When you check in, you don’t want to leave

By Chris Moerdyk Time of article published Aug 18, 2011

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Most five-star hotels are luxurious. Some are elegant, but only a few have class. It’s that combination of elegance, luxury and a very special ingredient derived from a mix of understatement and the feeling you are not so much staying in a commercial establishment but rather at the home of your favourite, outstandingly hospitable and generous cousin who just happens to be as rich as Croesus.

It’s that elusive touch that every five-star establishment in the world desperately tries to find but which few actually manage to achieve.

Mont Rochelle Hotel & Mountain Vineyards sits high on a hill in the prettiest part of the Franschhoek Valley and has that magic touch by the bucketload.

This kind of compliment is not one I dish out easily and, certainly my reviews of the five-star establishments I have reviewed in Joburg, for example, don’t come close to getting this accolade. In fact, most should send their staff to Mont Rochelle for a few days to see how it’s done.

Because that’s where class starts. In the way you are treated by the staff, whether they be the duty manager or the guy tending the gardens.

I believe it is all in the eyes and ears. You only have to look into the eyes of those who are serving you, at reception, in the restaurant, at the poolside. The eyes are a giveaway and tell you whether they really mean what they say when they ask how you are, whether you’d like another drink or if there is anything else they can do to make your stay more enjoyable.

I find that in far too many of the big five-star hotels in this country, the eyes are pretty blank. Working to the book and nothing more.

Mont Rochelle Hotel has only 28 rooms but all have that understated class I keep banging on about. They are comfortable and luxurious with every modern amenity, set in a building that oozes elegance but which, at no stage, looks like somebody was throwing money around at the furniture and fittings in an attempt at over-indulgent opulence. Quite the contrary.

It is a contemporary interior in a sort of elegantly homely Cape Dutch-ish skin.

Something else that put it into the “class” category is that none of the beautifully appointed public rooms, bars, restaurants and suites have that commercial hotel look about them. You know, those rooms where the staff use tape measures to make sure that the magazines on the coffee table are precisely positioned and where everything is placed with so much infinite care and attention one feels guilty taking down a bath towel from where it nestles among rose petals and sprigs of exotic herbs, because it looks like it took some poor serf a thousand man-hours to get it exactly, precisely right.

Mont Rochelle is all about being a home from home.

It is the ideal weekend or mid-week getaway. Only a two-hour flight from Gauteng and a 45-minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. And it is in what I believe is quite the most exquisite valley on the African continent.

There is a lot to do in Franschhoek - something for everybody from trout fishing to mountain walks, wine tasting, shopping and fine food. It has not been called the food capital of South Africa for nothing.

And Mont Rochelle certainly lives up to this. The highly experienced Leigh Trout is chef supreme at Mont Rochelle’s wonderful Mange Tout restaurant with its great views across the valley and vista of the Franschhoek Mountains.

In the morning, you can catch him in the hotel’s enormous herb garden picking all manner of garnish and spices for lunch. When asked by the duty manager what I thought of Chef Trout, I said Ibelieved they should padlock him to his kitchen table because he is one of the hotel’s greatest assets.

His West Coast crayfish cannelloni with orange segments, coconut and Peppadew sauce is exquisite, as is his delicate Thai-inspired chicken curry. I could go on for pages about his culinary creations but all I need say is that every one is a delight. Just like the hotel, in fact.

And don’t forget to try his do-it-yourself tiramisu where mascarpone mousse, coffee and savoiardi biscuit ice cream and marsala sabayon are served separately.

A short walk from the hotel will find the Country Kitchen - a less formal restaurant with outside dining and a menu that is a quite extraordinarily creative and tasty.

Mont Rochelle is, in my opinion, an ideal get-away-from-it-all hotel. It is an opulent home from home. And it has some wonderful winter packages that are proving to be extremely popular. It’s the kind of place that makes the stresses and strains of every day life disappear as you drive up the long the winding road through the vineyards.

Mont Rochelle Hotel and Vineyard, Dassenberg Road, Franschhoek. Tel 021 876 2770

e-mail [email protected]

www.montrochelle.co.za

* Get there from Cape Town or Cape Town International Airport, via Stellenbosch, Helshoogte Pass and Pniel.

* Amenities: Wine tasting on the estate, spa, gym, boardroom on site with golf and trout fishing nearby. Hiking, cycling, birding.

Antique, curio and clothing shopping nearby.

* Dozens of wine estates in close proximity.

* Room rates vary from R3 500 pppn for a luxury double room with mountain and courtyard views to deluxe suites with lounges, dining areas, plunge pools and private patios at R9 900 pppn.

Visit www.montrochelle.co.za/Assets/PDF/special_offers.pdf for special offers such as the One Night Winter Escape at R2 300 (two people) per room for one night and including full English breakfast, 3-course dinner for two and 2 bottles of Mont Rochelle wine to take home.

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