The courtyard at Abalone House offers a quiet place to contemplate life
Chef Garth Almazan has been cooking for me for close to a decade, many of those years during his time at Steenberg where he introduced me to the joys of offal, among other things, and as of last weekend, at his new enterprise in Paternoster.

Garth and his wife Cecile embarked on this adventure quite some time ago, but it was only this year that the media was invited to visit Leeto Restaurant at the Strandloper Boutique Hotel.

Two hours from Cape Town is a bit of a stretch just for lunch so, being the resourceful person I am, I arranged to spend the night at Abalone House, where I’ve been a guest a few times and a very happy one at that. It was wonderful to be welcomed back by the lovely Leigh Longden and her team, which includes a trio of cats.

I mention this because there are some people out there who do not take too kindly to Chelsea, Toffee and Roxy despite the hotel making it clear on its website that it has resident felines and a pet-friendly policy.


I love cats and will encourage them to sleep on the bed with me if they want, and no doubt feeding Roxy the smoked salmon from the breakfast buffet did nothing to dissuade her from lurking under the table. Toffee is actually feral, but the sweetest wild cat I’ve met. He was my buddy by the time we checked out, but did make it quite clear with gentle nips on the hand if I was rubbing him the wrong way.

Paternoster is rugged and windswept, with wide expanses of low fynbos and shrubbery fading into a long, white beach and - depending on the weather of course - glittering turquoise ocean. In less than 24 hours we had a variety of climates, from a scorching 30°C and clear skies upon arrival to waking the next morning to the low mournful moan of the foghorn and shades of grey.

By the time breakfast was over, it had lifted to reveal a crisp autumn day with the last shreds of mist rolling back over the horizon.

The five-star boutique Abalone is cosy and comfortable, boasting vibrant and eclectic decor favouring Tretchikoff prints and ducks. There used to be real ducks too, but now there are only the cats.

The ground floor has a lounge with plump couches you may never get out of, a huge rustic fireplace, and shelves filled with books.

It’s just perfect for snuggling up with a glass - all right, a bottle - of good, red wine as the winter chill sets in.

Take a little tea by the sea

Which leads me neatly to the part where I tell you about the annual seasonal special here: from now until the end of August, guests will pay R5995 for a two-night stay for two adults sharing, which includes canapés and a glass of sparkling wine upon arrival, two nights’ accommodation in a standard superior room, Healing Earth Spa products to the value of R500 a person, breakfast daily, and a three-course dinner at the acclaimed Reuben’s (as in Riffel).

A small beach bracketed by rocks is a short walk away, and the romantics will want to grab a bottle of bubbly and a blanket to watch the sunsets which, I am assured, are virtually always spectacular.

After dinner at Reuben’s or one of the other eateries in the village, head for the lounge or choose a movie from the DVD library to watch in the comfort of your room.

Toasty perks include thick, fluffy robes, a ferocious heater in the bathroom and underfloor heating, which never ceases to please me when my bare feet unexpectedly come across it.