Babylonstoren – Franschhoek, South Africa
This is so much more than a hotel: it’s a working fruit farm with a historic Cape Dutch homestead, a destination restaurant, an award-winning vineyard, a brilliant bakery and, above all, a sensational garden. Over the past 10 years, owner Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos have transformed what was once a derelict, 300-year-old farm at the foot of the Simonsberg mountains into the coolest destination in the Cape winelands. The couple recruited Patrice Taravella, responsible for Le Prieure d’Orsan cloistered garden in the Loire Valley, to establish the 3.5-hectare walled kitchen garden that is the core of the property and which supplies the restaurant, known for its fresh, inventive salads and vegetables picked young and cooked whole.
The hotel itself is small, with just 13 suites carved out of old farm-workers’ cottages which line the oak-tree-edged avenue bordering the garden; the original farmer’s house was recently converted into a nine-bedroom lodge. Roos delights in combining the historical – small, shuttered windows and rough-hewn stable doors set in thick white washed walls-with the contemporary. Kitchens in the cottages are essentially clipped-on glass boxes that jut into the little private gardens; a Philippe Starck Ghost chair presides over a traditional fire-blackened hearth; on a modern four-poster bed is a handmade crochet blanket, and everywhere the sound of water running through culverts in a gravity-fed irrigation system that dates back to ancient Babylon itself. Nowhere else in the winelands manages to feel as fresh or relevant as Babylonstoren.