b2ap3_thumbnail_Leeu-cuisine-Pancetta-Local-Asparagus--Soft-Hens-Egg-1.JPG

b2ap3_thumbnail_Leeu-House.jpg

Last week saw the official opening of the first of several Leeu destinations in Franschhoek. From December 1, pampered guests will check into this charming 12-room boutique hotel on the main street, just a couple of blocks down from the Huguenot memorial.

The former guest house was only built in the 1970’s, but its comparatively modern background is barely visible, as it now presents an air of great serenity, coupled with a luxurious but understated international feel: the décor, based on natural fabrics and fibres, wood, marble and stone, is the proof that Beverley Boswell is an inspired interior designer.

There is a serious swimming pool, an inviting terrace, and bedrooms are partnered by classic bathrooms with room-for-two showers. The service is set to be exemplary – someone who has booked in (to experience the cuisine!) was most impressed to be asked what size bathroom robe he would like…

Neither Leeu Estates’ owner Analjit Singh nor MD Hector de Galard were there, being on route to India, but we enjoyed meeting regional director Luis Pinheiro and GM Matthew Smith. Oliver Cattermole is the estate’s executive chef and made an excellent first impression with his lunch menu for the media. His first course of green asparagus, pancetta and poached egg was well matched to the Mullineux & Leeu Kloof Street chenin blanc, while a delectable fish masala on puy lentils coped effortlessly with an unusual skin contact chenin, “made like a red wine” explained marketing manager Nicola Tipping . A meaty grenache partnered a delicious course of blue cheese mini-gougères with green grapes, and dessert was a culinary triumph. Vanilla panna cotta topped with lemon verbena sorbet was finished with diced fresh pineapple while the five-star Platter Olerasay complemented the finale with fresh and irresistible sweet sipping. Sadly chef Oliver’s considerable talents cannot be enjoyed at present by anyone except hotel residents: we will have to wait for further Leeu enterprises to open in order to do this…

And indeed, this will not be a long wait – in February Tuk Tuk a microbrewery and Mexican restaurant, neighbour to Leeu House, will start operatons, and this will be followed by Marigold, an Indian restaurant and first for the town, just across the main road. Around midwinter the star of the show, Leeu Estates, comprising a 17-room country house retreat  high on the mountainside, formerly Klein Dassenberg farm, opens along with a winery to produce the outstanding Mullineux & Leeu family wines which are already grabbing headlines in the world of wine. Chef Oliver will be creating fine fare in the restaurant, open to visitors. Then there is the much-publicised acquisition of Le Quartier Francais which will continue to operate both hotel and restaurant much as before.

The Lion has made its first mark in this village renowned for hospitality, good food and wine. It’s a very elegant paw-print, and is set to be followed by more in the same vein.