It’s been nearly 15 years since Delaire Graff opened its doors atop Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch. Fifteen years in which this elegant estate, owned by international diamantaire Laurence Graff, has set the bar for understated opulence in the Cape winelands.
In more than a decade and across multiple visits, I’ve never seen a leaf out of place in the art-filled gardens or a napkin not laid just so on the terrace tables of the restaurant. But perhaps I was mesmerised by those Instagrammable views across to the Simonsberg.
And while you’ll be lucky to bag a table at this time of year, Delaire Graff is showing it is not a destination to rest on its laurels with the recent unveiling of the new lodges at the estate’s boutique hotel.
“Lodges” may seem an odd word for a hotel, but it’s perhaps the right one. “Room” certainly wouldn’t cut it and even “Suites” would undersell the indulgent amounts of personal space, private art and discreet design-forward luxury on offer here. So Lodges it is, and after an extensive refurbishment by the original design team — UK-based David Collins Studio — the bar has been raised even further when it comes to quiet, considered luxury amid the vineyards.
“Delaire Graff Estate is my happy place,” enthuses Simon Rawlings, chief creative officer at David Collins Studio. “This makes every project at the estate very personal and special to me. Our collaboration with Laurence Graff is long-standing and successful ... I think Delaire Graff Estate instantly makes guests fall in love with it, embrace its warmth, enjoy its personality and leave with wonderful memories.”
That sense of elemental luxury has long been woven into the Delaire Graff ethos, and the latest reimagining has refined that further.
At the heart of each lodge is Graff’s extensive collection of African art. In the redesign, it feels as if the art came first, and the rest evolved around the pieces that hang from the walls to frame the vineyard views. If anything’s going to compete with your gaze it’s the vistas beyond the doors, reflected in the rich tones and organic textures that mirror the landscape beyond. Look closer and you’ll discover a deft inclusion of local artisans and artists, from hand-woven textiles to chiselled woods, stone and copper.
Those local touches combine effortlessly with splashes of international elegance. There are white plaster chandeliers by French craftsman Alexandre Logé, as well as pieces from B&B Italia and Maxalto Collection. Take off your shoes and steal a moment to sink your toes into the hand-knotted wool and silk rugs by London’s Sinclair Till.
Along with new wet bars, the expansive bathrooms have all been fully refurbished, now clad in polished Marron Imperial and Crema Marfil marble. Outside, heated plunge pools offer an outdoor escape with yet more wineland views.
But it’s not only in the lodges that Delaire has been reimagined. New guest spaces have been included at the main building, including a private wine-tasting lounge exclusively for lodge guests. A new Indochine Lounge has been created for lodge guests to relax and mingle, perhaps over a glass of estate wine or a light meal. The design-led ethos extends to this space, too, with a striking chandelier and complementary table by Cape Town-based ceramic artist Chuma Maweni.
Unsurprisingly, the lodges are priced at a premium, but a new dining destination offers the chance of a taste of the new-look Delaire Graff without staying the night.
Foodies were aghast at the news that the estate’s lauded Indochine restaurant would be closing. But, happily, head chef Virgil Khan stays on as the culinary creator behind Delaire Graff’s new Japanese restaurant HŌSEKI.
Here expect contemporary Japanese cuisine — think Cape Wagyu, softshell crab and black cod — in a space filled with Asian elegance. The iconic art installation, Swallows in Flight, by André Stead and Lionel Smit, remains the showstopper, but you’ll also find custom weaving by artisans in Eswatini and a space bathed in indigo, copper and bespoke textiles.
It’s a gorgeous new look for a much-loved space, alongside an impressive reimagining of one of the Cape’s most lauded luxury destinations.