La Residence

Franschhoek, Cape Winelands & West Coast, South Africa Book from R11,000

Ritz, glitz and an extraordinary collection of top South African art at Franschhoek's most flamboyant boutique hotel
Hidden amidst vineyards and fruit orchards in the foothills of the Franschhoek mountains, the setting of La Résidence is dreamily Cape-bucolic. But beyond its angular sienna-coloured facade, you enter a very different world. Take a dash of Versailles and a hint of Rajasthani palace, add chandeliers, sculptures, modern art and a twist of Moroccan riad, and you begin to get the highly spiced flavour of Franchhoek's most opulent hideaway.

The hotel was the brainchild of Liz and Phil Biden. Having set a stamp on 3 of the country's top hotels, their brief at La Résidence was to craft an art hotel that would be spoiling in every sense. They created 11 huge, spellbindingly snazzy rooms flanking an infinity pool, 5 sumptuous Vineyard Suites, scented gardens and airy reception rooms where lofty ceilings, marbled floors, Persian rugs and gilded furnishings impart a mood that is preened, palatial and pampering. We loved the place's theatricality, its decorative pizzazz and the eclecticism of its amazing collection of original art: if you've got something to celebrate in style then look no further.

Highs

  • There are few places in South Africa which can match the beauty of the Franschhoek Valley, and the views here are wonderful
  • The hotel's rooms and suites are as festively sumptuous as any we've come across
  • Franschhoek has 3 of the country's top 10 restaurants, and the food created in-house at La Résidence is also heavenly
  • Expect perfect pampering at every turn and easy good manners from La Résidence's fabulous staff
  • You're at the heart of one of the world's best wine-growing areas

Lows

  • A stay at La Résidence means waving goodbye to a big wad of moolah, though it's unlikely you'll regret the splurge
  • There were times when the piped muzak - mostly in the soft chill vein - detracted from the peacefulness of the setting
  • Some might find the poolside palms and Palladian interiors a tad out of place amid vineyards and Cape Dutch homesteads
  • The guests rooms are only available to children over 12, but the Vineyard Suites are suitable for all ages

Best time to go

Franschhoek has the power to seduce at any time of the year and even if the weather were cold or wet, you could have huge fun visiting its world class vineyards. In late July and August the fynbos is at its glorious best, whilst to see the vines changing colour in the South African autumn (that equates to springtime in Europe) is a never-to-be-forgotten spectacle. Remember that the town is very much on the South African circuit: if you come at any time between October and the end of March expect to see a fair number of Europeans and Americans.

Our top tips

Don't forget to pack some snazzy evening wear: you'll feel like dressing up for supper.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
Room:

Rooms

The 11 twin-aspect guest rooms are just as showy, eclectic and colourful as the rest of the hotel. All have kingsize beds, hand-painted wardrobes, Indian chandeliers, Persian rugs, original works by some of South Africa’s best-known artists, and Chinese lamps atop floors of buff-coloured Travertine marble. High French windows, flanked by organza drapes, can be thrown open to your private terrace with exquisite views over the courtyard, the pool, and the orchards of the surrounding 30-hectare estate; the pricier Superior Rooms have slightly more space and uninterrupted views.

Expect a full quotient of bedroom hardware: a kettle with fine teas and coffee, dimmer switches to luvvy up your lighting, a huge plasma TV and DVD player, a safe, and a minibar packed with special treats like French champagne, chocolates, jelly beans and rosemary and rock salt crisps. On arrival a bottle of bubbly (your i-escape gift) will be waiting in your room, along with fresh fruit from the farm; after dinner you'll find your linen sheets turned back and a bottle of chilled Franschhoek water on your bedside table.

Bathrooms have just as much razzmatazz: ours was the size of a Parisian studio. You might feel torn between soaking in your freestanding tub or lounging on your ottoman whilst leafing through one of the beautiful books dotted around the room. There’s also a walk-in shower, twin sinks set in a marble-topped cabinet, piles of snowy white towels, a basket of flannels, silk bathrobes, and a whole stack of Molton Brown bath products, along with baths salts and oils from Charlotte Rhys.

Since our last visit 5 Vineyard Suites (sleeping 2-6) have also been added. These are equally opulent, but unlike rooms in the main house, they welcome younger children. The Terrace Room and its 2 pools are designed for the communal use of villa guests, providing a sociable place for sundowners, family dinners and daytime activities.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Freestanding bathtub
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Rain shower
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

The hotel's 7m-high sitting-dining room looks really fab at night when the Indian chandeliers throw light dancing across the marbled floors and candles are lit at tables out on the mountain-facing colonnaded terrace. It's romantic, seductive and very narcotic.

Given the lavish surroundings, you'll want to dress for dinner. On offer is a 4-course set menu with a choice of mains and desserts. Our meal began with a really tasty prawn and papaya salad, although the carrot and cumin soup was short on flavour. Our choice of main was between fillet of beef with butternut purée and green beans served with a rosemary sauce, or Cape salmon with garlic and thyme potato wedges and fresh asparagus accompanied by a red pepper sauce. Both were scrummy, as was a dessert of poached plums (from La Résidence's orchards) and ice cream.

Being surrounded by vineyards and close to Franschhoek, there's a tantalising wine menu showcasing the region's best known wineries. But seeing that the price of dinner includes 2 glasses of excellent wine selected by La Résidence's sommelier, you may not feel the need to dip into it.

None of the rooms or villas are self-catering, but if you feel loath to leave your room ask to have dinner (or breakfast) served on your private terrace. Villa guests with children under 12 dine in the Terrace Room - a slightly smaller but no less opulent space away from the main house.

The mood at breakfast is relaxed: a buffet is laid up on crisply starched linen whilst your tea and coffee order is taken at your table. Expect several types of cereal, yoghurts, dried fruits, nuts and berries, 4 or 5 (carton) fruit juices, fresh breads and pastries as well as plenty of savoury things: cheeses, cold meats, smoked salmon, olives and pickled gherkins. And you can also choose any variant on the cooked breakfast theme.

After such a big feast it should be of little concern that lunch is generally not on offer, though picnic hampers can be made up; it would be great to visit a few vineyards then find a leafy spot for a lazy alfresco lunch overlooking the vines, the valley and one of Africa's prettiest towns.

If you prefer to head out for supper you're spoiled for choice. Our personal favourites are Le Quartier Françáis and Reubens, which have long since won their laurels; but Haute Cabrière, Grande Provence and Bouillabaisse also tick all the 'top nosh' boxes. For more casual bistro-style dining check out La Brasserie and Bread and Wine, or head for La Petite Ferme if African-Asian fusion appeals.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating: Terrace Room
Activity: Terrace Room

Activities

  • Laze by the Indian rill pool to the sound of tinkling water dropping over its rim edge: it will be hard to drag yourself away from the heavenly view
  • Taste South Africa's finest wines. You're a hop away from dozens of top wineries and Stellenbosch is right on your doorstep
  • Hire a bike (there's a shop in the village) and head for the hills: the cycling round Franschhoek can be as strenuous as you choose to make it
  • Hike straight out from La Résidence, or drive to the Paarl Rock Nature Reserve for even better hiking and birdwatching
  • Listen to your inner chocaholic and visit Huguenot Chocolate Factory
  • Fly-fishing and horse riding lessons are also available
  • Head into Cape Town for the day: from La Résidence to the Waterfront takes little more than an hour
  • Go for a bumble in Franschhoek's main street to shop for presents and a picnic
  • Shoot a round of golf at the Pearl Valley, Boschenmeer or Stellenbosch courses
  • See the Franschhoek Valley from the air with a thrilling paragliding flight or a hot-air balloon trip

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wine tasting

Kids

No children under the age of 10 are accepted in the guest rooms, unless they are part of a group taking over the whole of the main house. The 5 Vineyard Suites welcome children of all ages; all except #3 have at least 1 twin bedroom and can accommodate 4-6 people.

Babysitting:

Available on request for whole house rental and Vineyard Suite guests

Kid Friendly: Vineyard Suite 5

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