They say it does us the world of good to wallow in luxury occasionally. Certainly I woke fresh and raring to go after a great night’s sleep in my inviting, soothing, bedroom, its stylish pastel décor livened by bedside lights doubling as branches of a ‘tree’, upon which lifelike birds perched, and a china hound-dog that kept watch over me from an adjacent desk.
Experiencing DB&B at Leeu House, BAS Singh’s enchanting boutique hotel in Franschhoek’s main road, ticked all the boxes and then some. Getting there stressed and chilly, first pleasure is finding that staff miraculously keep a couple of parking places outside the front gate empty – seemingly always! My car was whisked away while I greeted both Nelson Mandela on the left lawn and Ghandi on the right before going inside to register.
Spaciousness is usually synonomous with luxury, and certainly my huge bedroom with its sitting area and large bathroom added to the pampered feel as I explored. The cabinet containing crockery, glasses, bar fridge and snacks invited ransacking – for the purposes of reporting, of course! Well, the snacks are mostly frightfully healthy (dried fruit and veggie crisps etc) but I did find a packet of little chocolate –coated biscuit balls to go with my tea. Guests also get a 375ml bottle of both the red and white house wines – BAS white and BAS rooi, both approachable, enjoyable aperitifs.
I fell in love with the hotel dining area – both inside and out – at first sight, with its black and white tiled floor and soaring glass conservatory-feel. The other guests dining there were Americans – one couple from North Carolina and the other family party from further north up the coast. As they communicated and discussed the state of the Western Cape roads (good) and Chapmans Peak drive (stupendous) I dithered between a first course of local smoked salmon with brown bread, capers and lemon crème fraîche or a Waldorf salad. The former won, and I went on to a delectable mushroom risotto seasoned with three-year-aged Parmesan. Other main courses included local fish, chips, peas and tartar sauce, rigatoni topped with Toulouse sausage and tomato ragout or beef and mushroom ragout with roasted carrot mash. As with the savoury courses, there is a choice of four desserts, one being a savoury option of local artisanal cheese and preserves. All in all, delicious cuisine that doesn’t try to be too grand or gourmet, looks good and tastes even better.
This opinion was confirmed next morning when pondering on the two breakfast menus: – One was available from the buffet – from croissants and pastries through berries and fruits to double thick yoghurt and honey-roasted nuts. Healthy items like oat granola bars and caramelised coconut were alongside muesli and tea-dried fruits while carnivores could protein-pack with the local charcuterie selection.
The a la carte choices include duck egg Benedict, folded omelettes with Swiss Gruyere and foraged mushrooms and smoked salmon with truffled scrambled eggs. Traditionalists and Scots can start the day with oats, malted sugar and single malt whisky or an old-fashioned pork sausage sandwich and brown sauce, which, I think, may hark back to the chef’s roots…
The previous evening I had walked next door to to visit Le Quartier Francais’s new renovated bar and lounge, which is now a vibrant, contemporary venue, as up to date as tomorrow’s weather. The walls are lined with a rough weave fabric, the roundback chairs sport blue suede upholstery and the long, long bar is fronted with a row of high stools dressed in blue and white. The lighting is dim, but its easy to enjoy the giant prints on some walls of everyday items like a pair of scissors and a bunch of screws. There’s also a cosy side room with nests of sofas for intimate fireside gatherings. Soft background jazz is teamed with black and white photos of the artistes, whether Jozi-style or New Orleans, I am not sure.
Everywhere at these exceptional venues now owned by Mr BAS Singh, the service is, as expected, swift and efficient. But it is also charming, friendly and concerned, with both the genial GM (who doubles up managing both Leeu House and LQF) and the receptionists and restaurant staff coming across as wanting to do their very best to make you happy. In this, they certainly succeeded.