A devastating fire destroyed historic buildings at Lanzerac last year, but also peeled away decades to create a canvas for its glorious restoration.
During the early hours of Sunday, May 28, 2017 a devastating fire raged through the hotel precinct at Lanzerac
in Stellenbosch, destroying the reception area, the restaurant, bar, kitchen and courtyard as well as all the staff offices. Around 13 months later, the hotel will reopen to guests, reimagined in stunning glory.

“We haven’t recreated it, we haven’t modernised it - we have reimagined it, and it remains very true to the heritage of the property and the memories people hold,” marketing manager Jo-Anna Looms told me when I spent a night there a month ago - behind the scenes, if you will, as the property was almost entirely closed to guests with only the wine tasting, deli, and spa being open. 

The dining areas are incredible.

The decision to close the hotel following the fire was not taken lightly - a year of reservations for weddings, events and conferences, accommodation, as well as restaurant bookings, had to be moved out in a logistical operation of military proportions. At the time, the rooms were already being redone and were about 70% complete; the closure provided breathing space to finish that project as well as to add five new rooms, bringing the hotel’s total to 53 when it opens its doors tomorrow.

Although the fire was heartbreaking in many ways, it did have its benefits. Much like fynbos regenerates and reseeds after it’s burned, the team of builders discovered layers of original walls, door lintels and flooring which had been covered by decades - centuries even - of modifications.

Grab a light meal from the deli, from farm-style breakfasts to healthy harvest platters.

“The fire resulted in the uncovering of amazing artefacts, features and brickwork which have been brought into the design,” says Looms.

When you check in now, the reception area is to the side of where it used to be, through which you will pass into the Governor’s Hall with its impressive double volume vaulted ceiling comprising 13 one-ton spruce pine trusses resting on the original walls. You will notice the décor elements which appear as if they were made for the space, or vice versa. This incredible synergy is possible because of Con van der Colff, who is in charge of renovations, external aesthetics and curation of the interior. Van Der Colff has a multi-layered background as a builder, designer and interior decorator which gives him an exceptional skill set to look at the project holistically.

A team which specialises in restoring historical structures true to their origins was employed to retain the integrity of the building, using the authentic methods of the first Dutch settlers back in the early 1700s.

Interiors epitomise luxury; this was my bathroom and I could happily have just lived in here.

In the Taphuis, the long wooden bar counter was lovingly created by a team of artisan carpenters, skilled in the ways of their ancestors.

Taphuis will have a menu of pub-style food, served inside by the fire in winter and spilling out onto the terrace overlooking the manor house in summer.

Across the passage - what used to be the lounge - has become a private dining area where those exposed bricks are a feature, and the courtyard is now the Manor Kitchen where fine dinners and lavish brunch buffets will be served.

New spaces in the new Lanzerac include five venues with individual décor and seating configurations suitable for conferencing or corporate events, flowing effortlessly into evening dining options, as well as the beautifully appointed Craven Lounge.

Filled with lush Kelim rugs, big comfy leather couches and the world’s finest spirits, it’s named after rugby legend Doc Danie Craven, who used to come to Lanzerac every Friday with his dog, Bliksem, to have a drink and a kuier (“visit”). In keeping with the essence of this, the bartenders are highly trained ambassadors who will regale guests not only with information about their drinks, but the history, tales and anecdotes of Lanzerac.

Located on the outskirts of the town, Lanzerac was established in 1692. The manor house, built in 1830, is a national monument, and it was here that the first pinotage - the South African hybrid of pinot noir and cinsaut (hermitage) - was bottled in 1961.

Rooms at Lanzerac are styled within a complementary yet individual theme.

The hotel’s 53 rooms are exquisitely luxurious. On my many visits, I’ve experienced what it must feel like to be royalty. Even if you don’t spend a night or three, the spa is a tranquil hideaway with a stunning view.

Every stay offers its own treats and extras, and the re-opening winter special is the perfect opportunity to visit.