The Grande Roche Hotel, Paarl’s Iconic Grand Dame Reimagined

By invitation of Manley Communications, I was lucky to spend a night at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, taking Lemor Weiss for very good company. During our years of living in the Boland, the Grande Roche was always recognised as an institution, a benchmark for luxury accommodation and fine dining. It still is that, and so much more.

Now under the new ownership of local Paarl residents Hansie and Theresa Britz, the hotel has undergone a stylish refurb that has seen the addition of gorgeous designer wallpaper, contemporary art and finishes, bold colours, giant cushions on king-size beds, comfy chairs and modern amenities – all adding to the already beautiful suites.

The historic buildings stand proudly in perfectly tended gardens with lush green lawns bordering working vineyards. There are two large pools and generous wide terraces with loungers from which to enjoy the surrounding Paarl mountains.

We enjoyed dinner in the reimagined Viande – yes that’s French for meat but the team happily served Lemor and I a delicious vegetarian meals. We were even given extra special treatment by the exuberant and charming Chef Carmen Muller, who said they welcome all – even vegans!

Everybody we encountered and interacted with while there exuded warmth and genuine hospitality, each person we spoke to and that cared for us made us feel special. Right down to the one receptionist loaning me her phone charger overnight when mine stopped working and my phone died.

It was a balmy windless Summery evening and we enjoyed a sundowner outside our room after exploring the grounds. Sleep was peaceful, its so quiet there, and a late start in the morning was followed by a delicious breakfast on the ‘stoep’ before checking out.

Wanting to make the most of being back in the area, we enjoyed a couple of hours of walking and exploring Main Road, admiring Paarl Rock from below, pausing at the Moeder Kerk and heritage buildings and even doing a touch of shopping at one of the quaint stores …

Go! On their current 2 night special, for a meal or even just drinks at the cool bar that the Mona Lisa adorns, you’ll love it! Thank you so much for having us, it was wonderful to be there and back in Paarl.

More about the Grande Roche Hotel

Almost three decades after opening as a luxury country hotel, and three centuries since the farm was first granted to an ambitious young farmer, Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl has reopened with new owners, a new restaurant and a refreshed look across its luxury suites.

Entrepreneurs Hansie and Theresa Britz, both born and raised in this charming town, acquired the property in early 2019 and immediately set about rejuvenating this icon of the Winelands. The hotel was closed for a month, while painters, decorators, designers and landscapers set to work refurbishing the suites, buildings and public areas.

“Externally it’s a simple refresh, but our major focus has been rejuvenating the interiors, which are a complete departure from before,” enthuses Johann Bouwer, director of Grande Roche Hotel.

The refreshed look has seen each of the 18 luxurious Terrace Suites completely refurbished. Striking fynbos-inspired wallpapers celebrate the local flora and provide a flash of colour on arrival, while the sash windows, wooden beams and exposed thatch neatly encapsulate the farm’s Winelands heritage. “We wanted to restore that atmosphere of a historic Cape farm to the property, with a sense of refined country style,” explains Bouwer. That style finds easy expression in the plush deep-buttoned headboards; scatter cushions, luxuriant throws, warming rugs and rich cotton curtains.

“The new owners are absolutely committed to quality, throughout the property,” says Bouwer, adding that while no expense was spared in the renovations, nothing went to waste either. Where possible existing furniture was refurbished and revitalised in a bid to minimise the environmental impact of the revamp. A further delight of the refreshed suites is the abundance of local fine art, rescued from dusty storerooms to claim their rightful place on the walls of this historic hotel.

Surrounding the suites, the estate landscaping has also enjoyed some much-needed attention. The vineyards stretching in front of the historic manor house have been replanted while the lush estate gardens have been enlivened with water-wise indigenous Cape fynbos.

The Terrace Suites offer impressive views from their cosy lounges and private terraces, while travellers yearning to soak up the long history of the property will feel most at home in one of the five Duplex Suites. Situated in the whitewashed double-storey building built in 1717 as farmworkers lodging, the refurbishment here is subtler; eggshell blue accent walls, decadent wingback chairs and a vintage gin trolley.

“We love to offer travellers a contemporary style of accommodation in our Terrace Suites, but many of our guests really enjoy the historic feel of these rooms,” explains Bouwer. “While we’ve modernised these Duplex Suites, we’ve also tried to keep them anchored in a style that’s respectful of the property’s heritage.” And Grande Roche Hotel certainly has a rich and colourful past, stretching back across more than three centuries of Cape Winelands history.

The History of Grande Roche

The land on which Grande Roche Hotel is built was first granted to Hermanus Bosman on 6 June 1717. Bosman arrived in the employ of the Dutch East India Company as a ‘visitor of the sick’. He landed at the Cape in 1707 after a spell in the colonies of Batavia (modern-day Indonesia), but disliked the insalubrious life aboard the sailing ships of the day, and requested to stay at the Cape.

While working amongst the farmers of the Drakenstein winelands he stayed with the Huguenot Abraham de Villiers on his farm Lekkerwyn, today known as Boschendal. He ended up marrying De Villiers’ eldest daughter, Elizabeth, and together they settled on the land granted as ‘Nieuwe Plantatie’, with permission to farm cattle and wheat.

Bosman was an industrious farmer, and soon added vines, orchards and vegetable gardens to the property. When Bosman died on 14 August 1769 the farm passed to his eldest son, Abraham, and over the years more vineyards, a wine cellar and additional buildings were added to the property.

The farm would stay in the Bosman name for more than two centuries, only leaving the family in 1929. After a succession of owners, the farm was converted into a five-star hotel in 1992, and has since become an icon of Winelands hospitality. While its star has waned over recent years, the new custodians of this remarkable property have injected new life and investment into restoring the reputation of Grande Roche Hotel.

Viande Restaurant by Pete Goffe-Wood

That new energy is plain to see in the hotel’s reimagined restaurant, an exciting new addition to Paarl’s culinary landscape. Called ‘Viande’, it is the brainchild of Pete Goffe-Wood, the much-loved ‘Kitchen Cowboy’. A respected television personality, author and consultant chef, Goffe-Wood certainly wasn’t looking to start another restaurant, “but when I heard the new owners’ passion for the Hotel I realised it was something I could get behind,” says Goffe-Wood.

“I loved the fact that they wanted to make Grande Roche accessible to locals again, and the more their vision unfolded the more I realised I wanted to be a part of it. It’s been wonderful to see this property given the love and respect and investment it deserves.”

Goffe-Wood is now responsible for all food and beverage operations across the estate, from inventive hotel breakfasts to bespoke conferencing menus and lavish events. But for hungry locals, it’s Viande that will be the drawcard. Taking over the space formerly known as Bosman’s, Goffe-Wood and interior designer Francois du Plessis has completely reimagined the interiors, adding a sleek modern feel to the new restaurant while acknowledging the heritage of the building.

“With its chandeliers and silk curtains the whole property was very grand, so the brief was to make the property more accessible, more contemporary and more approachable,” explains Du Plessis. “We wanted a less stuffy atmosphere and to make it far more relaxed and appealing for locals.” Gone are the starched tablecloths and formal place settings, replaced by the vibrant contemporary feel of a modern brasserie. Gunmetal grey walls are offset by the landmark crystal chandeliers.

Bespoke monochrome wallpaper creates an eye-catching scene along one wall, while wooden floors brighten the space. Furniture is by on-trend design studio Houtlander, and there’s Goffe-Wood’s quirky humour in the culinary-themed 3D artworks by Mitch Mitchell of Scotch & Sofa by Mitch and the Machine; a hog’s head, kitchen scale and a burly pair of chef’s arms clutching cleavers.

That modern approach is equally mirrored on the brasserie-style menu, where meat is unashamedly the star. Viande means ‘meat in French’, and it’s a perfect title for this meat-focused restaurant offering contemporary nose-to-tail dining. Goffe-Wood and his capable kitchen crew are already hard at work curing, smoking new delicacies, with selected cuts dry-aged on site in imported German meat-fridges.

Alongside those perfectly aged prime cuts diners can look forward to more inventive protein-packed plates: perhaps pan-fried calf’s liver with roasted beetroot and a horseradish beignet, or a flavour-packed hangar steak plated with charred shallots and mustard sauce. The lamb rib-eye with baked aubergine is also sure to tempt a few palates.

Goffe-Wood is nothing if not versatile though and has crafted a wide-ranging menu that allows for an easy balance of adventurous meaty dishes alongside more approachable vegetarian, fish and poultry plates with much of the menu is inspired by the bountiful produce of the surrounding Paarl Winelands: the likes of Buffalo Ridge mozzarella served with caponata and bruschetta. There are also plans for an on-site herb and vegetable garden to keep the kitchen stocked with fresh greens.

The menu will evolve on an ongoing basis, with a handful of new dishes arriving every few weeks to keep local palates entertained, but a regular highlight will be the larger ‘Plate for Two’, dishes such as prime rib on the bone carved tableside and served with an array of inventive side dishes.

Brandy will also be the star of the brand-new Viande Bar, a stylish new addition to the restaurant space. Here cosy couches and a brass bar counter are perfect for pre-dinner cocktails and after-dinner digestifs. Beyond the Bar is Viande’s private dining room: an intimate space where historic title deeds and portraits of the Bosman family look down on the handful of lucky diners. Off to one side, the Chef’s Cellar holds a selection of limited releases, vintage wines and magnums.

Regarding Viande, Goffe-Wood says “Come on up for a drink, have a few small plates and enjoy the sunset. We want this to be a social hub for the town.”

Grande Roche Hotel is also set to become a sought-after destination for boutique conferences and destination weddings, with a modern events facility, set a short walk from the historic manor house. The multifaceted function venue can be divided into three stand-alone areas and is capable of accommodating events with up to 220 guests. The facility also offers a dramatic outdoor amphitheatre, framed by the granite monoliths of Paarl Rock.

Get There If You Can

While the revamped property looks forward to welcoming locals and travellers, the upgrades are only just beginning. Further renovations are underway for the Studio Suites, and future projects include upgrades to the top-tier Stable Suite and the development of a luxury spa facility.

It’s been three hundred years in the making, but it seems Grande Roche Hotel is just getting started.

Current Special Offer

Grande Roche Hotel is offering a two-night stay special from 1 September to 31 October 2019. Book for two nights, bed and breakfast included plus a dinner at Viande for one of the evenings up to the value of R400 per person. Stay in a Duplex Heritage Suite for R8,450 per room or in a Terrace Suite for R9,950 per room. A complimentary wine tasting at Under Oaks as well as a complimentary platter on arrival together with a bottle of Under Oaks Sauvignon Blanc.

With Lemor Weiss who joined me on the overnight stay.

The Essential Details

For more information about Grande Roche Hotel and Viande Restaurant, visit www.granderoche.com or email info@granderoche.com. The Grande Roche Hotel is located at 1 Plantasie Street, Paarl. To book a table at Viande visit http://granderoche.com/viande/ For press assistance contact Monique Roux of Manley Communications on email premierbrands@manley-communications.com or visit the Press Room of Manley Communications at www.manley-communications.com.

** I was hosted by arrangement of Manley Communications.

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Dawn Bradnick JorgensenDawn Jorgensen
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