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V I N E YA R D H O T E L & S PA

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Charmer A CAPE TOWN

In parkland minutes from the waterfront and city centre, is a Cape Town idyll. This is the Vineyard Hotel & Spa, for more than a century a place of tranquillity and fine hospitality. General manager Roy Davies talks to Colin Chinery about its allure

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Vineyard Hotel & Spa FEATURE

Along its banks in six acres of parkland, is one of Cape Town’s best and most open secrets; the award-winning and deluxe 207 bedroomed Vineyard Hotel and Spa Conference Centre. “The Vineyard is the oldest lady in hospitality in Cape Town,” says General Manager Roy Davies. “It’s been looking after guests for 116 years. You are in suburbia but seem far removed from it.”

Convenience and tranquillity

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electable is a rare accolade and one from which the leafy southern Cape Town suburb of Newlands has no cause to shy. This is a lush encounter. Table Mountain rises at its feet, Newlands cricket ground Test venue and home of Western Province - is one of the most picturesque in the world, and the Liesbeek River passes through on its journey from the mountain gorges above Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens before emptying into Table Bay.

Near and far. The Vineyard Hotel & Spa is within easy walking distance of the fashionable Cavendish Shopping Centre and ten minutes from the City Centre and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. And yet as Davies points out, “We don’t sit in the hubbub of activity which is Cape Town city bowl and the Waterfront area. We are in what is almost parkland, most of it indigenous and in front of us a view of the spine of Table Mountain.” Originally built by the eminent diarist Lady Ann Barnard in 1799, the Vineyard Hotel & Spa remains a traditional and elegant retreat, celebrated among Capetonians for its peaceful setting and the excellence of its cuisine and fine wines. Enchantment for tourists too. Forty five per cent of the guests are from overseas – the majority from England – one writing recently; “Great hotel, great service, great food, great staff; would love to go back.” The hotel takes every advantage of its striking location, and the sunny lounge and terrace areas overlook gardens with magnificent views of Table Mountain. Little wonder that is one of the finest venues in Cape Town for conferences, wonderful for weddings or special occasions Inside, the house is filled with works by leading South African artists and with rooms ranging from single to family suites, both mountain and courtyard facing.

Fine cuisine and wines The Vineyard Hotel & Spa has two outstanding restaurants, ‘The Square’, a great favourite for www.southafricamag.com

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Vineyard Hotel & Spa FEATURE

breakfast - “ probably the best breakfast you are going to find in Cape Town” - lunch and dinner, as well as a popular sushi bar, and Myoga Restaurant run by local celebrity chef Mike Bassett. Here is fine cooking with an Asian influence. The restaurant, which showcases a contemporary global fusion cuisine, opened its doors in 2007 and was rapidly voted into the Top 100 New Restaurants in the World – one of only two in South Africa - by Condé Nast Traveller. “Mike Bassett’s global brand of cooking continues to wow” enthused the judges. The hotel offers its guests two swimming pools - one outdoor and surrounded by loungers - and one heated indoor pool. The addition of a Health & Fitness Centre and an international Angsana Spa operated by the Banyan Tree Group contributes to its position as ‘The perfect Setting’. “The big thing about the Vineyard is when you arrive at the hotel you see a restored old house, and you will form the impression that it is small,” says Roy Davies. “But it’s one of those places that peel back in layers as you move though it and it’s a continual surprise.

A place of atmosphere “So you walk from the lobby into a space that is renovated or new, and then into the garden. It’s an exceptionally relaxed atmosphere. For some, the Vineyard is their local and they want us to remain their secret hideaway. It’s not one of those properties that has been advertised over the years and made a big thing of. It has quietly got on and done what it does very well.” The Vineyard has been host to five World Cup squads, but Davies knows the form book. “The people who come here are not ostentatious or glitzy, but they may be well travelled.” The original house was built in a vineyard of 20,000 vines, but overtime these dwindled and 150 years ago had disappeared. But in 2008 a hundred vines were planted and these will start bearing fruit for wine making in two years. 4

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“We have generated a partnership with five family-owned vineyards, four in Stellenbosch and another in Constantia - one of the families has been making wine since the mid 1600s, another since 1752.” (At the Vineyard you cannot take leave of history. It was along the banks of this river in 1657 that the first ‘free burghers’ of the Dutch East India Company were granted land to farm shortly after the first Dutch settlers arrived in the Cape) It is an association developed at the hotel at wine-paired dinners where guests hear about the farms and the relationships. “We remind them that this is the history of the hotel, and slowly but surely from a hospitality point of view we are building up the base of a wine reference.”

An exceptional staff The warmth and attentiveness of the 340 staff - some have been here for nearly 30 years – is an almost routine point of comment among guests. “Because this is a family-owned business the family has looked after the staff over the years and the staff takes that hospitality on to the guests, many of whom come back to the Vineyard year upon year,” says Roy Davies. “Many a hotel is able to do smart, slick appearances, but our staff have a lot of heart and a lot of caring - which is not something you find in hospitality, in many cases because a lot of services are outsourced. “This is a family owned and operated business and the values of family extend to our welcome and through everything we do.” In the spirit of its location, the Vineyard Hotel & Spa is committed to ‘living green’, with sustainable development principles incorporated throughout the hotel. “We have a fairly strong Green culture in the hotel and this began well before it became the vogue. We spend on technology way up front to reduce our carbon footprint.”


Hide-away and gateway If the Vineyard is something of a hide-away to the initiated, it is also a gateway to Cape Town and its magnificent coastline and hinterland.” “There are so many activity opportunities in the Cape Town areas,” says Davies. “You can play golf every day for two weeks and not have played on the same course. You can go to the vineyards , go up Table Mountain, the botanical gardens are minutes away from us, you can go whale watching. So much activity. And then you can drive from here up to the Garden Route, Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay; it’s a very beautiful part of the world.” In the beauty and tranquillity of the Vineyard Hotel, fear of crime seems incongruous, but as Roy Davies says, it remains a big issue. If I was living in the UK and read the tabloids and watched Sky, I would be influenced into thinking that if I went to South Africa I would have to be very careful because XYZ can happen to you. “But when people arrive here they have commented that there are places in London where they wouldn’t go at night. All you have

to do is be reasonable, know where you go, ask about places where perhaps they shouldn’t go. “There have been 24 hour World Cup courts set up to handle criminal activity so that the courts could process people while they were here. And do you know, the bulk of the crime addressed in these courts has been perpetrated by foreigners.”

World opened to the real South Africa Davies believes the World Cup experience has opened the eyes of the world as to what South Africa can provide. “Recent exit polls of people returning to Europe are showing that many would be happy to return to South Africa. The media had given a distorted view about what South Africa was about, it was not what they expected and they were very pleasantly surprised.” After the strengthening of the Rand ahead of the World Cup, he foresees a softening, “which will make it slightly cheaper for people to come to South Africa and make our prices even more attractive.” For the visitor to the Vineyard Hotel & Spa, the prospect is the more alluring. END www.southafricamag.com

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VINEYARD HOTEL FEATURE