This is long overdue, but I hope that you get a chance to go during winter.
Only a few hours from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town. Sits a small farming town that was once its own state it is named Swellendam and hosts one the nicest boutique retreats in the Western Cape.
My partner and I found this little treasure in the British Airways in-flight magazine. We had been through this town on our way to various locations on the east coast of the Western Cape. I never thought of it as a holiday destination due to its inland spot, but I was very wrong.
We stayed in June for a weekend getaway and the price was very reasonable, R1000.00 for the first night and R500.00 for the second with the third night free of charge – we only stayed two nights unfortunately.
You enter the property through and into a lush almost tropical garden, a green fingers paradise. We were met by one of the owners who proceeded to show us around the homestead and the gardens. First stop was the breakfast villa, a single story building that has been renovated tastefully in a manner that does not take away the authenticity of the historical significance that is embodied in the old world charm of a aristocratic residence. It was on our final night at Augusta de Mist that we would experience the full extent of the owners hospitality and many wonderful stories would be told around the fire, while savouring the delights of an extensive menu complemented by the owners boutique personalised wine.
Once we were settled into our villa, I explored our little nest to find a bathroom that seriously challenges my own one back home; it was the master of all en-suites. The fridge was stocked with all the refreshments that you needed and there was a pleasant selection of dried snack food.
The bed was slumber paradise and I could see myself not wanting to get out of it but anxious to crawl straight into, that would have to wait until we got back from dinner at a local restaurant called the mill. This was pre-organised by the owners, they had thought of everything and we were only too happy to be directed.
We had a little time to kill before we were due to leave so I opened the bottle of red wine that was in the bar stock. At that moment the owners popped over to check that we had everything – how nice of them to be so helpful. We asked them to join us for a glass of wine and explain a little about it as this wine was tailor made and was created by the owners. I would go into that further but you have to go there to hear the story and taste the wine.
The Mill restaurant is located out of the main town about a 7 minute drive; it was once a working mill and is now a very well-known local eating spot. It has a very homely feeling about it and everyone seems to know the dinners at all the tables. I had the Steak and my partner had the Chicken I think. Everything was perfect!
Our final night at Augusta de Mist was a gastronomic feast, you have to indicate that you would like to eat in the in-house restaurant ’Augusta’s African Kitchen’ at least a day in advance as these are very intimate and customised events. We were joined by one of the owner’s mothers who had been visiting from Canada and her son, one of our hosts. While we wined and dined you could almost feel the drums beating to a production line in the kitchen, the aroma and orchestral symphony of pots steaming meant that you were never too far from the action.
Our finale for the evening was a very rich and decadent Malva pudding. Like many of the dishes served in the evening there was a strong emphasis on the African flavours, this was no different and a great way to end our evening and sadly our weekend.
Breakfast seemed to just go on forever, there was never s shortage of food and I ate every item that was presented to me – from the freshly baked pastries and breads to the cooked breakfast..
Our host Hank and Michel have everything under control and if you have not been to Swellendam than now is the time to go – what better place to be in winter next to a roaring fire with a good book, great wine and good company (take our own or make some new friends). We will BE BACK.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- One of the most beautiful guesthouses in Swellendam, on South Africa's Garden Route. Experience stylish living on a large country retreat. It is the biggest dilemma you are faced with when visiting Augusta de Mist: where do you sit? The pool area is perfect with a large willow tree and the kind of privacy that encourages you to shed the layers and have a cocktail. But then privacy is even greater in the small fynbos forest at the top of the property where you can climb a hand-hewn stairway to a fine view of the Overberg. Of course just the thought of all that hiking on the grounds makes the fountain on the front lawns quite a good bet for a good old sit and much more civilised. Speaking of civilised, you may as well take tea on the stoep while sitting and take in the lawns, rose bushes and giant trees. Or just sit on the lawn. But what about the picnic clearing in the fynbos forest, around wine cellar or even just the lounge in your suite? Such is life in the country. There are not enough days on the average visit to sit in all the available spaces and congratulate yourself on a perfect choice. Augusta de Mist is a 4-star retreat set on 1.5 Ha of eclectic fynbos. The country estate in typical Cape fashion boasts a deeply romantic 1802 Cape Dutch National Monument with more original features than you can shake a stick at. The shutters are yellowwood and the ironmongery original, as are the reed ceilings held together with 200+ year-old mud and clay. This manor building forms the social hub of the estate housing both the guest lounge and dining rooms. It also plays host to a Heritage Suite (where Desmond Tutu stayed in October 2013), which pays homage to Swellendam history and references South African iconic images and items. The bed is crowned by a cupola inspired by the Eastern style of the local church, while the reading room in the suite teams Afrikaner quilts and World Cup makarapas, which are pure township art. Wander past the pool, over seasonal streams or by the kitchen herb garden to stumble upon the garden cottages. On first glance, the allure is obvious. Simple white structures, the bridal suites are reminiscent of the historic cottages of this region, with reed ceilings, shuttered windows, bucolic views and indigenous or water-wise planting that welcome you. As you step inside the suites, you discover even more country romance in the stylishly appointed interiors, which mixes the eclectic African, South African and European heritage. In reflecting the architecture, each of the suites features subtle and unique decor. The finishes are chosen for comfort and have a lived-in feel. Vintage pieces and antiques have been selected with care, adding to the homegrown spirit that pervades. Unique African art punctuates throughout. Crisp yet plush bedding comforts you through the night while the bespoke lamps provide a source of warm and cosy lighting. While the cottages are meant to tell the old stories of Swellendam each also has its luxurious touch. Every suite has its own lounge, large bedrooms with similarly large en-suite bathrooms living areas and private gardens. Almost all of them have their own fireplaces. Afternoon tea is sometimes available in season, and is served by the team at 'Augusta's African Kitchen', with its focus on pan-African cuisine. Some of the dishes are Afrikaner while others are Cape Malay. Says Henk, 'Our kitchen is not professional. Nor do we open our doors to the public. Unless they beg. We cook because we love the flavours of Africa. It is the food we know and grew up with. We love the fact that Milktart can be made in a different way depending if you are Afrikaans or Muslim. So whether you like koeksisters or koesisters, we want you to be satisfied.' The team specialises in sourcing the best they can find in the area and it is all too easy to say yes to every morsel. I saw a petite young Belgian woman work her way through four koeksisters and assistant Melanie laughs as she tells me about the German group of nine, who interrupted the flow of dinner and demanded a second serving of Biltong Soup after which they gave rapturous applause. It is this focus on quality that had Henk and Michel develop a small range of wine with Andrew Barns of Mischa Estate. 'The wine is something that we take great pride in. Drinking a wine of quality is a responsibility we take seriously. We chose to make a signature wine with someone who loves making wine, and who does not do it as a business venture but as a vocation,' Michel says. 'The wines we made are artisanal and of the highest quality. We know Andrew and Rachel very well and we are very proud to serve this small range'. ... more less
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