Friday, April 21st, 2017
Drive out of Cape Town and it won’t be long until you find yourself in the picturesque Western Cape winelands. We were in town for a friend’s wedding and opted to stay at the Grande Roche hotel in Paarl. Lesser known perhaps than Stellenbosch and Franschoek, Paarl is spread out along a 13km main street, with the Grande Roche at the Southern end. There are a couple of well rated restaurants nearby, so it’s a great option if you like the flexibility to wander out for dinner and not be reliant on taxis. The hotel itself is an oasis of calm and has everything you might want as well as being well positioned for exploring the region. If like us you are not hiring a car for your visit (all the better for enjoying the local vineyards), we found that the Grande Roche were very helpful in transporting us around, both via their in house driver and a local taxi company.
The rooms in the hotel are distributed between a few buildings that make up the restored Cape Dutch style buildings. We opted for a terrace suite, which consisted of our own sitting area, huge bathroom, bedroom and of course a terrace, perfect for enjoying a glass of the local wine. A complimentary half bottle was provided on our arrival which was very welcome and the perfect accompaniment to the views across the valley. It was so nice to have our own living area. After a fairly hectic few days in Cape Town, the plan for our time in the wine regions was just to relax and make sure that we would be refreshed after our holiday. We were a little surprised that the hotel seemed quite quiet over Easter weekend, on our first night, the bistro restaurant was not open and so not wishing to go for the fine dining option having had a big lunch, we ordered toasties via room service.
The main hotel restaurant is called Bosman’s and is rated very highly in the local area. This is also where the breakfast was served. Each morning we took the opportunity to eat outside to enjoy the views and the sunshine. There was a cold and hot buffet available, as well as a few a la carte options such as Eggs Benedict. I particularly enjoyed having a glass of Méthode Cap Classique (sparkling wine) alongside it.
We ate dinner at Bosman’s on the Sunday evening and went for the chef’s 7 course surprise menu which, as we had found with other restaurants in the region, was fantastic value for the quality and style of food. We got to try some local specialities such as ostrich and springbok loin. The restaurant seemed a bit quiet given it’s reputation, but this could be down to the fact it was Easter weekend. Unsurprisingly , I had a couple of really great wines paired with the dishes and it was clear that the sommelier was very passionate about her job. I was happy to leave her to make the choices.
The Grande Roche has not just one, but two pools, and unlike a few other places we’d been, they were heated, so pleasant to enjoy at any time of year. We’d found the unheated pools at other hotels cold even in the 30 degree heat. There is a gym on site, but if you fancy getting your exercise outside,there are plenty of hiking trails in the area, or the hotel can arrange bike hire. If you prefer to spend your time on holiday being a little less active, then the hotel holds wine tastings, cellar tours and would be able to recommend many vineyards in the area to visit.
After discussing with other guests at the wedding we were attending, it seems that a lot of the accommodation in this area is smaller guest houses, rather than hotels. We prefer all the comforts and conveniences that a hotel provides and so were very pleased with our choice to stay at the Grande Roche for the weekend. Rooms start from around £170 per night which is at the upper end of the range for this region, but reflects the fact that this really is a 5 star experience. A great place to relax and rewind.