Hot Hotels in the Mother City
Three luxury hotels recently opened their doors in Cape Town: two established favourites that have been renovated and a new hotel in the CBD
TEXT Debbie Loots and Kim Maxwell PHOTOGRAPHS Supplied
The REAL|life team went out on a scout to Steenberg Hotel & Spa, Tintswalo Atlantic and Labotessa Hotel.
The exterior of Steenberg Hotel & Spa is decidedly 17th-century Cape Dutch, save for a few colourful Edoardo Villa sculptures dotting the gardens. In contrast, the interior has a glamorous yet understated contemporary feel. This is thanks to Catherine Schulze, the hotelier at Steenberg for the past 12 years who, apart from all her other duties, took on the interior redesign of the hotel and spa, which reopened in September after renovations.
The rooms are thoughtfully composed, from the choice of chandeliers – decorative antique or super-modern – to the hand-picked furniture pieces and fine colour coordination. The bathrooms were also completely redesigned and the patios extended.
One of the major structural changes was converting some of the rooms into two- and three-bedroom family suites, two of which have kitchen facilities.
“There is a huge demand for family travel,” says Catherine, “so we rethought our room configurations and suites, and refined our shared and private spaces to ensure the comfort of families.”
Steenberg Spa also underwent rejuvenation. An exciting addition is an outdoor treatment area in a scented garden under an old oak tree.
The restaurant Catharina’s has not been forgotten. Renamed Tryn, the nickname of the farm’s maverick founder Catharina Ras, it features original art and bold decor. In the kitchen, executive chef Kerry Kilpin still creates magic with combinations of Asian and Middle Eastern flavours and local ingredients like rooibos and spekboom.
Past the 18-hole golf course, a gravel road takes you through the vineyards to the wine cellar and popular Bistro Sixteen82 for a wine tasting and tapas. From the veranda, basking in the last rays of the setting sun, you catch a glimpse of an Edoardo Villa sculpture in the indigenous garden of the Norval Foundation gallery next door – a reminder there’s another treat in store for you. steenbergfarm.com/hotel
BETWEEN THE MOUNTAIN AND THE SEA
It’s known as a little secret, the five-star Tintswalo Atlantic boutique hotel in Hout Bay. The entrance is close to the stone toll booth on Chapman’s Peak Drive, and a steep descent down a narrow road brings you to the front door, which is shaded by an old milkwood tree.
Looking around, it feels as if you have arrived in paradise.
The hotel’s row of modest timber structures seems to have risen from the foot of the mountain, and it’s so close to the Atlantic Ocean that small waves lap at your feet when you step onto the stones edging the sea.
The lounge areas in the main building are warm and welcoming. Separated from the bar area by a glamorous chandelier and stretching to the deck with its spectacular vista across the bay, the lounges feature antiques, plush shades of turquoise and a seashell motif.
It is difficult to imagine that a few months ago this tranquil family-owned lodge was ravaged by a fire; it destroyed the main part of the hotel and severely damaged one of the guest suites. This set the owners off on an extensive renovation and rebuilding exercise. The good news is that the hotel reopened for business recently and has a beautiful new lease of life, in more ways than one.
“We chose to turn tragedy into opportunity, says Tintswalo CEO Lisa Goosen. “The fire gave us the chance to reflect while we rebuilt the hotel, and we decided to fine-tune our product offering.”
Now, the hotel offers resident guests – a maximum of 24 people accommodated in 10 sea-facing suites and a two-bedroom villa – more accessible room rates; and invites non-resident guests to a weekly Tintswalo Atlantic Where Else in the World Wednesday Lunch. It’s advisable to book, as space is limited to this very special seafood lunch with a wine list to match.
Later, as you enjoy sundowners and canapés on the deck, listening to the sound of small waves lapping against the rocks below, that initial feeling of being in paradise is reinforced. tintswalo.com/atlantic
Q&A: Lisa Goosen
CEO Lisa Goosen – who did the interior design together with Gaye Corbett, her mother and Tintswalo’s co-founder – tells us more
IS THE SPECIFIC DECOR A PERSONAL CHOICE?
Definitely! I have always loved organic shapes and natural objects such as shells, wood and pebbles. And then to combine it with a touch of glamour, including luxurious fabrics, crystal chandeliers, mirrors and metals. It’s our signature style.
HOW DOES THE INTERIOR DESIGN FIT WITH YOUR BUSINESS ETHOS?
Specific hand-made objects evoke a sense of home and welcome, and of taking time and care. As a family business, these precious qualities align perfectly with the Tintswalo brand. We’re not a mainstream product, but love curating tailor-made personal experiences.
HERITAGE MEETS LUXURY
For many travellers, the appeal of a coastal destination such as Cape Town goes beyond beaches and sea views. It is about unpacking the cultural charisma of a place to find its rhythm. For that, inner-city hotels offer convenience, good dining options, the freedom to wander, and first-hand glimpses of those going about their daily routines, viewed from a comfortable room. Spectator privileges, if you like.
Labotessa’s six luxury suites and double-volume penthouse overlook Church Square in the historical centre of the city. The building, a narrow pale-blue structure, would not look out of place on an Amsterdam street.
The penthouse – called the Governor’s Suite, in reference to Simon van der Stel, the first governor of the Cape Colony – is a modern 300m2 space with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open-plan kitchen and entertainment area, and a balcony with a plunge pool.
The boutique hotel’s South African-born owners, Jan Fourie and Johan du Plessis, were childhood friends and both worked overseas before this project took off. Du Plessis, whose international hotel career was mostly with the Andaz by Hyatt hotel brand, moved to Cape Town to oversee Labotessa’s design and interiors, and has managed the hotel since it opened in August.
Restoring a building that dates to the 1700s was no easy feat. Labotessa’s heritage status meant endless planning and approvals, and an insistence on using sanctioned engineers and architects. The project took seven years to complete.
Two exterior changes were made: Two floors were added for the penthouse, and two windows on the ground level were converted into doors.
Labotessa is located in a part of the CBD that doesn’t yet have foot traffic at all hours, but there are plans for more lifestyle outlets in the neighbourhood. Fine-dining restaurant FYN and Kleinsky’s Deli are currently neighbours.
Close attention to detail is evident in Labotessa’s spacious suites, right down to the custom shade of blue Du Plessis used on the walls, the rugs on the French oak floors, and contrasting furniture colour accents such as burnt-orange velvet couches.
Three contemporary Cape Town artists – Emma Aspeling, Pierre Fouché and Rina van Zyl – were commissioned to add vibrancy to the interiors. On the ground floor of Labotessa, a new city branch of popular local café Starlings serves breakfast (included in the room rate for hotel guests) and lunch from an organic and ethically inspired menu. labotessa.com