Claire recently enjoyed a wonderful weekend stay at Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel & Spa in Stellenbosch with her husband.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I think that the most spectacular time to visit the Cape wine lands is on a sunny autumn day when the colours are vibrant and the air is crisp and clear. This was certainly true of our recent visit to the historic town of Stellenbosch - made all the more memorable by our stay at an absolute gem - the Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel.
With a perfect location on trendy Church Street, warm and attentive service, wonderfully comfortable rooms and heavenly food, the 5-star Coopmanhuijs is the ideal choice of hotel if you're looking to stay in the very centre of Stellenbosch. This is not a 'winelands' experience with vineyard views and no one else around for miles, but offers instead an opportunity to literally walk out of the front door and into the heart of this bustling and picturesque little town. We've spent plenty of time in the winelands over the years, but this was a first - and we loved it!
Coopmanhuijs reopened its doors in 2010 after an extensive refurbishment and since then the accolades have come year after year. And, it's easy to see why. From the moment you step beneath the red awning at 33 Church Street and enter the front door of this lovingly restored historic building (circa 1713 to be precise) you are greeted with genuine warmth and hospitality. And with only 16 guest rooms, this boutique hotel and manages to really capture that personal touch.
In keeping with its history, the décor is charming and hints at a bygone era with warm wooden elements and rich fabrics in the downstairs lounge and bar areas, while the bedrooms feature a muted palette with beautiful fabrics and en-suite Victorian bathrooms.
Our sun-filled room on the second floor was light and bright with sash windows and a Juliette balcony overlooking the central courtyard and swimming pool below. Rooms at the front of the hotel look onto the stately oak trees that line Church Street. We found our room offered everything we could possibly need from beautiful crisp linens to luxury bathroom products, a great shower (plus a very effective hairdryer), underfloor heating, a wonderful tea and coffee selection and complimentary Wi-Fi.
After briefly settling in, we headed out to make the most of our afternoon by exploring the streets of Stellenbosch - one of the oldest towns in South Africa. With its oak lined streets and beautiful Cape Dutch buildings, Stellenbosch is simply picture perfect with a vibrant energy that comes from it being both a tourist and a student hub.
We spent a wonderful few hours wandering in the late afternoon sun - popping into galleries, bookstores and boutiques, and trying to choose the perfect spot for a sundowner drink. There are bars, cafes and restaurants aplenty - and all within a stones throw of Coopmanhuijs. We made a mental note to return to Schoon de Companje at the end of Church Street for a coffee the following morning, and finally decided on the bustling Craft Wheat & Hops for a drink. Choosing a table at the window we settled down to a glass of wine and a light and crispy wood fired Flammenkuchen topped with Parma ham which turned out to be the perfect snack to tide us over until dinner.
Back in our room later on, we enjoyed an hour or so of peace and quiet with a cup of coffee, before freshening up and heading downstairs for dinner. We had heard wonderful reviews about Helena's Restaurant and had made sure to book a table in advance to avoid disappointment on a Friday evening. It turned out to be the perfect choice for a chilly autumn evening and our meal was one of the best we've had in a long time.
Set in two inter-leading rooms in the heart of the hotel, the restaurant is intimate and cosy with striking embossed wallpaper lining the walls and a lovely collection of earthenware and ceramics on display. Reflecting traditional Cape elements, the menu is relatively concise- not that it made ordering any easier - everything sounded absolutely delicious.
Starting with some delicious freshly baked bread, we made our selection of the rolled deboned pork neck for myself and the Chalmar beef fillet for my husband. Our waitress was wonderfully attentive, explaining the dishes in detail and going out of her way to talk to the chef to accommodate a special request from my husband. It was this 'extra-mile' attitude and service from all of the hotel staff that made the greatest impression on us during our stay... but back to the food.
My meal was almost too beautiful to eat - served with miniature pickled carrots, carrot puree, prunes and fresh apple, the presentation was exquisite as was every last mouthful. My husband's fillet was perfectly prepared and meltingly tender. Almost as much of a highlight were the two vegetable side dishes - one a baked cucumber gratin and the other charred baby leeks in a sweet mustard sauce. As a veggie lover, they were beyond delicious! We simply had to squeeze in dessert and after much deliberation we decided on the cheesecake with cherry compote and vanilla pod ice-cream - sublime. We will have to make another visit to try the dark chocolate fondant with mint leaf ice-cream and raspberries and the citrus sponge pudding with homemade granadilla ice-cream. We were very thankful that our room was simply a few steps away. Who knew an afternoon of window shopping and eating could be so exhausting?
Opening the curtains the following morning before hopping back into bed with my tea, I watched the sky turn a pretty pink as the sun rose higher in the sky. Surprisingly, we were ready for some breakfast and made our way downstairs to the pretty conservatory. A delicious continental breakfast buffet was laid out - but first some coffee! From the hot breakfast menu, I choose French toast while my husband went for the traditional breakfast. Both were excellent - prepared just right and served piping hot. Lingering over a second cup of coffee we chatted about how to spend our last 'child-free' hours before heading back into Cape Town.
Seeing as it was a lovely sunny morning, we opted for another walk around town and a visit to Schoon de Companje. This was obviously the place to be - the tables inside and those on the pavement were bustling and the aroma of freshly ground coffee filled the air. I saw what looked like a seriously good pasteis de nata being delivered to a nearby table - sadly we were way to full to indulge, but yet another reason to be making another trip to Stellenbosch soon!
The promise at Coopmanhuijs is 'where the comfortable is made remarkable', and that was certainly our experience - a relaxed home-from-home feeling plus the luxuries you would expect from a 5-star hotel all in the very heart of beautiful Stellenbosch. We will most definitely be making a return trip soon!