It rained all the way to Franschhoek. Indicative of the mood right now. Grey, sullen and deep in thought. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to visit the valley since lockdown levels were relaxed. I seized the opportunity as soon as the invite came my way. Franschhoek has suffered much loss over lockdown, the picturesque wine village known for long flamboyant lunches, and the art heart of the district misses the throngs of tourists. Winter or summer, the valley always has something to offer visitors.
If you speak to the locals, they will tell you it has been particularly difficult without inbound tourists – many livelihoods have been lost. They will also in the very same breath tell you that they are already rebuilding and are more ready than ever to welcome locals, and out-of-towners.
I am always excited to visit Mont Rochelle, the General Manager James Basson makes every visit feel like a home away from home – like you’re Richard Branson. And this right here is why most people walk away from the resort planning to rebook again. Right now, in this dire situation we find ourselves in, it is the warmest hospitality that will survive.
As we enter the gates at Mont Rochelle, the clouds part and sunshine streams through, it must be James again. The views of the towering Franschhoek mountains and breaks of bright blue sky in-between fluffy clouds lifts our moods immediately. It’s a little wet outside, but there is a fire burning inside and next to our table is a window that looks out onto the mesmerising misty mountains. I can’t stop staring, I’ve missed outside.
Adaptability is key and the staff responsibly explain new procedures to us. The menu at the table is cleverly triggered via a QR code so the least amount of contact is adhered to. The menu at the Country Kitchen caters to firm favourites, steak prepared to your perfection, fish, burgers, sharing platters and even a butter chicken for this cold day.
For starters I indulged in the Klein Karoo venison carpaccio (R95), this should be your first and only starter choice. Thin lashings of venison were smothered in a sweet teriyaki dressing, and accompanied by a bite of chilli, ginger and spring onion. I love the surprise flavours of a dish I would normally enjoy at the main restaurant Miko. It was polished off a few quick mouthfuls later.
Other starters include buffalo wings (R90), deep-fried camembert (R95) and fried calamari (R90). My lunch companion couldn’t resist the wings, they were lathered in a sticky, sweet and smokey barbecue sauce, and deeply flavourful.
It was a steak and potatoes kinda day, and it proved to be a good decision. Although I could have easily had the venison carpaccio as a main meal, as well as a dessert. The karan beef steak with french fries (R160), served with a Madagascan green peppercorn sauce cancelled out my craving for a medium-done, brilliantly prepared, piece of meat.
Dessert was not the venison carpaccio, but the gluten-free chocolate brownie with ice cream (R65) was fierce competition. How Chef manages to make something this incredible gluten-free is beyond me, don’t question greatness, just go with it.
Indulge in the estate wines while you savour the meals, I needed to take a few moments to walk outside and breathe in the view. The air always smells a little sweeter in Franschhoek, it could also be that Mont Rochelle is my happy place. I only have fond memories of leisurely dinners, intriguing company and waking up in the hotel with the most magnificent mountains towering before me on a crisp Franschhoek morning.
It’s the space you don’t ever forget in a hurry. If you haven’t visited, go out of your way to do so just so that you get a chance to experience those moments of mountain bliss.
The hotel is now officially open after months of lockdown, and guests can indulge in a special reopening rate.
For further information or bookings, please call +27 (0) 21 876 2770 or email [email protected]
Pictures: Nidha Narrandes