesterday, and requested a later check-out, and the hotel is happy to oblige.
The hotel opened in December, and has attracted attention for its good service, from Llewellyn, Nosipho, and the night manager, who assisted me in setting up the fire when it was cold on one of the evenings, and to bring an ice bucket, a plate, and cutlery. Even though I know Franschhoek well, it was great to have Llewellyn as a companion on my first day, when we had lunch at La Petite Ferme, popped in at the new at Mòor Gallery, and ate at The Kitchen at Maison’s FirstFriday dinner.
As if Llewellyn has not been generous enough with his time and service, he waved me goodbye yesterday with a gift pack of their hospitality products for Mother’s Day, an absolute surprise. Llewellyn is a mine of Franschhoek information, and I was able to discover some new (to me) Franschhoek attractions, as well as rediscover some stalwarts that I had not been to in many years.
In summary, I would recommend experiencing the following whilst spending a few days in Franschhoek:
# Franschhoek Wine Tram – four routes offer eight or nine stops out of a total of 14 wine estates in Franschhoek. I was told that a brand new Wine Tram station is to be built on the open ground opposite the centre in which the large Pick ‘n Pay is on the main road when entering Franschhoek. The number of wine estates is to be expanded, stretching out as far as to Boschendal. Talk is that one may be able to do wine tasting on the wine tram in future.
#. Móor Gallery on Bordeaux Street, owned by art lovers Katherine and Arthur Mc William-Smith, the newest art gallery in a town blessed with many galleries. It is a beautiful minimalistic space which makes the art the hero.
# Jade, a shop dedicated to pearls, on the main road
# Restaurants are plentiful, and we experienced the following: The Kitchen at Maison (innovate unique ingredient mix in its FirstFriday dinner, every first Friday of the month excluding June and July, when the restaurant closes for its winter break); Leopard’s Leap lunch, with a salad bar on a weigh-and-pay basis, meats prepared on a rotisserie, and small-size delicious desserts; Haute Cabriere, good setting and a new frame allowing one to photograph the beautiful valley below, but the restaurant interior is very dark, very small menu, tasty dishes, with very friendly staff; La Petite Ferme, the oldest restaurant at 30 years, and its interior still looks the same, yet serving modern cuisine; and the TukTuk Microbrewery, which serves good craft beers and Mexican dishes, their churros and Valrhona chocolate sauce being my personal favorite. We recommend Orangerie at Le Lude, and Ryan’s Kitchen too.
# Interior design and art: A visit to Ebony is a must.
# Other news we picked up in Franschhoek:
: after 15 years of operating in the same building, Reuben’s is moving to its own building just off the main road, next door to the Franschhoek Boutique Hotel and The Hoek Espresso Bar. They close at the existing location at the end of May, and will re-open in the new location in September. They will operate on a pop-up basis at Racine in June and July
: It is said that Chef Duncan Doherty is returning to Franschhoek, to operate Café des Arts
: The Village Tart is to open next to Huguenot Fine Chocolates on Main Road
: Melissa’s is opening off the main road.
Franschhoek Boutique Hotel, corner Daniel Hugo and Van Wijk Streets, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2453. www.franschhoekboutiquehotel.co.za Twitter: @FranschhoekBH
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @WhaleCottage Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein