Weekend Escape: Robertson Small Hotel, Breede River Valley
In the heart of the Valley of Wine and Roses lies a fragrant little gem, writes Andrea Nagel
Being at the Robertson Small Hotel, a few hours from Cape Town, means lolling in the lap of luxury with nothing more to attend to than bird watching and G&T drinking. Oh, and of course there's the eating - it's glorious.
Robertson is in the heart of the Breede River's Valley of Wine and Roses and wonderful vineyards like Wolvendrift, Springfield and Graham Beck Wines are close by - but the day was sweltering, the surroundings sublime and somehow a few hours on a pool lounger trumped a tour of the valley, despite the allure of lavender farms and olive groves.
Robertson Small Hotel is the only five-star accommodation in the area. It has frequently made it into the ''finest luxury hotels in South Africa" lists, and was in the 2012 Tatler Travel Guide's 101 Best Hotels in the World.
Last year the hotel underwent a complete revamp under the helm of its owner, Abigail Rands.
Rands loves to work with designers and artists and collaborated with interior designer Sophie Ashby of Studio Ashby of London, and local artisans to give it a fresh, bright new look, complemented by beautiful art works and objects. But none of it intrudes on the serenity of the place, or strikes a pretentious note.
''The hotel is light, fun, colourful and full of humour, with little touches guests can interact with," says Ashby. ''While the level of service, comfort and luxury is very high, I didn't want the surroundings to intimidate or show off - it's a hotel full of art, design, colour and soul."
There are only 10 rooms and each has its own distinct colour scheme and style. Each is eminently comfortable and it is difficult to choose between pool suites - with floor-length shutters that open directly onto the pool - stable suites (including a loft honeymoon suite), and manor house rooms with high, embossed ceilings and large windows onto the veranda. The Victorian Manor House, built in 1909, is now a national monument.
Elements of the new design can be found in every detail of the hotel. Fashion designer and textile artist Alexis Barrell drew inspiration from local flora and fauna to design a range of textile works using hand-block printing, a signature scent was invented by artisanal perfume house House of Gozdawa to bring the smells of the Breede River valley into the rooms and halls, and ceramicist Lisa Firer created the striking folded blue and white fittings in The Small Restaurant.
The restaurant is about the best reason there is to finish your sundowner at the Michael Chandler-designed bar and get ready for dinner. Rose Ashby of Spring Restaurant at Somerset House in London redesigned the menu using seasonal produce sourced in the area, prepared by chef Tiaan van Greunen, an apprentice to Reuben Riffel.
There's a big difference between hotels that are created for commercial enterprise and those that are created as a labour of love, where the owners often stay and have a personal relationship with the staff. Come the end of the weekend, we didn't want to leave - we wanted to move in, perhaps indefinitely, forget work and appointments and commitments. So we booked an extra night and to hell with the consequences.
sub_head_start PLAN YOUR TRIP sub_head_end
The Michael Chandler ceramic tiles feature a special one that says: "This is for you, Dad" - a dedication from Abby Rands to her father Tim.
The Small is an active, curated pop-up exhibition from SMITH Studio in Cape Town. All the art's for sale.
DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT
Having the full-body hot stones massage at the on-site spa.
BEST THING ABOUT IT
The incredible attention to detail.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
Don't leave without The Small Guide - a collection of cards that suggest "Small Experiences" in the area .
HOW TO GET THERE
About two hours from Cape Town along the R62. See therobertsonsmallhotel.com for address, reservations and directions.
• This article was originally published in The Times.