It was a perfect day when we left the city and headed for the gardens of Babylonstoren, an idyllic breakaway spot tucked away in the Cape winelands. I had been looking forward to the getaway for weeks, with work and the general bustle of the city starting to chip away at me. The air was crisp and clear, the fields lush and heavy from recent rains, and the Stellenbosch mountain ranges waited like wise blue giants to greet us.
Babylonstoren has become famous for their gardens, which were inspired by the Company Gardens in Cape Town, originally created to provide fresh food for passing ships. Spread over three hectares, the gardens are filled with edible plants, fruit trees and vegetables, all grown as biologically as possible. The public are welcome to meander along the pathways and enjoy the natural surrounds, stroll up the koppie, or enjoy the various offerings at the farm.
The farm hotel consists of Cape Dutch style farm buildings, with thick whitewashed walls and thatched roofs, spacious rooms and a farm-style kitchen to cook your fresh pickings, and a comfortable living area complete with a fireplace and air-conditioning.
We stayed in a cottage called the Fowl House, which we later learned is not normally open to the public but they made an exception- we felt very flattered. The cottages very much reflect the feeling of casual, modern simplicity that you find in the other buildings at Babylonstoren – capturing country-chic in the best way.
What really set their hotel apart, though, is the careful attention to all the little details. Upon arrival we were greeted with a bottle of Neil Joubert Chrstine-Marié 2013 Méthode Cap Classique, pre-chilled in an ice bucket. On the dining room table was a box filled with fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden, and a wide selection of teas and Nespresso coffee waited to be enjoyed out of delicate china-patterned cups, accompanied by delicious biscotti (which lasted about five seconds from the moment I walked in).
The houses have also been designed for ultimate comfort. Underfloor heating has been installed in the bedroom and bathroom to fight off the winter chills, and the bedding on the massive king size is high quality and soft. It was very tempting to swop our coats and boots for slippers and robes and lounge the day away, sipping the bottle of Babylonstoren Babel Red that waited for us.
The feeling only increased when we were introduced to our massive bathroom, complete with an almost intimidating shower that could shoot water from all sides, a large tub lined with soft towels and L’Occitane en Provence products, and a vanity station that was perfectly dainty.
The weather was, however, too perfect to stay indoors so we passed the gumboots and umbrellas standing ready by the door and headed outside to explore. We made use of the bicycles on offer to hotel guests and set out to the vineyards, following the dirt track up the koppie from where we could enjoy the sunset, the Babylonstoren werf lying quiet against the burnt-orange sky.
There are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained at Babylonstoren. I highly recommend booking yourself in for a treatment at the spa, even if you can only do a manicure or facial. The facilities are beautiful, particularly the indoor and outdoor pools.
We were treated to their signature Hammam Soap Treatment for Two, which is performed inside their Turkish Bath chamber (hammam), a steam room where you can experience the calming water and massage ritual. I will write a full review on that separately, but it was an incredible experience and one that you won’t easily find at other facilities.
If spa treatments aren’t you’re cup of tea, you can browse through the farm shop for fresh bread, cheese, cured meats or preserves, attend a bread making course, go on a garden tour or learn to grow mushrooms. Or you can simply enjoy the scenery, chase a few chickens, laugh at the turkeys and say hi to the donkeys – they’ve just welcomed a new born, Trompie.
The restaurants are, of course, one of the main attractions. The Greenhouse at the edge of the garden is a beautiful spot to enjoy a fresh and healthy lunch, either inside the 26m long steel and glass structure surrounded by hanging and potted plants, or under the oak trees outside. Hotel guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast here and it is definitely worth it, with a buffet of fresh fruits, nuts, home-made muesli, and yogurt, cured meats, olives and breads, or the option to order a hot breakfast from the kitchen.
Babel is a more serious affair and you need to book well in advance. We joined them for the dinner service but it was clear that the restaurant really flexes it’s muscles during lunch. Whether serving lunch or dinner, however, they’re not about fiddly food. Their dishes reflect the best of the season and what they can find in their gardens to pair with carefully sourced meat.
If we didn’t have reality to return to, we could easily have spent a few days at their establishment. Luckily, since they are less than an hour away from Cape Town, we can and definitely will visit again.
In my opinion a night at the Babylonstoren Hotel is an ideal way to treat yourself and it is worth splurging. They are also running a couple of winter specials during the winter season, so make the most of it.
For more info, head over to their website.