Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Steenberg Hotel

South Africa

The oldest farm on the Cape overlooks its own vineyards and golf course

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Steenberg Hotel
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Steenberg Hotel

Location

Constantia Valley, Cape Town, Muizenberg Mountains

Travel Information

35 minute drive from Cape Town International Airport

Top Tips

Take in the natural beauty of the Constantia Valley on one of the Steenberg's own hiking trails

5-Star X-Factors

Highly commended 18-hole golf course on-site

Steenberg - an Estate of Serenity

If you are not aware of the unique beauty of the Constantia Valley, with its picturesque farm dwellings, dramatic mountains, and exotically lush valleys, then you are in for a treat. What's more, to go to Cape Town and to not visit this region would mark a genuine flaw in your travel itinerary. This is a part of the world that I defy anyone who says they would not at least 'dream' of owning a farmstead here. You are also only a short drive from Cape Town and only 20 minutes from the Ocean.

For me, this is what makes this extraordinary city so exhilarating: so many spectacular sights, deluxe dwellings, areas of intense beauty and interest, are all within an easy drive from the centre; from each other; and all near the sea. How good is that? And the Cape blue sky, when cloudless, is priceless.

For many years we have visited Steenberg . It has always been impressive here, always grand in a Cape Colonial nostalgic way, with groomed grounds, sky scraping trees, all back-dropped by the glorious mountains. However, since Graham Beck's Kangra Group bought Steenberg together with its accomplished winery in 2005, it has had a sort of rebirth. It has gone from colonial-comfortable to a 21st century landmark. It is beautiful. It is now a 'must stay' destination.

I went in early December with my sister, Anna, who lives in Cape Town, together with little Bibi, then only 6 months old. We travelled to Steenberg, a whole fifteen minutes from Anna's home. Upon her suggestion we parked up near the grand entrance gates for lunch at the recently completed Bistro Sixteen82. A super-stylish brasserie, decorated in contemporary viticultural Cape style which doubles up as a wine tasting venue. It is such an exciting spot, with water features along the courtyard, manicured lawns, those awesome mountains in the background and a couple of Eduardo Villa sculptures (the Henry Moore of South Africa). It has drama, great service, fabulous wines and the food was exceptional. A large bowl of fresh asparagus risotto, cooked to perfection and salad from the 'chef's garden'. Outstanding value for money

Before lunch we enjoyed a wine tasting of Steenberg's finest under the canopies beside a water feature in the courtyard. The two that stood out for me were the Sixteen Eighty Two Steenberg Methode Cap Classique 2006 (sparkling Pinot Noir and delicious) and the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. These are excellent wines at excellent prices and the sommelier and his team were a real joy. Loved this place.

Driving up to the Grand Dame

Lunch at Bistro Sixteen82 is a great way to kick off your Steenberg adventure and if you do have a little one in tow, they are particularly accommodating here. In fact I would go as far as to say they were some of the most hospitable and gracious staff we met during our little Cape Escape.

Steenberg has a fascinating history. Meaning 'Mountain of Stone', it dates back to 1662, the time of Jan van Riebeeck. Owned by one of the Cape's most controversial settlers, Catharina Ustings Ras, this farm became one of the most sought after estates in Southern Africa. It is easy to see why when you walk around its immaculately restored builds, from the Manor House, to the Barn to other buildings that have since been declared National Monuments. The main gable here is the only surviving example of its type in the Cape Peninsula.

Staying here, you really do feel both privileged and spoilt. A combination of bygone appreciation combined with the pleasure of contemporary luxuries. They seem to have the balance just right here. In fact one of the 'monuments' is more like a museum housing some of Catharina's prized household belongings; ranging from copper kitchen utensils around the original hob, to magnificent Cape Dutch antiques, master paintings and tapestries. The building too has maintained its original features and walking from this environment to the three Heritage suites feels a little like two stays in one. These suites, more akin to small villas, are world class.

Our Suite in the original Manor House

If I didn't have little Bibi on the trip then I would opt for one of the recently refurbished suites with gardens or, budget permitting, one of the supreme Heritage Suites. However, always mindful, they chose for us a suite near to reception as we had a little one. The suite was classically decorated; spacious, with two rooms, a mini bar, patio with mountain- view and a large bathroom: comfortable, classic, refined and elegant. Tea on our little terrace was wonderful: reclining loungers, a vine canopy overhead and a little garden jammed with fine specimens. The gardens here are show-stoppers: agapanthus, hydrangeas in perfect pastel pink and pale blue, massive oak trees, scarlet bougainvillea, palms, weeping silver birch and so it continues. The lawns are tweezer-perfect with South Africa's own Hadidas (brown Ibis) crying out their familiar 'wa wa wa-wa' every so often while tip toeing beneath the shade of the oaks. It is a little oasis... only minutes from a maritime metropolis.

There is also a recently completed, snazzy pool and cocktail bar area; hidden behind the herb gardens and tucked away with exclusive appeal. There is a spa (sadly I didn't have time this stay), a hair salon (excellent blow dry) and the concierge is on call 24/7 in order to meet most requirements. There is also a shuttle to the Waterfront twice a day, great for taking out a catamaran to spot a whale, but otherwise not for me.

Dining at Catharina's

There is an admirable quantity of 'wow' factor to this restaurant. The proportions are grand while the furniture is an arty blend of contemporary African with state of the art cosmopolitan. The restaurant has far reaching views to False Bay while those mountains are always blissfully in sight. It is stylish without compromising on the Cape traditions that underpin this entire estate. Now the kitchen matches the inspiring venue. Feeling a little experimental I chose the Springbok tartare followed by warthog. The springbok was infused with black truffles and was good but the warthog was a taste sensation: pink centred soft fillet medallions on a slither of slow roasted underbelly, grilled prawns, exotic mushrooms, with a red wine reduction. Anna always chooses the right wines though here it would be hard to go wrong.

Walking back to our suite, after a meal of note, the moon was particularly bright behind a soft veil of cloud. It seemed to shine down quite poignantly upon the stark white of the lone 'slave bell': a reminder of a tumultuous past, now silent but not forgotten.

While we stayed here, because it is so easy, we also visited three nearby wine estates; Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting. They are all staggeringly prepossessing combining the vine with the equine, the mountains with the Cape Dutch, the willow with the lakes, and the mauve jacaranda with the blue sky. The Constantia Valley is as arresting as anywhere you could visit in the Cape, not to say the world, and it is only a short drive from touch down.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer