The Vineyard was built as the home of Andrew and Lady Anne Barnard, he was the Colonial Secretary at the Cape for 5 years from 1797 and she was to make a huge impact on the Cape under the early years of British Rule. Sadly they only lived there for 2 years. The house eventually became a hotel run at the end of the 19th Century by a formidable Irishwoman called Mrs O’Sullivan. Rudyard Kipling stayed there in 1898 and referred to Mrs O’Sullivan and her helpers as “three thoroughly acid female devils, one with a moustache and no figure, who have made things just as unpleasant all around for the guests as the twelve hours of daylight would let ‘em, but in spite of it all, we all got on very well!“
My story of The Vineyard Hotel spreads across two phenomenal Cape hotel families, the Turkstras and the Petousis.
Bernard and Elsabe Turkstra owned The Vineyard from just after the Second World War to the 1980s. Elsabe Turkstra, who was at school with my mother, ran the hotel in the later years after she was widowed. She had ideas before her time. They opened the Ballroom in January 1952 and I danced there in the 1970s with the band on a bandstand which still exists. I remember going to visit her in the 1970s when I lived next door. It was flower morning and she trooped around the hotel, porters in tow with tarpaulins full of flowers going from vase to vase, guéridon to guéridon, wearing a worn out pair of canvas gloves and using an ancient pair of secateurs and creating huge extravagant floral displays dripping with fragrant roses and other flowers in season, many picked in the garden of the hotel. She chattered away dispensing wisdom and telling the most wonderful stories. At 11h30 a waiter would appear with a nip of Guinness and a frosted glass for a little fortification, she always offered, but never succeeded in getting me to drink one! She had an excellent wine shop, next to which by the current front door, she opened a Bistro that served the most authentic of bistro style food. I remember at the time that both Duck a l’Orange and Coq au Vin cost R1.75. Cointreau in the duck sauce and a red burgundy in the coq! We came full circle when Elsabe’s granddaughter Penelope worked for me as a chef in the earlier years of this century.
Then came the Petousis family. Kitty Petousis was one of the real Afrikaans actresses of the 1950s. As Kitty Albertyn in 1957, she appeared on the Afrikaans Radio Service as Tant Heibie in Die Du Plooys van Soetmelksvlei a radio play based on a book by Jan Schutte. As an 11yr old, on my parent’s farm, I remember sitting in front of the radio, nightly in my dressing gown, listening to her. Then I met her and her husband Francois [Pat] Petousis, when I lunched with them at their hotel in Cape Town called The Town House, a well known dining and watering hole filled with politicians, diplomats and writers, singers and artists. But that, as my grandmother used to say, is another story. A good story as this successful hotel allowed them to purchase The Vineyard and work their wonders there and later d’Ouwe Werf in Stellenbosch. The businesses are still run by the Petousis Family, sons Lex and George – both trained Hoteliers, like their father – with the Matriach, Kitty in the office every day. The day to day business of running the hotel is in the very capable hands of the urbane Roy Davies.
The Vineyard Hotel planted a Sauvignon Blanc and Sèmillon vineyard down on the river bank, bringing vineyards back to Newlands for the first time in many years.
Today The Vineyard Hotel is a modern hotel of excellent standards and one which we visit often.
Breakfast at The Square
The hotel’s main restaurant serves a variety of excellent breakfasts. Apart from the Continental, there is an a la carte menu where you can do the meusli, fruit platter and meats and cheeses, a traditional breakfast which offers the usual eggs any which way with bacon, susage, sautéed mushrooms and rosti and yummy dishes like real Scottish Kippers with parsley butter, Belgian Waffles with grilled banana, ice cream and male syrup and an utterly sensational Eggs Benedict in its purest classical form, on an English muffin with ham and Sauce Hollandaise.
The Square Garden Lounge
One of my most pleasant experiences is sitting out on the patio on the mountain side of the hotel. Looking over the verdant garden up to the east facing aspect of Table Mountain. On a Summer’s day, this is approaching perfection. While a full menu is on offer, I usually go for the batter fried fish and chips, the Organic Lamb Curry or the Chargrilled Karoo Lamb Cheese Burger, punters from overseas [The Vineyard is a home from home for the British Swallows] can enjoy some local dishes like a traditional Bobotie, Smoked Franschhoek Salmon Trout, or the Braised belly of Durbanville Pork. All accompanied by offerings from the legendary Vineyard wine list. Outside of lunchtime, teas and baked goodies fresh from the hotel’s ovens – go for the fresh scones – are a real treat.
At dinnertime The Square has some great offerings. There is Sushi Bar where a variety of types of Sushi and Sashimi with which you can enjoy a glass of Simonsig MCC. There is an excellent choice of dishes on the a la carte menu. Some of these form part of a 5 course food and wine pairing menu – available also without the wines. During a recent visit there we had glasses of wine from the five partner wineries, Waterford, Meerlust, Klein Constantia, Warwick and Simonsig, each paired with a complementary dish. A brilliant Gazpacho, a baked Camembert in phyllo, a Pea and Asparagus Risotto, and a superb pan roasted Chalmar beef fillet with enoki and other mushrooms, a double baked chocolate soufflé with salted caramel ice cream and a Buttermilk Panna Cotta with spiced nut ice cream brought up the rear with a glass each of Waterford Heatherleigh and Simonsig Vin de Liza. There are monthly Gourmet Wine Evenings, usually with the winemaker present. Not to be missed are the casual – and complimentary – Monday evening wine tastings at 18h00 conducted by a representative of the winery whose products are being tasted that evening.
The Splash Café, the Gym and the Angsana Spa
The Vineyard has a superb swimming pool garden with plenty chaises longues for the sun starved European guests to lie on and soak up some good Cape sun. Close by is the modern little Splash Café where I quite often go for a business meeting as it is usually quiet and the coffee is excellent.
If you are feeling like a bit of exercise, there is a fully equipped gym next door.
And the fabulous Thai Angsana Spa, which various members of my family have used with great success and a visit to which I keep promising myself!
Award-winning chef Mike Bassett’s venture, Myoga, is a 100-seater restaurant located at the Vineyard Hotel and Spa in Newlands, Cape Town. Myoga, meaning Ginger Blossom in Japanese, incorporates an innovative new-age vivacity with the tranquility of Myoga’s spectacular position within the Vineyard Hotel’s lush, 6-acre garden. The emphasis is on contemporary fusion, with a myriad taste options where diners can expect the same passion and exacting standards that Mike brings to everything he does, in a gentle setting.
The Vineyard bedrooms are so comfortable, as are the conference and banqueting facilities which I have used often.
The Vineyard Hotel and Spa
Colinton Road (off Protea Road), Newlands 7700, Cape Town
021 657 4500