Sophisticated travelers tend to have discerning tastes for food and as well as the fine arts. Are there hotels in South Africa that excel in both?
Not only are these two five-star boutique hotels known for excellent South African cuisine in Greater Cape Town, they also own some of the South Africa’s finest collections of national art, from commissioned works from A-list sculptor Angus Taylor to the iconic bronzed cheetahs by Dylan Lewis.
If you’re into the culinary arts as you are with the visual kind, feast your eyes on these two Western Cape hotels.
CAPE TOWN -- ELLERMAN HOUSE
No serious list on the “World’s Best Art Hotels” exists without Ellerman House included in the fold. Owned by Paul Harris, the newly-renovated 13-bedroom mansion (with two separate villas) hosts one of Africa’s comprehensive art collections. Framed features of South African history, landscape, people and culture fill the main building, from 19th Century oil paintings of Eastern Cape villagers to contemporary pieces from MOMA-exhibited artists. The spectacular ocean-facing terrace gardens hosts sculptures, among them a sitting cheetah perched above the heated lap pool, and a portrait of a turquoise-painted Cape Malay woman in bronze by “New School” talent Lionel Smit.
Ellerman House’s own contemporary art gallery rests underneath the terrace, and is as expertly curated as any you’d find in a world-class exhibition room. The difference? The art gallery, like the rest of the hotel, is open exclusively to guests. That also means only the privileged few can visit the outstanding 7,500-bottle Wine Gallery, a part-cellar, tasting/dining space and art installation which features a carbon fiber, helix-shaped wine rack which stands 10-feet tall.
The dining program is exquisite as well. Ellerman House recently tapped Cape Town local Grant Daniels as the new Executive Chef for the hotel, using his 15-plus years of working in kitchens (including at the Ellerman House as Executive Sous Chef) to maintain the hotel’s high-quality standard. Executive Chef Daniels infuses classical French training with his Cape Malay/South African heritage on a daily-changing menu, which can include braised lamb shoulder, red sea bass with edamame and avocado or jerusalem artichoke with black truffle and hazelnuts. Guests can choose to eat in the hotel’s stately dining room, inside the Wine Gallery and on the dreamy terrace; for those staying in their handsome contemporary villas, you can nosh in your own dining room with dishes cooked from your private chef. There’s also a handy walk-in pantry near the mansion kitchen stocked with sweets, light bites, sandwiches and beverages available 24 hours a day for all guests.
STELLENBOSCH -- DELAIRE GRAFF ESTATE & SPA
In order to get the most out of one’s trip to Cape Town, heading to the Cape Winelands is an absolute must. The scenic town of Stellenbosch (about a 45-minute drive from downtown Cape Town) hosts some of South Africa’s top wineries, restaurants and luxury hotels; the Delaire Graff Estate & Spa, as it stands, ticks all three boxes.
Owned by gemstone magnate Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds, the estate boasts two acclaimed restaurants, a winery, an exclusive spa and 10 luxurious lodges, surrounded by miles of mountains and vineyard-striped valleys. Like Ellerman House, Delaire Graff’s collection is a “Who’s Who” of South Africa’s premier artists, including sculpted works by Anton Smit and Deborah Bell seen in their gardens as well as contemporary portraits from other local luminaries.
Each of the French-style hotel lodges have cool, contemporary interiors, and each come with a heated plunge pool and terrace. Save for the Garden Lodge, the villas’ terraces have some of the region’s most breathtakingly gorgeous views: a 180-degree display of undulating hills and vineyards with the formidable presence of Botmaskop Mountain. Have a full-service breakfast on your private terrace and watch the glowing sunrise on this scene for maximum effect.
The Delaire Graff Restaurant and Indochine are both sought-after by local and visiting gourmands in the Stellenbosch area. Though just about everything about this estate is exceptional, the Indochine is perhaps Delaire’s most fabulous offering. Head Chef Virgil Khan combines contemporary pan-Asian cuisine with a South African twist, with every taste a bold, beautiful expression of flavor and spice. Innovative dishes include tikka lamb scotch egg with fermented chilli dressing, dehydrated yogurt and onion raita, as well as free-range pork belly with chilli sausage, sweet potato, pickled galangal and garlic. Booking in advance is highly recommended.
GO ON AN ART SAFARI
For the serious art lovers who want to see more beyond the hotels’ collections, enlist Art Route Cape Town for unprecedented access around the region. Art aficionados Talia Swarts and Tamlyn Martin designs specialized half- and full-day tours of Cape Town and the Cape Winelands, which can include in-depth visits to galleries such as Everard Read and Stevenson in the city; not-open-to-the-public studio visits for serious buyers; and express entry into the must-see Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, a 17-acre wonderland of Japanese-style groves, paths, streams and over 60 bronze sculptures in Stellenbosch. They are partners with Ellerman House and Delaire Graff, and guests can arrange a tour with Art Route Cape Town directly with the respective concierge team.