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Breathtaking Views At Leeu Estates, Franschhoek
May 2, 2018
The observant tourist walking in the picturesque town of Franschhoek will notice lion sculptures and the words “Leeu Collection” dotted throughout key buildings in the area. They are all part of Indian billionaire, Analjit Singh’s growing hospitality empire in the region and across the world. Leeu means lion in Afrikaans and Singh happens to be the Sanskrit word for lion as well. In Franschhoek, he owns Le Quartier Français, Leeu House, Leeu Estates, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines as well as restaurants and brewery.
We went along recently to their flagship Leeu Estates boutique hotel to discover why Leeu collection is the fast-rising star in the world of understated luxury in the hospitality industry. With just 17 rooms and acres of stunning vineyards, you are more than just a VIP here, you are treated like family. We were whisked off to their welcoming wine studios on arrival for their signature tasting experience; where we learned about the wines from their Swartland winery and then the Mullineux style of wine from their Kloof Street varieties and you can appreciate the elegance, fragrance, and freshness of their offerings.
Walking through Manor House before we reached our room, we were struck by how many pieces of awe-aspiring artwork we came across from local artists; Analjit Singh’s collection must be one of the most extensive in the country. The studio itself was extremely spacious with the sizes averaging at 678ft² and our terrace overlooking the immaculately manicured lawns with the Dassenberg mountain as the perfect backdrop.
A pleasing palette of natural colours was used throughout the room with the King-sized bed fitted with premium quality linen, whilst the rest of the room included thick sisal carpets and elegant linen curtains. The en-suite marble-filled bathroom included double vanities, free-standing bath with a view of the mountains, heated flooring, and rainbow shower. What makes staying here even better value is not just the free WiFi, but the fact that the mini-bar and the wine-tasting are included in the package.
No 5-star luxury hotel is complete without an outstanding spa: they have three treatment rooms, including a couples room, hair and nail salon, his and hers changing and steam rooms, plunge pool overlooking a tranquil lily pond and a gorgeous 15-metre infinity swimming pool.
Breakfast here does have a suitably Indian twist with dishes like masala omelette and chickpea rosti. However, if you want the full authentic Indian experience, then head out to the centre of town to Marigold, which is also part of the Leeu collection and the hotel will provide complimentary transport to and from the restaurant. The huge personality of Vanie Padayachee is very much in evidence on the menu with fresh, vibrant flavours like the Aloo Tikki Chole Chaat. They are shallow-fried potato patties filled with flavoursome spiced Bengal gram, seasoned and served with Indian chickpea curry and topped up with onions, fresh coriander, and mint chutney. In the meat-heavy world of South African dining, this makes for a welcome break from tradition; for the main course, I would recommend their local fish which has been marinated with ground coriander, turmeric, salt, lemon juice and red chilli powder served in a tangy, tomato gravy.
Inside Le Quartier Français is La Petite Colombe, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the country for fine dining. This is one place where you visit when you are hungry, as the only offer a tasting menu that is either 6 or 10 courses (plus bread and palate cleanser on top). The fireworks started off with the starters: their signature Champagne poached Saldanha Bay oyster had just the right amount of acidic to arouse your desire for more with verjuice, grape, cucumber, and apple. Various flavours, textures and cooking styles are subsequently explored with delightful dishes like truffle poached Elgin chicken, yellowfin tuna, and springbok tataki.
What makes them stand out from your overly fussy Michelin-starred restaurants is they have a course where you “Meet the chefs”; for our meal, it was the palate-cleansing course but others have gone up to watch sous vide pork belly ramen bowl prepared. This really helps to break down the barrier between the customer and the back-of-house team and you really appreciate the hard work put together in the creation of your food. Main courses were a foodie’s dream come true with the Cape Malay dish of Mauritian sea bass cooked to just the right degree with a gentle hint of sweetness and a deconstructed Parmesan Lasagne that had my vegetarian guest cry out tears of culinary joy. The combination of sable, salsa verde, creamed spinach, caramelized carrot, and smoked rosemary was a marriage of utter harmony.
The best thing about having a mammoth tasting menu and staying at Leeu Estates? Their chauffeur will drive you back to the hotel at your convenience. Look out for more news from Leeu Collection as they have plans to open a hotel near Florence and one in central London in the not too distant future.
For more information on Leeu Estates, see here.
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