I’ve had a bad bit of writers block, trying to find the right words to encompass the experience I had at Steenberg Hotel & Spa. Frankly, I have too many words and yet not enough to string together seamlessly. If I come up short on a vibrant analogy for this review, read on with the understanding that this establishment is stupendous – no gross hyperbole even!
Imbued with a palette of white and gold cutting through swirls of blues and a mountain backdrop, this farm is saturated in the euphoric airs travellers seek out all around the world – for that untimed peace that feels everlasting.
The desire we’ve all been holding in – yearning for something beyond our fluctuating restrictions – can be relieved at this Tokai vineyard and boutique hotel & spa. It is not just safety that brings wine lovers, friends, solo travelers, and families to this corner of the Cape. Steenberg Farm offers a stylish safe stay at their hotel, and that is mainly why I am here.
On Hygiene & Safety
I know there is a change in the hygiene protocols at this farm, because I used to come to Steenberg Farm for wine tastings and celebrations with friends. Beyond the cursory check at their secure gate, there was never really a fuss, and my own focus, on hygiene protocols. In 2020 though, the paradigm shift means a different welcome awaited me at the Steenberg gates. Forget sneaking in without a face mask and a slightly high temperature, you won’t make it past the alert gate guards doing a thorough job of screening for A-typical Covid-19 indicators…and probably criminal intent too.
As is the case with most hotels where increased vigilance is needed with hygiene, due to the pandemic, there is room to evolve Steenberg Farm‘s operating solutions – but those luxury additions would be building on already enhanced safety and cleaning standards at their hotel and spa, which remain consistent with expert recommendations and guidelines. They are, indeed, another haven of relative hygienic hospitality, which I’ve reviewed and verified. From hand sanitizers readily available, to clean and polished surfaces, staff in full protective serviceable gear, secured foodstuffs and decent water safety, Steenberg is on its way to truly outstanding hygiene & safety protocols on-par with the standards of its 5-star counterparts around the world.
Their hotel-driven experiences, are also not only worthy of admiring, but should be given due consideration when planning your next bit of travel.
On the Farm & ‘The Experience’
The Steenberg Hotel & Spa utilizes a time-honoured tradition (truly hospitality excellence), to convince you that you’ll have a wonderful stay, before even stepping foot on the property: Preparedness.
I was charmed from the start, by the comprehensive booking/preference document sent to guests, which details sometimes-needed but hassling wants and needs. Everything from newspaper preferences (I favour the New York Times & The Telegraph), to restaurant table bookings, pillow requirements, to rose petals on the bed, are added to your questionnaire. One is able to set-up a perfectly romantic, peaceful, or fun stay, and be aware of the price tag right off the bat – a brilliant piece of efficiency from Steenberg’s team.
By my recommendation: Do book one of the gorgeous villa’s available here, as there is only peace, privacy and pastoral pleasure to be had by the private pool.
For all that Steenberg‘s traditionalist bones shine through, with its wealth of historical ethos and pastoral decadence, it is absurd and downright debauched in its contemporary comforts – luckily, both in the public and intimate spaces respectively. The hotel feels re-christened. Its exterior retains the old world feel, while the interiors speak only of modern class – the entire exposition would not be out of place in the pages of Architectural Digest.
Driving up to the shrouded hotel and spa retreat on the farm, is where the initial cleanse of city life begins amid the lush greenery, with symmetrical vines stretching out into an unfathomable end. Charming was the greeting by name, at the gate, and at the quiet reception area devoid of the usual bustle expected during hotel check-ins. Even while travelling in my budget-friendly Uber, I received a warm and singular VIP welcome, while the studious Steenberg folks worked through their hygiene protocols.
The renovated suites of Steenberg Hotel (tastefully abundant with the farms’ private art collection, and the works of local artisans the General Manager Catherine Schulze made sure to work with) are realised tasteful dreams, of soft luxury.
I test my love of a hotel room on a light balance of taste, cleanliness, comfort, space, quality of sleep, and ambience – rather subjective of an experience, but a necessary basis none the less. My sleep was probably the best I had had in weeks, with only the faint orchestra of nature beckoning my eyes closed. Crisp but soft bedding kept me from ever really putting pajamas on, and breakfast in bed or on my private picturesque farm homestead-style terrace, was a treat!
I noticed quite quickly, that my Premier room also had pristine fixtures. Having been faced with watermarks in other hotel experiences past, seeing this set my anxious hygiene-focused mind at ease a bit. I truly had fun in this room during my staycation – a blessed travel dilemma of wanting to be inside and outside al at the same time.
While ticking all the boxes of a stellar and stylish safe stay, Steenberg hotel also gave me a vastly spacious Premier room with a calming mix of textures on its furnishings. It made it perfect to walk about in, work in, and play in.
The Premier room bathroom alone begs its own review (but all I could really continuously exclaim is “awesome!”). For discerning travels needing all creature comforts, there are the likes of underfloor heating, freestanding bathtubs, and warming towel racks, fresh flowers, and properly plush robes and slippers. Memorably, Catherine Schulze (the General Manager) said her approach to the hotel’s Premier room redesign, is “How would I like to stay in this room?”. There are additions too, of conveniences that just make for smart thinking – hidden tabletops extending bedside tables, magnifying mirrors, umbrellas, and beautifully lit vanity mirrors.
The idea of “Big effort. Big reward” is also so idyllically fulfilled walking through the lesser-known corners of the Steenberg Farm’s, where every little bit of landscaping and architecture, interior design and its decor, is a treaty of the historical and contemporary. The farm’s design (outdoor showers, gold carts, and sprawling event spaces included) is both so far and so near to the Cape Town identity, and a joy to explore.
You do not really have to be a verified Capetonian, to truly understand its DNA. Cape Town is intrinsically tied to that nebulous term ‘lifestyle’ – somehow encompassing of refreshing experiences with food, travel, fashion and fitness. Steenberg Hotel & Spa offers up award-winning restaurants in the same breathe as its vistas. This place gives visitors cycling options, ambling room, golfing facilities, and hiking trails. And, since the Cape is also bound to its wine identity, with some people trekking across the city, while others pre-pandemic, flew across continents, for our wine country, Steenberg makes inviting room for wining and dining.
On the Beverage situation that’s pretty situated…
Steenberg‘s wine tasting and restaurant spaces now reflect their more exacting density caps per table, to do their part in meeting basic Covid-preventative measures. The strategy essentially reduces the risks involved during restaurant and wine tasting peak hours, as well as encouraging patrons to visit at less crowded times. The wine tasting and bistro areas reveal a varied demographic; the atmosphere is mellow, and they have the kind of ambience many a restaurant and cafe aspire to. It’s busy, but no so much that it gets cloyingly full.
The wine tasting at Steenberg, is truly an educating and enjoyable experience – entertaining too if you’re people-watching the impromptu photoshoots by fellow visitors wanting to commemorate the day amidst the farm’s architecture.
By my recommendation, do try the Nebbiola (which is part of the flagship range), as well as the Black Swan (which comes from the oldest vine on the farm).
The 2017 Steenberg Nebbiola is a wine you can introduce a novice wine drinker to, with cherry notes and a colour that’s one of the closes I’ve ever seen to ‘blood red’ (its actually ruby red). Maybe it’s just me, but I notice that wines like this, are better smelling wines than they are even to drink – and the Nebbiola is already a frankly lovely mouthful.
The 2019 Steenberg Black Swan has heaps of minirality, and is slightly more spicy as a Sauvignon Blanc. Bodied and traditionalist in heritage and how wholly it takes over the tastebuds, the Black Swan is not easily forgettable, so do try it with a risotto when visiting as its a good food wine.
Among the list of wines one can try, there is the heritage Lady R, a copper-hued 2015 Méthode Cap Classique that’s named for the lady of the farm, and made with a wooded Chardonnay, as well as a Pinot Noir MCC that sits creamy but dry on the finish. I’d like to see how it stands when paired with a fruits dish somewhere between granadilla and in the citrus ranges.
I am a bonafide fan of the dessert wine, and so now maintain a deep and abiding love of the 2017 Constantia Natural Sweet wine.
On the Food situation
“Dedicated to Steenberg’s 17th century founder, Catharina Ras, or Tryn as she was known to her nearest and dearest; this Cape Town restaurant is contemporary in spirit with fabulous food, bold accents and modern textures.”Steenberg.com
The first thing I notice is that the restaurant Tryn has sculptural velvet chairs – in contrast to the grey chairs at Bistro 1682, which I was very wary of when seeing the tale of their popularity marked into the seat-covering.
The farm’s restaurants are designed for you to linger…and savor. Here you’re to laze and smile hazily while enjoying life that’s polished a little better. Tryn, for example, doesn’t have the feel of a neighbourhood joint, that’s endearingly chipped and charming in its eccentricities. This restaurant is designed to stand out – glimmering and aesthetically appealing. Save for flecks of dirt and/or permanent blemishes on my literal morning cup of tea (very readily rectified after I brought it up), there’s very little else a visitor could ever really be too disgruntled about. There is even indoor seating, and heating for those that need it outdoors.
Where food is concerned, the first bite is always with the eyes, right?
So, Bistro 1682 and Tryn very rarely skimp on the visual plating of their culinary offerings, however, the taste experience generally jumps from filling and passable, to surprisingly divine. I won’t vouch for consistently awesome cuisine here, but if you catch them on a good day, the breakfast is fantastic, and the lunches & dinner leave you delightfully placated.
My number 1 foodie recommendation, is to try the truffle fries with breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is something about the scent of truffle in the air, that opened up my entire experience of breaking the fast with the Golfers Breakfast at Tryn.
At Bistro1682 for dinner, I began with a palate cleansing, taste-bud warming morsel of a summer salad, as my Amuse Bouche. The quinoa, sunflower seeds, dehydrated cranberries, apple gel, sumac vinaigrette, and fresh apple salad, was a great start to evening dining service.
If I had to pick a dish that would pass muster for a regular diner, it would be the pork belly Pot stickers served as my Main (which you should totally try with the Steenberg 1682 Brut Chardonnay MCC) .
While a little greasy than preferred by most diners, the chef got nearly everything else right with this prettily plated dinner, from presentation to mouthfeel, and general taste.
Before the crunchy pot stickers and their colorful garnishings, there was also the pork belly and its accompanying spinach, which I tried. The spinach was wildly flavoursome – making for an overall decent rendition of beloved Asian cuisine. There seemed to be character in the pork belly’s tender richness, though most of the dish’s personality seems to rest with the sweetness of the accompanying sauce.
Dessert was a Chocolate Truffle, and that’s an easy way right into my good books. The bistro served me up a few of these delicious balls, and served them cool – which is necessary to retain the shape and effectively contrast the textures of the chocolate and honeycomb bits. This dessert was sweet without overwhelming, and you can forget the accompanying mint leaves and strawberries because the chocolate balls themselves are satiating.
Verdict on Steenberg?
Steenberg is here to help readjust your 2020 confidence in hospitality, in the best way possible – beginning with diligent care of people, and delivery of visitors most unspoken wishes.
Once again, I go back to a hotels team , because they truly make or break a great hospitality experience.
Memorably, I smile recalling the hotels welcoming reception team and my staycation experience of dealing with them daily. They are so warm and efficient at safely greeting and easing visitors in, and making them feel comfortable – as is the resident chauffeur, who’s ready to deliver you to your next meal or activity.
At your wine tasting too, for example, you won’t find a single hostess, manager, sommelier, or attendant fumbling or stumbling in giving the guests a solidly great experience. Additionally, the hotels housekeeping is very accommodating of one’s needs and schedule, while the restaurants’ staff are quick to adapt bookings to guests convenience, and their waitstaff is brilliant with cheeky dining and drink recommendations.
“our job…is to be responsible for our customers’ happiness. It’s the nature of the hospitality business. You need to take care of people. You take care of customers above all others. Customers are your lifeblood.”Andrew Zimmern
From the singular Relaxation Area – becoming of any global luxury hotel property – to the refurbished suites, and the villas screaming for a fashion friend to shoot and recreate en Vogue time snaps, Steenberg Hotel & Spa is where I want to return to.
I’m unlikely to get bored of it; am unlikely to even contemplate another spot to Staycate within this area, as there are several tens of suites and rooms begging for me to also review.
The fact that the Steenberg team understand that both guest hospitality, as well as customer service, is needed to truly thrive, guarentees I will return. A stay at Steenberg now, is a reflection of another, far more pleasing facet of what the Cape still has to offer, by way of a quality vacation experience.
By my recommendation: