It’s been proper winter weather the past few weeks … Icy winds and days of continuous rain had every Capetonian smiling from ear to ear, because this feels like the good old times (before showering had a time limit).
Amidst the gruelling cold, a heartwarming gift arrived: the world famous Babylonstoren farm here in the Cape Winelands sent me a surprise package! From a fragrant candle and a tussie-mussie (a bunch of herbs tied together) to an invitation to come and stay at their award winning hotel.
Situated in the Drakenstein Valley, between Franschhoek and Paarl, this 17th-century farm is a favourite of locals and tourists alike. There is no doubt that the heart of the farm is the acclaimed garden. This intricately planted garden was designed and laid out by French landscape architect Patrice Taravella, and it is meticulously maintained by a team of 20+ full-time gardeners. The result is breathtaking: a picturesque maze of greenery that creates the perfect balance between organic goodness and new age design. Even in winter the garden is an absolute pleasure because there is always something new about to bloom or bear fruit. Lush and alluring, the garden is inspiring and so memorable that a second, third, and fourth visit is guaranteed.
We picked some fruit as we walked through the garden to the hotel. There we were met by a host who showed us our cottage with the utmost care, professionalism and friendliness. The hotel, like the rest of the farm buildings, is based on the simple Cape Dutch style. Yet, they have effortlessly mixed old with new and local with foreign, resulting in attention to detail from the garden to the food and the decor.
Our cottage was spacious, comfortable, authentic and true to the Babylonstoren style. The fireplace was already stacked with wood and there was a big hanging chair in front of it – the perfect spot for staying warm with a glass of red wine. The living room was separated from the kitchen with the bookcase of my dreams. The selection of books, in both Afrikaans and English, adds a homey feel. This detail emphasises a place that wears its heritage proudly, with books referencing nature, history and style (there’s even an Afrikaans Kook En Geniet cookbook).
The eat-in kitchen is in a contemporary glass box with the primary focus the big harvest table in the middle, again mixing old and new styles of decor. A selection of wine and homemade teas are available, and a box of freshly picked fruit adds extra colour the modern kitchen. The bedroom is done in an all-white palette and opens up into the massive bathroom (also done in white). This simple elegance allows the old-worldly charm of the building to shine. But the best of all? We were allowed to take a bath as the farm dam was full!
After settling in and taking lots of photos, we headed to the tasting room for some wine and snacks. The glass-walled tasting room serves Babylonestoren’s delicious wines paired with uninterrupted mountain views. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the selection of platters are mouthwatering and the atmosphere relaxed … Making for an overall pleasant experience.
For dinner, we went to their award-winning Babel restaurant, located in the cleverly converted old cattle shed. There’s even an oversized image of a bull looming large on the white-tiled wall. The dinner menu is short and changes often, but the continued theme is one of creativity and freshness, with all the produce picked from their garden. The focus is on seasonality, flavour and colour (for example, the salads were categorised as yellow, green or red). The food was delicious! I am still dreaming about my fillet served with roasted onion and red wine splash, crisp black olives and fresh wild olive berries … It was exquisite! The service was impeccable, with the hostess greeting each table’s guests by name and making sure everyone is happy.
The following morning we returned to Babel for breakfast (included in one’s stay). The table was packed with all things fresh: fruit, juices, cheeses, bread, even a honeycomb dripping with liquid gold. There’s also a warm breakfast prepared by the chef that exceed our highest expectations. I had the “chef’s breakfast”, this changes every day, which was an omelet with fresh spinach and blue cheese – wonderful!
After breakfast, we used the available bicycles to explore more of the farm. You can also explore the farm with a guided tour by one of the gardeners (this is available to all visitors, not just hotel guests). They also have canoes on the dam, but we were not brave enough to tackle that in the cold weather. We also stopped by the farm shop to buy some cheese, wine and one or two cute things for the kitchen.
A one night stay at this incredible farm was not enough … We cannot wait to go back! From the easy elegance to smart finishing touches, Babylonstoren is magical! Whether you just stroll through the gardens, do some wine tasting, eat at one of the restaurants (you can also have lunch at the Glasshouse) or stay at the hotel, you leave there feeling inspired and wanting more. And that’s their biggest success: you know you’ll be back for another visit!
Love and light,