Franschhoek, the quaint historical town in the heart of the winelands, has welcomed a new luxury haven. Leeu House opened its doors on 1 December, a five star 12-room boutique hotel that has been designed and decorated with the finest care to give guests a comfortable, luxurious experience. A small group of travel writers, myself included, were invited for a preview and lunch to celebrate the official opening.
Leeu House forms part of the Leeu Collection group, which includes Leeu Estates, the country house retreat and boutique winery, as well as Le Quartier Français, the 21-room hotel in the village. The collection is all about offering guests a unique experience. For this reason they have paid particular attention to the details. The rooms are filled with an impressive art collection featuring some of the country’s most celebrated artists, and outside you can soak up manicured landscaping created by Franchesca Watson, with views of the mountains and vineyards beyond.
The project started as a personal journey for Leeu Estate’s owner Analjit Singh, an international investor of Indian origin. During a trip to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Singh was captivated by the beauty and energy of the Western Cape and soon after his company bought Klein Dassenberg farm in the Franschhoek valley. His original plan was to turn this into a family home but then the dream was born to develop a world class hospitality and winemaking destination.
Interior designer Beverley Boswell walked us through the various rooms, talking with pride about all the decorative details that give the hotel its feeling of pristine elegance. She used mainly natural fabrics and fibres such as cotton, linen, silk, sisal and wool, as well as wood and stone, creating a contemporary take on Franschhoek’s traditional Cape Dutch heritage. Each of the 12 rooms have been individually styled, combining multiple textures and a natural colour palette to create a serene space.
The first thing that struck me was the spacious feeling in all the rooms, even the smaller options. The bathrooms are large and elegantly finished, and every decorative piece in the room contributes to the overall aesthetic – from the bedside lamp to the scatter cushions and artworks on the wall.
They have included all the trimmings, including complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, a Nespresso coffee machine and mini bar, air conditioning, underfloor heating in the bathroom, a high definition flat screen smart television and an electronic safe. Some of the rooms have private balconies, terrace courtyards or private gardens that will add to your comfort. Other luxuries include a 15-metre heated swimming pool and complimentary use of bicycles -a wonderful way to explore the town.
Leeu Estates and Leeu House Executive Chef Oliver Cattermole heads up the kitchen. Cattermole has woked in some of the finest food establishments in the world, including three top London restaurants: Michelin-starred Le Gavroche, celebrated The Ivy Restaurant, and acclaimed chef Jean Christophe Novelli’s restaurant, Novelli in the City, at the London Capital Club.
Their lunch and dinner menus are built around the best local organic and ethically farmed produce. Chef Cattermole’s dishes hero the produce, and while beautifully constructed the food isn’t overly complicated. Upon arrival we were treated to a selection of canapés including barrel-smoked salmon and miso roulade, Billionaire’s shortbread, and really delicious prok rib croquettes with parsley aïoli.
After our tour through the establishment we took our seats on the terrace for lunch. For our starter we were served some of the estate’s asparagus with pancetta and a poached hen’s egg – a classic combo that was beautifully executed.
For mains we had locally-caught fish masala with puy lentils and coconut and carrot elements. This dish received warm praise around the table. The fish was perfectly cooked and I loved the masala flavours with the sweetness from the carrot and fresh, creamy coconut flavours.
The cheese course consisted of roasted grapes and blue cheese gougéres. While the scent of the blue cheese was quite overpowering when it reached me, I really enjoyed the dish. Gougéres are baked savory choux pastry mixed with cheese – a delight when combined with the intense sweetness of the grapes.
And finally we ended it off with some vanilla seed panna cotta with pineapple and lemon verbena, which was exactly the light, refreshing dessert I was looking for.
Since I haven’t stayed at the hotel I can only talk about the aesthetics, but that was definitely impressive. From what I saw, I would definitely be interested in spending a night at Leeu house.
You can also look forward to two new ventures from the Leeu Collection in 2016. Across the road from Leeu House they will be opening Marigold, Franschhoek’s first Indian restaurant, and next door they will launch Tuk Tuk, a craft beer microbrewery in partnership with the Cape Brewing Company (CBC), which will serve microbrews and Mexican food.
The rooms start at R2100. For more info, visit leeucollection.com