We arrived at Radisson Blu Sandton, on a Friday afternoon ready for a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of a busy week. Warm, neutral tones, comfortable furnishings and a cheese platter with a hand-written card welcomed us to our spacious double story penthouse complete with its own elevator. It was not long before we were settled into our ‘home away from home’ enjoying spectacular panoramic Sandton skyline views with an African afternoon thunderstorm, glass of wine in hand.
We then swapped our corporate outfits for a bathrobe and slippers, and headed down for a romantic couples massage and some pampering at Aesthetic Elements (AE) Spa on the 10th floor of the hotel. It came as a surprise to me that the spa was so conveniently located, making access to it from either the comfort of your hotel room or the lobby a fuss-free endeavour. The ladies at this establishment provided a treatment that can best be described, after a long hard day, as pure bliss.
Relaxed and de-stressed after our massage, we headed up to our room for a quick shower and to freshen up before the dinner that awaited us at Vivace below. Vivace Restaurant dining has always been a firm favourite, but as this was my first experience of new Executive Sous Chef Keegan Maistry, it was impressive to see soon after arriving at our table, that he stepped out of the kitchen to greet the guests and make recommendations.
With a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in hand, I settled in to study Vivace’s newly launched menu and what struck me most about the changes to it off-the-cuff was the addition of several Vegan and Vegetarian options catering for a wider spectrum of guest. As the rain poured down outside, however, I felt a distinct craving for something wholesome and hearty, soon settling on their Mushroom and Spinach soup to start with the Confit Duck for mains. The duck arrived with a bean and bacon cassoulet, pearl barley, orange reduction and baby carrots. In summary, my meal was hearty, healthy, incredibly tasty and exquisitely plated. All things that I like very much!
We finished up the evening with a delicious coffee, and shortly afterwards, headed up to our bath tub for a post-dinner soak, content and full.
Morning usually arrives far too soon for my liking, but the excitement of a delicious breakfast below was beckoning so I did not mind too much.. And a delicious breakfast is just what we enjoyed complete with smoked salmon and a healthy egg white omelette!
In summary, what struck me most was the fact that a Radisson Blu welcome is truly a ‘welcome home’ affair each and every time we have stayed here. The service and attention to detail that is so vital to giving a hotel an edge is flawless, and with its prime location in the richest square mile in Africa, (which of late, has been an ever-changing landscape of architectural genius) whether your stay is for business or pleasure, it would be remiss not to put the Radisson at the top of your list!
Recently, as I checked into Tau Game Lodge, it was hard not to notice the contrast of the luxury of this South African safari lodge with its wild African surroundings of Madikwe Game Reserve. It is also difficult to imagine that such a seemingly wild location (in Groot Marico), boasting the big five is only a short four hour’s drive from Johannesburg!
After a generous buffet lunch taking in views across the busy waterhole complete with some waterbuck enjoying their own herbivorous lunch, it was off to our room to get settled in, and it wasn’t long before we received our prompt reminder call to the room from Ranger, Damien Fourie to come through for our first evening game drive.
We climbed onto our open safari vehicle, complete with fluffy blankets and our own hot water bottles, and chatted happily to our Ranger whilst he carefully noted what each of us would like to spot during our stay at Tau, and then we were off on the first of many drives during this luxurious stay.
“The Place of the Lion” (which is how Tau got its name), certainly lives up to its reputation and on our very first evening’s game drive, we came across a regal pride of lions, enjoying a leisurely nap whilst their playful cubs toyed with each other in full view of our group. This was the first of many wildlife sightings during this stay, and I could not have been more excited about what we had the privilege of experiencing during our twice-daily drives which come as a standard offering during your stay at Tau.
To end off our drive each evening, leisurely sundowners (complete with typically South Africa snacks) were set up for us at different locations by our Ranger, enabling us to really appreciate typically African sunsets and the surroundings to their fullest. A little cold but exhilarated from our experience during the day, we would excitedly chatter our way home discussing white rhino sightings or an inquisitive baby elephant (who had tried to befriend our open safari vehicle) and then disembark from our chariot for dinner.
When it came to food and our experience of meal times during our stay, the lodge arranged for completely different dining experiences from a traditional outdoor African Boma meal (complete with chairs and tables set up around the camp fire) to cosy, indoor meals complimented by beautifully presented dishes in the main dining room. I have found that what stood out for me during these meals was the attention to detail in each and every case as well as the sheer choice of beautifully presented dishes. Few African lodges offer a wide range of vegetarians options, but at Tau this inclusion seems to come standard and during meal times, we got the option of spending time with our Ranger, Damien Fourie, who patiently sat answering questions and providing valuable insight into what Tau is doing in terms of both their commitment to conservation and the ever-constant poacher issues.
The next morning, I decided to take a leisurely stroll through the lodge gardens and make the most of their infinity pool, complete with a private game viewing lounge area overlooking the waterhole. Some elephants grazed noisily nearby whilst Ernest, (who runs the bar there) poured me a G&T, and I soaked in the surroundings and tranquillity of what had been my luxurious “home away from home” during our stay. Summer days can quite easily be spent soaking up some sun here with a leisurely visit to their spa oasis for a treatment or two.
In true Tau style, on our last evening, we were treated to the overwhelming sound of a male lion's roar at our watering hole. Lions use several calls to communicate with each other from grunts to growls and each sound has a different meaning, but their roar has to be by far the most awe-inspiring, and falling asleep to it was like nothing else that I have ever experienced.
In summary, Tau has something for everyone and it has been a privilege to share both my unforgettable experience here and the standard of service with a smile that we came to expect during our stay at Tau.
I had long heard recommendations and experiences from people who had frequented Granny Mouse, as well as its impressive showcase of awards that it has racked up over the years, so on my recent trip here, my expectations were high.
I arrived to check in, on a sunny summer afternoon to a hearty welcome by the reception staff and glass of bubbles to refresh me after the drive. Once that was done, it was time to get settled in.
As this would be my home away from home for the next few days, my curiosity got the better of me and I immediately started to explore all the nooks and crannies of this quirky and charming country house with its spa, fine dining restaurant, lush gardens, manicured river walks and mountain views. Granny Mouse was not built for exceptionally tall people (you will see what I mean when you visit), mind you, but it truly has a heritage and charm all of its own. They offer a range of accommodation options, but my favourite would have to be the Deluxe Suites, which afford you some of the most beautiful views of Lions River Valley, in complete comfort and I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the balcony taking in the tranquil surroundings, with our cozy fireplace nearby.
Dinner time soon arrived and, to my surprise, we were not seated in The Eaves for my birthday dinner but instead in what has to be one of the most ambient candlelit cellars that I have experienced to date. Rose petals led us down the steps of the wine cellar to our private candlelit table for two, and the evening began.. Course after course, started to seamlessly arrive down the cellar steps.
From their confit garlic mushroom with sundried tomato and thyme pesto, to get our mouths watering, to their spiced crusted beef fillet served in a red wine ox liver Ragu, our food journey was one not to be taken lightly. What an exceptional way to celebrate a special occasion or simply to just celebrate yourself, with expertly paired wines by Chef Wayland Green, generously sized portions and beautiful plating.
Full and content, I was ready to make use of my big tub and enjoy a much-needed soak by candlelight before bed, which is exactly what I did!
In the morning, still feeling slightly full from the feast the night before, it was time for some exercise and the River Walk below the property provides just that opportunity. With scenic spots to rest along the way, and the gurgling river a constant companion, it is difficult not to feel in awe at the beauty of the flora in full colour at this time of the year. I have not yet frequented the Midlands in the winter but this wild floral kingdom is surely something that must be experienced on any visit!
Feeling as if I’d earned my hearty breakfast, I wondered back up the hill refreshed and ready to take on the day. It wasn’t long before I had been assisted and had my coffee in hand. The breakfasts at Granny Mouse offer everything from a traditional fry up to your artisanal cheeses, breads and local cold meats.
The Granny Mouse team, whether it be for dinner, breakfast or just wandering around, never hesitate to give you a friendly grin and to check if there is something that they can assist you with, which was a nice added touch during the stay.
In summary, Granny Mouse provides a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of the year and one, that in my opinion is perfect for any couple wanting a quick break or some added romance. I left, wondering when I could possibly return next..
Recently, as we checked into Fish Eagle Cottage at Brahman Hills, it was hard not be influenced by the typically African countryside complete with views across the rolling hills of the Midlands. Right from the onset, I fell in love with the tranquil Blue Crane Nature Reserve and the fact that it allowed us to experience its abundant wildlife first hand.
So a bit about the cottages.. Each self-catering cottage has a secluded and private set-up, making it the ideal ‘home away from home’ complete with DSTV, a cosy fireplace, braai area and our very own outdoor Jacuzzi that we took full advantage of with evenings spent under the stars.
Once settled in, it was off to the hotel to enjoy an intimate and romantic dinner in their wine cellar “89 on Copper”. As we arrived, we were welcomed by our attentive waiter, Joshua who could not have been more helpful throughout the evening (despite us being tired from the travels) and with the experience of someone who is no stranger to the hospitality industry, he seemed to pre-empt our requirements. “89 on Copper” has something for everyone on its rustic menu from their fine dining plated courses for me to a generous cheese burger and fries for my partner.
Relaxed and with full tummies, we retreated to our room in peace to enjoy a bottle of bubbles in our private Jacuzzi under the stars.
Morning arrived before we knew it, and we were swept off to our private couple’s massage treatments, complete with a choice of champagne, coffee and chocolate options to die for. Whilst there, we even got a visit from some inquisitive Brahman cattle who needed a drink from the water feature located nearby.
Brahman Hills and Spa place emphasis on produce that is sourced ethically, biodegradable and with an ever-growing spotlight on the impact that we as human beings have on our environment, it is wonderful to see a hotel that transparently supports organic and local.
To sum our stay, Brahman Hills has it all… convenience, a stunning location surprisingly close to the N3 and a homely feel without scrimping on the unique luxury touches that truly make it world class.
We enjoyed an absolutely superb French-inspired dining experience at The Vine Bistro this past weekend, looking out across the amphitheatre of Glenelly Vineyards!
The Vine Bistro's terrace, complete with a petanque court and the relaxing sound of gurgling water from their water feature nearby, makes for the perfect outdoor venue in the summer.
Alternatively, their interiors are swayed towards catering for rainy, wintry months and offer a cozy ambiance complete with a fireplace for the winter, comfy leather banquettes and a traditional bar.
The Glenelly range of wines is comprised of the Glass Collection, Estate Reserve and of course the Estate’s flagship Cabernet that is sourced from a single vineyard, the Lady May. Glenelly offer a range of wines that will pair well with a wide variety of meals, and you are bound to find something that suites your taste during your meal.
From the name, you will note that The Vine offers classic bistro lunches and dinners with a menu that changes regularly. On Sundays, The Vine Bistro offers an affordable set menu with a small range of options to choose from, but the other days are generally a la carte.
To start, I selected the Quail and mushroom galantine with chicken liver parfait, baby leaf salad and pickled vegetables. For me, the highlight of this dish must have been the light and fluffy chicken liver parfait. Superb!
For mains, I chose the Cape Linefish and Tarragon nage with summer vegetables. This dish had a rich, creamy sauce which complimented the linefish well.
The plating of these dishes was exceptional!
Hands-on, professionally trained staff, to match the theme of this top notch bistro. I expected nothing less, but was glad to see it in action.
In Summary, The Vine Bistro has it all.. Stunning panoramic vineyard views, kitchens expertly headed by Chef Christophe Dehosse and Chef Alex Rykaart, May de Lencquesaing's private art collection (including pieces by Salvador Dali and Lino Tagliapietra), and of course their exceptional range of wines to compliment every dish.