After the hospitality industry firestorm of 2020 and 2021, one of the joys of the past year has been watching the emergence of so many green shoots: those properties that weathered the flames and used it as a chance for renewal; to push out of the charred landscape brighter than before.
Take the Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa, for instance. Situated in the Helderberg winelands, a corner of the Western Cape heavily reliant on international tourists, it might have been easy to just limp forward into a cautious recovery. But no.
In 2022, the hotel invested in a major refurbishment, overhauling both the guest rooms and public spaces to thoroughly modernise the property. And the new five-star rating shows the depth of the upgrades.
In the main lobby there’s a welcome touch of modernity, neatly coupled with the heritage of the original manor house. The farmstead dates back to the 1700s, and that marriage of history and contemporary touches merges neatly across the estate.
First impressions last, and entry into the manor house now brings both high sash windows married with bold colours and forest accents that match the stately oak trees outdoors. It’s all the work of Clinton Savage Interiors & Architecture, which was tasked with re-energising the property.
“Clinton has a deft touch,” says Debbie-Lee Cockrell, general manager of Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa. “He knows how to play with both the old and the new, the classic and the unconventional. The overall effect is at once immersive, luxurious and joyful.”
That’s certainly the case in the 56 revamped rooms and suites.
Though it’s a mid-size hotel, the scattered layout across a handful of wings means the space never feels crowded. And while the varied room categories all offer thoroughly contemporary comforts, there’s a subtle nod to the history of the estate, from the thatched roofs to the Georgian architecture. Art fills the walls, much of it chosen by the owner, with many works by local artist Kyle Rinquest. Whichever suite you pick, you can be assured of a good night’s sleep, with king-size beds swathed in 600-thread-count Sanders-Kauffmann bedding.
“From our eclectic collection of artworks to our textured finishes, beautiful furnishings and even our specially-created TheraVine room enhancers, every last detail has been designed with the guest experience in mind,” says Cockrell. “We love to surprise and delight with a few unexpected touches.”
Stepping out, many guests stay for the Gary Player-designed golf course set just across the road, and hotel guests enjoy preferential rates for this acclaimed 18-hole track. Not a golfer? Step into the on-site Lurra Spa, offering four treatment rooms, an indoor relaxation area with a heated pool and an outdoor pool and patio. An upgrade of the spa is also planned for 2023.
If you prefer to be outdoors, the glorious gardens of Vergelegen are just a few minutes away, while the dirt tracks of the Helderberg Nature Reserve are a paradise for mountain bikers and sturdy-legged trail runners. Wine? You’re spoilt for choice, but don’t miss the Italian expressions of the Cape at both Morgenster and Idiom.
And it pays to work up an appetite. There’s a trio of dining venues at the hotel, including Stefan’s, where chef Stefan Bekker plates up a seven- or 10-course tasting menu in a more traditional space. The same menu is shared between the Oak Terrace, a venue nothing short of idyllic on a still winelands evening, and the Magnolia Social Dining Lounge, a laid-back poolside space suited for daytime dining.
It’s a casual space, with many diners evidently stepping straight off the golf course, and a wide-ranging menu that has plenty to pique your interest. Amid the crowd-pleasing grills, burgers and pasta, look for the small-plate menu — divided into Land, Ocean and Earth — where there’s plenty of creativity on show.
Crispy fried squid comes with fragrant mango atchar and lemon oil. The tempura hake slider gets an Asian slant, served on a steamed bun, and topped with kewpie mayo. Alongside the crispy pork belly, the shiitake bitterballen are perhaps the standout, while the impressive wine list offers a ramble through the Cape winelands. It’s a classic country hotel neatly rebooted in contemporary fashion, and a fine option for a weekend escape to the Cape.