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5-Star Sophistication La Residence, Franschhoek SA
June 5, 2018
La Residence in Franschhoek might have been built after the millennium but still feels like the grande dame of luxury hotels in the region such is the preeminence of its reputation. It is regularly found on the round-up of the top 5-star hotels in the world in luxury magazines. There is nothing understated about any part of the private 30-acre estate: opulent, grand, sumptuous are words that would feature heavily in describing the hotel. The owner, Liz Biden has travelled the world to collect the finest antiques and the lucky guests at the hotel can marvel at the lavish collection, which tends to have a strong Asian influence.
The great hall with high vaulted ceilings and sparkling Indian chandeliers is a conversation stopper as you wander through the space not looking for a check-in desk but rather admiring each piece of artwork as if it was the V&A Museum filled with priceless artifacts. There are glistening gilded mirrors, ornate vases and lamps and floral displays that wouldn’t look out of place at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Service is flawless here from the General Manager, Edward Morton down to the gardener who makes sure there isn’t a flower out of place on the estate. With only 11 suites, they have the level of staffing that ensures all your needs are catered for from the moment your car drives up the hotel, their team is ready to greet you and make sure your suitcases are seamlessly transported to your suite as they explain the facilities in the hotel.
I would highly recommend the frangipani suite we stayed in, which is often nicknamed “the honeymoon suite” by the staff. The decor has a strong white and gold theme with the standout king sized bed in the centre of the room particularly eye-catching being on a heated marble plinth and surrounded by marble pillows. The walls are filled with exotic Chinese calligraphy and other oriental artwork.
The bathroom might be the most glamorous you will ever come across with a design that is reminiscent of the hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles. Double vanities, opulent toiletries are all present, although the toilet isn’t enclosed so not recommended for the introverted.
The extremely spacious veranda is a welcome extension especially when the peacocks wander in (they have a current count of 25 peacocks on their grounds) and you can wander directly onto the vineyards and admire the beautiful scenery. You might also bump into horses, springboks and guinea fowl. La Residence also offers a spa with two in-house spa therapists, a fully-equipped gym and a swimming pool with awe-inspiring views of the local scenery.
They also have vineyard suites which are larger and catered towards the family (where children are allowed to stay). With incredible designs for each suite, you are strongly recommended to speak with the management team to ask for a private tour of the suites if possible.
Breakfast takes place in the great hall and every fruit, preserve, cheese and cereal you ever dreamt of are available here, but the hot breakfast really excelled. I had the Huntsman, which included an exotic smoked kudu carpaccio served along with the requisite scrambled eggs or you can have the full English which comes with Joostenberg pork sausages.
If you want a break from their catering facilities, they helpfully have a list of recommended restaurants in town and also provide a complimentary chauffeur service to take you to and from restaurants in town. We went along to the ultra-hip Foliage, where wild, foraged ingredients rule the kitchen. Chris Erasmus, the head chef has introduced a field to fork ethos at the restaurant where only, fresh local ingredients play a key role in his menu.
You don’t get more locally sourced than the starter I ordered which was fresh and cured trout from the Franschhoek river, which had a pleasing variation of textures. With foraging such a key component of the restaurant, it wasn’t going to be a surprise to see plenty of vegetables and fruits appear on the menu; my guest had a starter of warm pumpkin, aubergine and kale roulade, raw root vegetables, sprout tartar with herb kombucha.
The main course was presented immaculately like a Monet painting; a roasted cauliflower had a surrounding “garden” of pickled vegetables, nettle and primrose gremolata. BBQ whey-braised Spier beef brisket had me wondering why British versions were so much inferior unless you order a better quality cut of beef. This version was served with delicious pomme purée and caramelised onion whilst extra jus was carefully plated to resemble a tree. Also do try their house cocktail, which is called The Absinth Pineapple, the invigorating tastes come from home-made pineapple beer, gin, lemon juice, herb sugar and absinthe compressed pineapple.
With exceptional hotels, cuisine, and service, it is no wonder why Franschhoek is one of the hottest destinations to visit in 2018.
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