If it could talk, The Alphen Boutique Hotel could tell you a story or two that could change the way you look at the Constantia wine valley forever. These walls have seen it all, or at least most things, in its nearly 300-year history.
Built in 1753, it played host to the who’s who of colonial history and Western culture, like Lord Charles Somerset, Cecil John Rhodes, Mark Twain and Captain Cook. They must have been mesmerised by the beauty of the valley – a region that has grown in majesty over the centuries.
The main building on the grounds, the manor house, was eventually transformed into a 5-star boutique hotel that is still rooted in its historic past, while embracing a modern, vibrant and diverse existence today. It’s a cosy hideaway in plain sight, no more than a few minutes’ drive from the bustling tourist attractions like Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
The stories that surround The Alphen are so compelling that fact appears so much stranger than fiction. One such story is of two guests who challenged each other to a gun duel over the affections of the then hotel owner’s beautiful daughter. Fortunately, no one was harmed in the process as both missed their targets.
It gets better. One of those duelling guests was James Barry, a brilliant British surgeon who performed the first Caesarian section in South Africa. It was only after death that it was discovered that Barry was in fact a woman, pretending to be a man all her life in order to have a career as a medic. She was named Margaret Ann Bulkley at birth, and lived as a girl in her childhood.
Beyond the stories, the Alphen Hotel is a place to forget the world around you, while you make new memories with the ones closest to you.
Here, unforgettable moments are captured on a stage made up of manicured lawns, ancient trees and birds with a song in their hearts. They will serenade you while you dine at one of three top-class restaurants, which complete the Kove Collection’s offering at The Alphen Hotel, and as usual it comes with a touch of class.
The charm of having three restaurants, with such different menus, in such close proximity has many advantages. A lengthy breakfast and a quick lunch before you languish poolside is best enjoyed at La Belle. The bistro-style food is exactly of the standard you would expect to find in the lush suburbs of Constantia. The menu includes hearty burgers served atop rich brioche buns, fresh mussels smothered in a creamy garlic sauce, or gourmet sandwiches with cream cheese, smoked salmon and avocado on the side. It doesn’t really matter your preference, there is definitely something for everyone, and you will love every bite.
Incognito is the latest addition to the Alphen Hotel. It is a bespoke bar experience with views that overlook the evergreen gardens that are home to squirrels who scurry about gathering food while you leisurely sip on your fine cocktails. It’s the perfect garden escape if you are looking for an unusual setting with glamorous concoctions, trendy bar food and ambient surroundings.
When afternoon drinks tick over to dinner, the solution is a few glorious steps away at suave Blanko. A dutch-style dining area with thought-provoking art pieces and authentic wooden floors take you back in time and make you appreciate the history of the building all the more.
Blanko is a favourite in the area, and understandably so. It is a space to come to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, happy moments, and these days life in general. The chef spares no fresh ingredients when it comes to the preparation of w0rld-class meals. From succulent steaks to deep-friend calamari, light and fluffy pasta to melting linefish, all the dishes are well-presented with flavours in tact and sides that compliment the star ingredient.
When you have consumed too much wine and food, the spacious rooms are the perfect place to seek refuge for the evening. The decor is a mix of classic and modern touches – a king-size bed, coffee machine and smart TV complete the comforts one associates with one of Constantia’s most coveted landmarks.
There are no lords around that we know of but the rooms are fit for royalty. If, like me, you appreciate a well-designed bathroom you will feel right at home here. With its black and white palette, the bathrooms hark back to an age when time seemed to go slower and baths were longer. If only there was nothing else to see, the room would be the ideal nest to stay longer.
But outside the sprawling lawns are a children’s paradise, with plenty of space to stretch the legs, or host a celebration for adults only. Not far away are bike trails, hiking trails and forests for those who want to get further into nature, and touch the real heart of Cape Town.
There is a tranquility about The Alphen that is not easy to replicate. It seems to know, with confidence, that times will come and go, the people will change, but its beauty will remain unchanged and unmatched.
Pictures: Alphen Hotel