See what it’s like to step back in time at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl South Africa where history and modernity collide in the best of ways.
“Nobody does luxury better than Africa.”
Friends confided this opinion to us during our month in Cape Town. Seriously? Better than Europe? We had our doubts that luxury hotels in Africa were actually better than the rest of the world.
Within moments of arriving at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, we knew that our friends had spoken the truth.
Our Stay at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl
Our drive from Stellenbosch to Paarl was just half an hour, but we immediately felt like we were in a different world within moments of driving through the gates of the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl. It’s not every day that the hotel staff greets us with warm smiles and chilled sparkling wine, but maybe more hotels should be like the Grande Roche Hotel.
The hotel’s Paarl location is stunning with its front row view to Paarl Mountain beyond rows of vines that seem to never end. Although Grande Roche literally translates to Big Rock, the terrain is more than just one mountain. The lush, manicured grounds provided a wonderful respite for weary travelers such as us.
Hermanus Bosman originally owned these grounds as far back as 1715 and operated the property as a working wine farm. Many of the original buildings still stand including former slave quarters and carriage houses that have since been transformed into luxurious suites.
The Grande Roche Hotel has 36 suites of various sizes spread throughout the farm’s former slave quarters, carriage houses and stables. For our two-day visit, we stayed in the Empress Suite. Built in a classic Cape colonial style, this suite features a thatched roof, wide porch and a million dollar view of the Drakenstein Mountains. We felt right at home with the suite’s plush, comfortable bed, flat screen televisions, cosy lounge and loaded ensuite bathroom. Though we both normally prefer showers, Mindi couldn’t resist taking a decadent bubble bath in the bathroom’s free standing bathtub.
Sure, we appreciated that the suite had air conditioning, Wi-Fi, satellite television and a coffee maker – all amenities that we expect in 5 star hotels. However, on a more personal note, we loved that the suite also included wine, cookies and bottled water. The hotel provides these amenities for all guests.
Grande Roche Hotel Facilities
If we had to use one word to describe the facilities of the Grand Roche Hotel in Paarl, that word would be elegant. There were no screaming kids on water slides or boisterous partiers drinking too many cocktails. Instead, our fellow guests peacefully coexisted at the hotel’s two pools and throughout the property. We loved wandering around the hotel grounds, weaving through vines and discovering the onsite amphitheater. However, our favorite discovery was the hotel’s restaurant.
At first glance, Bosman’s Restaurant seems stuck in the past. The dining room is formally decorated and the crowd skewed a bit older during our dinner. But all it took was one bite for us to realize that Bosman’s is an exciting, modern restaurant where Chef Roland Gorgosilich combines his Austrian heritage and classical French training to create new South African dishes grounded with locally procured, seasonally fresh ingredients.
Though the restaurant offers an a la carte menu, we recommend the Chef’s Choice Surprise multi-course menu with options of three, four and seven courses.
Our four-course meal began with a creative Asian-inspired Ostrich Fan Fillet Tartare (see photo above), but that was just the start of a dinner that surprised us with every twist and turn. As the meal progressed, we practically inhaled a bowl of Sweet Corn Langoustine Bisque and then quickly devoured the Morrocan Spiced Pork Belly and Seared Scallop combo. However, our favorite dish of the night was the Poppy Seed and Sarawak Black Pepper Sous Vide Springbok Loin – a luxuriously tender piece of meat served with brussels sprouts, pumpkin purée and a semolina dumpling.We didn’t expect such an exquisite level of food at a hotel restaurant, but, then again, the Grande Roche is not a typical hotel.
Not surprisingly, the Grande Roche puts out a generous spread for breakfast. Options include a melange of freshly baked bread, local cheese and meat as well as hot food served buffet style, though hungry diners can also order omelets with ingredients like bacon, ham and smoked salmon. This high-end Paarl hotel breakfast includes Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine, an appropriate touch since the hotel is smack in the middle of the Cape Winelands, and oysters. Though we didn’t try them ourselves, we were tempted by the oysters. Let’s face it – there’s only so much food that even we can eat.
As pleasant as it would be to stay on the Grande Roche property sipping wine and lounging at one of the two hotel pools, you really need to venture beyond the hotel’s gilded gates to see more of Paarl, the largest town in the Cape Winelands. In fact, the following nearby Paarl attractions should not be missed:
The Spice Route
Situated on a sprawling wine estate, The Spice Route is a busy complex with a range of restaurants, stores, and even a craft brewery. You should stop by the Spice Route for lunch at Bertus Basson though you could easily spend an entire day tasting beer, wine and biltong.
Paarl’s Main Street is 12 kilometers long and is dotted with interesting architecture, cafes and boutique shops. You should spend a couple hours wandering along Main Street.
Just like the rest of the Cape Winelands, Paarl has a plethora of wineries that offer tastings of wines like Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. You should spend some time exploring these wonderful wines at Paarl wineries like Ridgeback Wines, Laborie Wine Farm and Avondale Wine.
Transportation and Logistics
If you have the opportunity to visit the Grande Roche Hotel, do not stop and think, just go. Your only questions should be “how” and “when” to get yourself to the Grande Roche, one of the best small luxury hotels of the world.
Getting to the Grande Roche Hotel
The distance from Cape Town to Paarl is just 60 kilometers or 40 minutes by car, making the drive to the Grande Roche Hotel quick and easy. Although other transportation options include taking a bus, train, car service or Uber, we strongly recommend renting a car so that you have the freedom and flexibility to explore Paarl beyond the hotel and on your own schedule.
When to Plan Your Visit
Certain times of year are optimal in Paarl based on the weather and harvest season. Spring is probably the best time of year, especially November when the area is in full bloom. Another great time to visit would be during harvest between January and March.