By the end of December last year I was completely flat-against-the-floor tired. I think most of you will agree that 2016 was one helluva year that left most of us crawling to the finish line. Normally it takes me a few days to switch off after that mad, final grind but this year I had the opportunity to review the new Leeu Estate Spa in Franschhoek on the first day of my break (so yes, technically it was work but someone’s gotta do it – wink wink). It was the perfect way to shake off all my tension and ease myself into a mellow summer holiday mood.
I picked up my best friend early that morning and together we set off to Franschhoek for a full-on spa day, dead-set on spending as much time as possible in robes, soaking up the good weather and elegant surroundings.
Leeu Estate is situated just outside Franschhoek town, a collection of minimalist modern structures set between manicured lawns and pristine gardens, with the Franschhoek mountains and vineyards providing a scenic backdrop.
We pushed open a tall glass door and stepped into the serene and spacious foyer of the spa building, with treatment areas and dressing rooms to one end, separated with a double door for seclusion and privacy, and steps on the other leading down to the outside pool. Natural light flooded the elegant, simplistic interior, bouncing off wood and stone finishes, and lending an air of calm and tranquility. We simply smiled at each other. This was going to be perfect.
We were welcomed with a glass of freshly pressed apple juice to sip while we filled in our client forms. Once completed we were led off to the changing rooms where we swapped our clothes for plush white gowns (and comfortable spa undies, yes please!) and then moved to the cool and quiet treatment area.
The treatment rooms at the Leeu Estate Spa are spacious and decorated with a sophisticated simplicity that I found instantly appealing and soothing. When filling in the form you’re also asked to name your favourite flower and your favourite type of music, and whether by chance or on purpose my room actually did smell like magnolias and jasmine on entering.
At the start of the treatment my therapist showed me to a soft chair in the corner of the room with a copper foot bath on the floor beside it. Each session starts with a quick foot scrub, she explained. From there I layed down on a comfortable spa bed at the centre of the room to enjoy a 90 minute Manipura Full Body Massage. She started by exfoliating my body with a sugar scrub that filled the entire room with the intoxicating, delicious smell of jasmine and essential oils. Once she had sufficiently removed every bit of coarse skin, I took a leisurely shower in the en-suite bathroom, and settled onto a freshly dressed bed for the massage.
The Manipura massage aims to balance and energise your body. Manipura means ‘beautiful shining jewel’ in Sanskrit and refers to your naval chakra, the centre of fire and sun energy that ignites health and vitality. The massage focuses on lymphatic drainage, removing digestive blockages and increasing blood and lymph flow. Apart from being physically relaxing it also worked wonders to relieve the sluggish fatigue I was feeling from sitting in front of my computer non-stop, and since I had to head to the bathroom twice during the session I assume the lymph drainage was working too.
The rest of the day was filled with a lot of lounging, lunch, and more lounging. We started with a dip in the heated plunge pool looking out over a lily pond, the estate stretching out beyond. We were the only two in the room and it was perfectly idyllic to dip in and out of the water while soaking up the view outside.
From here we made our way to the outdoor pool for a quick dip to cool down before dressing and heading to the restaurant for lunch. The Dining Room at Leeu Estate is situated in the building next door to the spa, decorated in a similar comfortably elegant style with large glass doors flooding the inner room with sun light, and a large patio area overlooking their lawns below. We took our seat outside to make the most of the gorgeous weather and ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
The menu has changed since we visited the restaurant but I am confident that you’ll be thrilled with whatever you taste. To start things off we ordered crunchy daikon rice paper rolls with green beans and Asian Sabayon – a type of custard. We also had their Sesame Tuna Ceviche with blood orange, mango and ginger, and their Madras-Cured Salmon with a cucumber and celery salad, and Wasabi peas. All our starters were spot-on and ideal for the warm afternoon, showing off delicious bold, fresh flavours that balanced beautifully against each other.
For mains we had perfectly cooked beef with Soba noodles, spring onions and coriander in a delicate broth. My heart, however, was stolen by the Chicken Yakitori, served with a Cape Malay slaw and nut crumbs. The chicken dish was packed with such a wonderful variety of texture and tastes, leaving you with that comforting feeling of lip-smacking satisfaction.
There is no way you can skip on dessert here. While everything we had was delicious, the dessert was pure joy. We ordered their Slow-Roasted Apple Terrine served with puff pastry and a salted caramel and apple sauce. From the moment the silky caramel is drizzled over the smooth ice cream, you know you’re in for something special. It was a medley of salty, sweet, tart and savoury notes that blended together in beautiful harmony. We also tried the Pear and Sour Cream Sponge served with hazelnut ice cream and a Frangelico sauce. I loved the combination of sweet pear, smoky nuts, silky chocolate and smooth ice cream all standing out at the first taste and then melting together in your mouth.
After lunch there was not much for it but to occupy the comfiest lounger by the poolside, only getting up to dip into the clear blue water. Our only wish that afternoon was that we had brought another bottle of wine down with us. Other than that we were as close to heaven as we could get.
If you really want to spoil yourself I highly recommend you take a day at the Leeu Estate Spa. They have thought of every detail to make your experience as comfortable and luxurious as possible, creating a tranquil haven where you can escape your everyday worries. As you might expect the treatments are on the pricier side, but definitely worth a splurge for a special treat. You also have access to all their facilities for the day which adds to the experience. Hint hint, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.