Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in South Africa. You can read my trip reports here:
Today (April 5, 2017): Review of Ellerman House, Cape Town’s most exclusive hotel (South Africa).
- Location: Google Maps
- Address: 180 Kloof Rd, Bantry Bay, Cape Town, 8005, South Africa
- Hotel website: Ellerman House
- Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Ellerman House is a superb 5 star hotel in the premier Cape Town suburb of Bantry Bay. The true splendour of the hotel rests in faithful preservation of its historical architecture, combined with discreet hospitality and efficient service reflecting the ambience experienced only in the comfort and familiarity of home. Ellerman House consists of 13 bedrooms and 2 three-bedroom villas, all individually crafted to provide a fabric of fantasy, luxury and pure indulgence. Sweeping views across the Atlantic Ocean are enjoyed from the private balconies and the lawned terraces surrounding the large, heated swimming pool. Exquisite meals created by acclaimed international chefs are displayed to perfection on china, silver and crystal. The hotel also has two of the finest collections of South African original art and vintage wines.
Ellerman House features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in South Africa and the best luxury hotels in Cape Town.
In this review (more info & photos below our slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Ellerman House sits perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in the Bantry Bay residential area, one of Cape Town’s most exclusive and prestigious suburbs along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel is just ten minutes away from the popular Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and within walking distance of the world-famous and spectacular Clifton and Camps Bay beaches.
- The hotel is housed in an elegant Cape Edwardian mansion, which was once the home of shipping magnates Sir John and Lady Ellerman. Built in 1906, Ellerman House was the very first house in Bantry Bay and thus holds prime position on the mountainside. The property was acquired by current owner Paul Harris, the founding member of First Rand Group Ltd, in 1988. After extensive renovations, the mansion opened its doors in 1992 as a small hotel with just seven elegantly decorated rooms. Over the past 25 years, the hotel has continued to grow by adding new rooms, wings and villas and it now has 11 rooms and 2 multi-bedroom villas.
- The entrance to Ellerman House is rather unassuming and deceptively small. However, once inside, the sheer size and exquisite decor of the property will blow you off your feet. A grand staircase lined by a host of portrait paintings leads to the main floor below, where you find several salons and rooms, such as a grand living room with piano and fireplace, a library, an intimate dining room, a pantry, and a small room in the back that serves as the reception area. Because of its homely layout, the magnificent mansion feels much more like an ultra-luxurious house rather than a five-star hotel. It’s like a home away from home – just a much nicer home.
- The public areas inside the main building feature a timeless and classic decor with rich wooden panelling, soft lush carpets, Dutch Cape antiques, and spectacular chandeliers. But it’s the impressive art collection that lines the walls that is the soul of Ellerman House and what sets the mansion apart from other boutique hotels in South Africa. The works span over two centuries, from paintings of the famous Thomas Bowler showcasing Cape Town in the 1800s to contemporary works from artists such as Lionel Smith and William Kentridge. The art inside the house rivals that of the best art museums and you will need time to stop and really take in each exquisite piece. There’s even a Contemporary Art Gallery below the garden, built in 2009, since owner Paul Harris realized he needed more space to house his ever-growing art collection.
- Just like art, wine is taken very seriously at Ellerman House. Integrating outstanding contemporary architecture with breathtaking sculptural elements and cutting-edge design, Ellerman House’s sentational wine gallery is not only a showcase for the hotel’s extensive, award-winning wine collection but offers guests a unique, interactive journey into the world of wine. ‘The Corkscrew’ is the gallery’s central piece of art, made of carbon fibre and holding 1500 bottles of Africa’s best wines in a temperature controlled room. A separate space within the wine gallery is dedicated to the South African brandy industry, where an installation of handblown glass decanters is the eye-catcher. There is also a Champagne cellar, stocked exclusively with rare and special vintages of Dom Pérignon.
- Ellerman House consists of 13 bedrooms and 2 three bedroom villas. Each room is individually decorated offering all the luxuries of five-star accommodations. During my visit, I stayed in a spacious Deluxe Spa Room, which is uniquely located inside the spa area. The twin-bedded room was characterized by an airy, light-filled, contemporary interior. The en-suite bathroom featured a stand-alone bathtub, a sink, a separate toilet, a separate shower, and Charlotte Rhys products (South Africa’s premier spa product brand). The room’s double sliding wooden doors opened to a lovely deck with jetted pool. The latter was shared by another Deluxe Spa Room on the other side of the Spa, making these two rooms ideal to book together for a family or a group of friends (so you can enjoy the pool deck in all privacy).
- Entirely separate from Ellerman House yet on the same property, two exclusive-use, privately staffed villas offer all the benefits of being attached to a small hotel with the advantage of complete privacy and flexibility and are perfectly suited to families or friends. Built on multiple levels with en suite bedrooms, spacious entertainment and relaxation areas, and private infinity pools, each villa epitomizes the glamorous beach lifestyle for which Cape Town has become so famous.
- Ellerman House is surrounded by magnificent, terraced, indigenous gardens, which are the perfect vantage point from which to take in the spectacular ocean views. The gardens were modeled after and inspired by Cape Town’s world-famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, resulting in an amazing showcase of iconic South African species from all over the country, such as statuesque aloes from the Eastern Cape and succulents from the Karoo. The gardens are at their prettiest in spring when many of the species are in flower, while in summer late-flowering proteas create a dramatic display against the backdrop of the ocean.
- Located on the lower terrace of Ellerman House, the hotel’s outdoor lap pool enjoys great views across the Atlantic Ocean and is heated by heat pump and solar to a comfortable temperature. The pool is quite large (20 x 6 m, or 66 x 20 ft), so it’s perfect for guests who want to swim as part of their workout. One side of the pool is adorned with a fabulous Dylan Louis sculpture of a cheetah.
- The Ellerman House Spa is a natural extension of the property’s commitment to quality and personalized service. Situated on the ground floor of Villa One, it is approached through a garden with tranquil water features, lush indigenous plants and ocean views. With two single treatment rooms and one double room designed for couples, the spa specialises in cutting-edge massage techniques and anti-ageing beauty rituals drawing on the wisdom and restorative, healing techniques of different cultures from around the world. In addition, there is a sensation shower, sauna and steam room for hydrotherapy.
- The superb food is another highlight at Ellerman House and some of the best I ever enjoyed in South Africa. As guests enjoy panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the hotel’s team of dedicated chefs delight with vibrant South African inspired recipes, such as Kingklip and Malay braised lamb shoulder. Executive Chef Grant Daniels brings his classically inspired style with a nod to his Cape Malay roots to guests at Ellerman House. Growing up on the Cape Flats, just outside Cape Town, Grant’s passion for cooking was sparked by spending time in the kitchen with his mother while she prepared traditional Cape Malay dishes for Sunday lunch.
- Opposite the glass-walled kitchen is a 24-hour pantry snack station (known as the Sugar Shack), which is well stocked with complimentary pastries, colourful candies and cold drinks. Fresh, homemade treats are prepared daily, perfect for a light snack between meals or ideal for supplies whilst out for the day.
- The true splendour of Ellerman House rests in faithful preservation of its historical architecture, combined with discreet hospitality and efficient service reflecting the ambience experienced only in the comfort and familiarity of home.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Ellerman House is the best hotel in Cape Town. Period. Its superb hillside setting, fine art collection, phenomenal wine gallery, exquisite food and superb service are unmatched in South Africa’s Mother City. Yet, you need to know the following when you consider a stay here:
- Significant building work is taking place at two properties below Ellerman House. Although it does not take anything away from the incredible location and exceptional experiences, it does cause some noise disturbance during the day, especially in the garden and for guests of Villa One (which also houses the Spa Deluxe Rooms) and Villa Two. The construction works will be finished by the end of this year. Unfortunately, I was not made aware of this situation before my arrival (which would have been the right thing to do for the hotel).
- Ellerman House is located in Cape Town’s most affluent residential areas, and as such, there are no restaurants or cafés in the neighbourhood. If there is a hotel car available, the hotel will arrange complimentary transfers, or call on their preferred taxi services to take you to the city centre, Victoria & Albert Waterfront or Camps Bay beach (all within a 10-minute radius).
- Although the property is famous for its magnificent sea view, there are a couple of rooms that don’t come with a sea view, being the spa rooms (although these rooms enjoy sea views from their shared pool deck) and the accommodations labeled as ‘classic rooms’.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,2/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Ellerman House (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free daily breakfast, a paired chocolate and South African brandy tasting with the hotel’s sommelier, complimentary WiFi, early check-in and late check-out).
- All but two (No 6 and 5) rooms share the same magnificent sea view, so be sure to avoid these two rooms if a spectacular vista is what you envy during your stay.
- The two Deluxe Spa Rooms share a private pool deck, and are ideal for larger travel parties (couple of friends, families).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Cape Town’s hot, dry summer months run from late October to early April. Temperatures reach their peak between December and February, and this is generally seen as when to go to Cape Town for the best beach weather. Winter months (May to September) can be a wet, cold and rather disappointing affair.
HOW TO GET THERE
Ellerman House is located a 30 minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. The latter is served by the major African full-service and low-cost airlines, as well as by most major European and Middle East Carriers (click here for a direct link to their websites). Currently, Singapore Airlines is the only Asian carrier to serve this marvelous destination. Check the Wikipedia page of Cape Town International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cape Town.
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