“Ohhhhh the Vineyard! It’s an institution,” recalled virtually everyone I told about staying in one of Cape Town’s most iconic hotels on a recent family holiday. Whether it’s hunting for tortoises in the meandering gardens, piling in for Sunday brunch or the welcoming smile of a special staff member everyone, it seems, has a soft spot for this green corner of Cape Town. And I can see why. The Vineyard Hotel isn’t perfectly polished (although it’s newly refurbished rooms are spot on) and it’s still got an old-fashioned whiff about it, but that quickly becomes part of its charm. When it comes to comfort and a warm welcome, hotels don’t come much better than this. And that’s before you’ve taken in the view.
As with most hotel arrivals, our two boys (aged 1 and 3), were clinging to our legs and threatening tantrums. Thankfully, within five minutes of entering the hotel driveway, a valet had unloaded our luggage, taken away the car and whisked us into the hotel lobby. Before toddler melt downs materialised, Cheryl (aka the kid-whisperer), presented gifts of rubber ducks and ‘Mandela and the Hare’ books to the boys, providing enough distraction to get us to our vast family suite stress-free.
Two interconnecting rooms gave the suite the feel of an apartment, with balconies overlooking a babbling stream, plenty of living space and bathrooms with walk-in showers and large tubs.
Mini bath robes, jelly beans and colouring-in kits kept the kids content, while we got stuck into some hotel info over coffee and handmade truffles. Nick checked out the gym schedule, including personal training sessions by a former Springbok coach, and I marvelled at the hotel’s outward sustainable ethos — with notes, shower timers and rubber ducks instead of bath plugs, to raise awareness about the Cape Town’s drought. 30 minutes in and we had each found our happy place.
The beauty of the Vineyard Hotel is that it’s just 20 minutes from Cape Town’s CBD, though there’s plenty to do on site or nearby, too. First up, a tour of the hotel’s riverside gardens was a relaxed distraction for everyone. Worth a gander for the views alone, the hotel’s gardens are award-winning for their eco credentials, restoring and preserving indigenous flora and fauna so close to the city centre. True to the name, there’s also a miniature vineyard of 100 vines, which supplies grapes to the Waterford Estate just 30 miles away in Stellenbosch; the kitchen garden does its best to keep the hotel stocked with fresh herbs. None of this would be quite as enjoyable if not for the spectacular views of Table Mountain’s Eastern Slopes peeping into view wherever there was a break in the vegetation.
When the rain started to fall, it didn’t stop us jumping into the irresistible outdoor pool, made all the better by its proximity to the heated indoor plunge pool when the chill started to bite. Pilates, yoga and personal training sessions were all on offer, while the Angsana spa was a tempting reason to tap into the hotel’s babysitting service. But as the rain clouds cleared, a glass of wine on the hotel terrace beckoned just in time to watch the sun dip and pink skies light up uninterrupted views of Table Mountain. The kids were well catered for with The Garden Lounge’s snack menu (fish goujons, corn fritters and sliders) and the zesty house favourite (Waterford Pecan Stream Sauvignon) did an excellent job at smoothing over any teatime dramas.
That evening, once the babysitter was happily installed, we headed straight to the bar. Martinis seemed the obvious choice when surrounded by the decadent gold and mahogany décor of the bar. Samson serves our drinks with big smiles as we prop up the bar and discuss the many sides to Cape Town; if it wasn’t for the hushed tones of a slightly older clientele, we could well have settled in for a few more. Dinner in The Square Restaurant was a jolly civilised affair, with live piano music and wine pairings to sample Cape vintages. Locally sourced mussels and oxtail combined with seasonal flavours of beetroot, fennel and Spekboom rouille, were washed down with Klein Constantia Pinot Noir and Meerlust Chardonnay. To finish, a warm lemon and almond cake was served with Waterford Heatherleigh, which was enough to tip us both towards bed.
Sunday morning breakfasts at the Vineyard Hotel are a lazy and lingering affair. The buffet is so vast, and so beautifully crafted, that families come from all over Cape Town to tuck in on the lawns and terrace overlooking the mountains. The ‘kids’ breakfast table kept our three-year-old entertained, enjoying the freedom of going about the buffet on his own, and when the pastries caused peak sugar rush, the lawn provided ample romping space.
Before we headed off to Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town’s answer to Kew Gardens just down the road from the hotel, we took in the art and artefacts that provide the personal touch. The old kitchens at the back of the house are now a gallery dedicated to the history of the property. The boys marvelled at images of Lady Anne and her family outside the original country cottage in 1799, and then started shooting their rubber ducks out of antique cannons. I rushed to stop them, but Cheryl jumped in and quickly silenced the boys with tales of where the cannons came from and how old they are. One of the Porters popped a rubber duck on his head and there were laughs all around; that’s the moment you know you really are in a first-class, family-friendly hotel.
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