It takes about an hour through beautiful wine country and a mountain pass to go from the car rental office at the Cape Town International Airport to the parking lot of Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa.
The drive passes quickly and from the moment I pulled into the lot, there was someone to give a helping hand— whether pointing out a parking spot, carrying a bag, or pouring a welcome drink.
The hotel is tucked just around the corner from the Town of Franschhoek, making it a quiet little paradise surrounded by vineyards and mountain views. The community was formed as the mountain slopes were settled by French Huguenots roughly 300 years ago. That French culture remains evident in the wine and food throughout the region.
It’s difficult to go more than a couple of kilometers without finding an award-winning vineyard or restaurant. The travel desk at Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa gave great advice on places for wine tasting and the best place to watch the sunset. Had the fog lifted, we would have seen a beautiful sunset, I’m sure.
There are so many things to love about the region.
For some people, the best part would be the flowers, and the Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Even in wintertime, there were perfectly groomed hedges along brick pathways and wild purple blooms at lookout points.
For others, it would be about the mountains, which due to the cloudy, chilly winter weather, loomed like shadows in the mist.
Initially, I thought my favorite part was going to be the room. It wasn’t so much the view of the mountains peeking through the clouds that had me, but the perfectly heated floors. On a chilly evening, there is nothing more luxurious than kicking off your shoes and having your feet stay warm.
However, the best part of my stay at the Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa was the food. Dish, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, has an incredible executive chef in Scott Shepherd and a menu to match the season. Being there in winter meant comfort food—but with a twist. The restaurant itself is understated, a large grey room room with a piano in the middle and a chandelier. It has an extensive local wine list and staff to provide advice, but the highlight, of course, is the food.
We started our meal with a cheese and pepper pinwheel bun, Then, our server, Scott, took us through an excellent meal. The highlight was the confit pork cheek: delicious, melt-in-your-mouth meat served with carbonara. It wasn’t just any old carbonara, though: in place of traditional pasta were noodles made of parsnips. This made what could have been a far-too-rich dish perfect.
The coolest part was the science experiment palate cleanser—usually sorbet, this dish was far more creative and unique. It involves apple juice that has been frozen and, through kitchen magic involving sodium alginate and calcium chloride, is served thawed in a self-contained pocket. It arrives looking like an egg yolk.
There were many other excellent dishes including pink gnocchi infused with beetroot, meats from the Karoo region of South Africa (in this case was a beef short rib and perfectly roasted lamb), and a guinea fowl parfait cigar.
It was the perfect meal to then curl up with a good book and appreciate the space.
I was an invited guest of the Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa; however, the hotel did not see the final piece and opinions here are my own.