I won’t lie: on many an afternoon walk along the green belt pathways of Constantia I’ve looked jealously through the palisade fencing that separates The Alphen Boutique Hotel & Spa from the gravel pathways straddling the Diep River. Beyond the fence, I spied sparkling pools and sun loungers, while the sound of clinking glasses and laughter wafted across from the terrace. Invariably I’d trudge on, avoiding the dog-walkers and toddlers on bikes. But something had to be done.
Which is how, happily, I found myself on the other side of the fence one late-summer afternoon. This time it was me on the sun lounger, and my glass of something chilled chinking against the ice bucket. All in all a far better situation.
But I certainly wasn’t the first traveller to seek out the hospitality of The Alphen. The stately homestead on the farm — once part of the Groot Constantia estate — was built in 1753, and through the centuries it is said to have hosted everyone from Mark Twain to Cecil John Rhodes. Delve a little deeper and you’ll discover tales of pistol duels in the garden and the Cloete family that have been custodians of the property for more than 150 years.
That indelible history is evident from the moment you step up to the reception desk in the original homestead building, greeted by wide sash windows and burnished wooden floors.
But through the years the property has expanded and modernised, growing into adjacent wings and newly built annexes that offer a range of suites decorated in a more contemporary style. That new look is largely down to a major revamp that took place in 2021, with each of the 18 suites beautifully refreshed in a more understated look and feel of muted tones, fine white linens and luxuriant bathrooms.
“Essentially, we’ve taken the best from before and immersed it in something brand new,” explains Paul Kovensky, MD of the Kove Collection, which operates the hotel. “While the interiors now boast a clean, monochrome style, what hasn’t changed is our signature five-star hospitality.”
While all suites offer similar levels of luxury, the Deluxe Suites are the pick of the crop thanks to the option of a private terrace or direct access into the hotel’s large gardens. And those gardens are a joy, delicately landscaped to blend into the adjoining green belt, with wide lawns for children to burn off energy and lunch tables laid beneath the shade of stately oak trees. Wander further and you’ll find the heated swimming pool, ringed with sun loungers and attentive waiters waving a cocktail menu. And, if you look carefully, you’ll even see jealous walkers on the Constantia green belt. Be sure to wave.
While the pool is reserved largely for in-house guests, the hotel’s three restaurant venues have evidently become a magnet for locals, with free tables in short supply when we arrived for our dinner booking at Blanko.
Blanko is the smartest of the three dining venues on-site, with a menu of upscale, but unfussy, Italian-inspired cuisine. Beyond the generous pasta plates, the kitchen puts its best foot forward in the starter selection, with the likes of tempura zucchini flowers and goat’s cheese, plump arancini, and crisp baby squid. My favourite tables are out on the terrace, while indoors offers a more formal experience with linen napery and walls decked with art.
It’s not the only option though. While Incognito, with its spacious terrace set overlooking the gardens, draws a large crowd for its wine and cocktail menu, the food offering is no slouch, with small plates, sliders and pizza on offer. In the morning, hotel guests enjoy breakfast at La Belle, which has also become a hotspot for locals, walkers and horsey-types in the area. Alongside cakes, croissants and delicate patisserie, the generous breakfasts are just what’s needed to fuel up for a day of winelands exploring.
That could mean sipping your way through the dozen estates on the nearby Constantia wine route, heading to the beaches of False Bay, or exploring the myriad walking trails that fan out from the greenbelts up into the Table Mountain National Park. Whichever you choose, you’ll be glad you’re on the right side of The Alphen’s fence at the end of the day.