It's the oldest hotel in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and also one of the swankiest, but just like an old-time star, the Alphen Hotel couldn’t escape the inevitable nip-tuck.
While the grounds and building have been in the famed Cloete family for 150 years, the hotel itself has recently come into the hands of famed restaurateur Paul Kovensky who gave the interior of the hotel — its rooms, three restaurants and all — a major facelift.
Paul and his team retained the old-world feel, keeping all the art and antiques, but added a touch of chic that is both cosy and sophisticated. I particularly fell in love with the hotel's main restaurant, 5Rooms.
Named after the five rooms on the ground floor of the original manor house, the restaurant is richly upholstered in geometric carpeting, bright velvets and sleekly varnished wood. Artwork is a mixture of old pieces and new - all creating a retro feel that fits comfortably into the space.
I've yet to try the menu, but marketing manager Heidi Prinsloo tells me the restaurant is not about fine dining, but rather aims for a more relaxed service with good quality food that satisfies the appetite. Think cuts of beef, a selection of fish dishes and a range of sides to choose from.
With Heidi as our guide, we walk through to view the pool area which has been transformed to include the hip Rose Bar — a sought-after summer spot kitted out with white upholstered lounge suites to while away a lazy weekend afternoon in comfort. In some ways the feel reminds me of the glittering party vibe of Camps Bay, but here it is conveniently set in the southern suburbs.
Next we head over to view the rooms which are considerately tucked far away from the potentially noisy social spots on the property. There are 21 rooms in total, all ranging from "cool", "amazing" and "stunning" suites, names which give a touch of humour to the luxury we're about to witness.
A touch of quirkiness
Each room is kitted out with extra length king size beds, full wifi coverage and of course, great finishes from the taps in the bathroom to the linen on the beds. A touch of quirky awaits us in one suite: a white chair, the back of which is moulded in the shape of a kneeling woman.
Features have been thoughtfully varied to offer different options such as a separate lounge or his and her bathrooms, which you can choose according to your preferences.
By then we'd worked up quite an appetite, so off we were whisked to La Belle — the lovely bistro and bakery that has replaced the old Boer & Brit pub. The lunch rush is well underway at one o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon and we are seated out on the terrace.
Our waitress was competent, polite and helpful, suggesting that my partner try the Asian fish cakes. I opted for the mustard and herb roast chicken and while we waited, I ordered a raw juice — something I am pleasantly surprised to see offered here. The raw juice movement seems to have caught on in small bistros around the southern suburbs and for good reason — I enjoy an apple, carrot, orange and ginger combination and certainly feel revived by the time I've finished it.
Stocked full of baked delights
It seemed like the kitchen was struggling to keep up with the orders, so there was a bit of a wait – no problem if you have time to sit and enjoy the sun, but certainly something to bear in mind for your visit.
Still, the dishes we chose were worth the wait. My roast chicken was beautifully prepared - still moist and flavourful. The green bean salad and olive oil mash that it was served with were all a good combination and more than enough to satisfy. My partner's meal of fish cakes and Asian greens was light and packed with zingy flavour — a great meal if you want to avoid feeling lethargic after lunch.
The Alphen has its very own executive pastry chef too, so La Belle is always stocked full of baked delights to indulge in over a coffee. I’m somewhat of a baked cheese cake fanatic and after learning that there was a freshly baked one on offer, I wasn’t going to let an opportunity to try La Belle’s version go by. I was suitably impressed by its creamy texture and vote it one of the best I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy in Cape Town.
I’m looking forward to going along to La Belle again for another go at their cheese cake and you’ll also see me relaxing at the Rose Bar taking advantage of the last lazy summer evenings — glass of wine in hand, enjoying the vibey tunes.
Visit http://alphen.co.za to find out more.