Anyone reading this article might be a bit surprised on learning about South African hospitality surpassing even European standards. Surprise being an ethereal part of wonder, imagine discovering old world charm and traditional luxury blended with 21st Century “wired”. The Liz McGrath’s Collection of three 5 star hotels is not your typical visitation on exclusive, not by a long shot.
Not One or Two, But Three Charming Luxuries
The three 5 Star Relais and Chateaux Hotels of the McGrath Collection of the Cape province offer, each of them, a unique viewpoint on luxury and exclusiveness. And all the while exuding the charm that genuine friendliness carries with it. The other day we had cause to engage with the social media contingent of Ms. McGrath’s team, engaging for a contemporary with people who turned out to be literally enchanting to deal with. Truly, The Collection is infused withthe ethos of the Relais & Chateaux – Courtesy, Charm, Character, Calm and Cuisine. Let me show you the physical charm and calm of the place, the we’ll introduce you to courtesy and character – maybe throw in some culinary delight too.
The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel (above & below) – The Cellars-Hohenort offers guests so much, the space herein will not permit showing it all off for you. Panoramic South African mountain and lush greenery views blend nicely into each and every guest’s idea of tranquility – if peace and quiet are on your list of luxuriant vacations – travel no further. 20 years of hard work refining what Liz McGrath foresaw as the perfect calm getaway, anyone can see the love and kindness this place exudes. Imagine arriving, the mountains, the vineyards, a lush paradise almost sticky with old world charm. Whisked to your room (below maybe).
Cozy in your room or suite, exploring Table Mountain and South Africa’s most famous wine estates, this is the second reason for staying at this marvelous hotel. Peace and quiet (crisp pillows included), historical wine tasting possibility and abundant adventure possibility, on to award winning culinary perfection, Cellars-Hohenort Hotel is impressive to say the least. Oh, and not to forget, there’s Gary Player golf too. But, more later on, Ms. McGrath has other people and places to see and enjoy too.
The Marine Hotel (image top & below)- If there is one benchmark for truly exclusive hospitality it has to be attention to detail. In the southern US where I come from, the phrase “leave no stone unturned” turns up more often than not in speaking of such finery. This benchmark we speak of is concretely in tact at this seaside marvel. Situated overlooking Walker Bay, the 42 rooms and suites perches guests atop the finest whale watching experience off the briny seas. You may be interested to know your room here will be just inland of the world’s largest concentration of Great White Sharks, or the fact may give you a shudder.
Here manicured lawns, 360 panoramas, and a bit more of Liz McGrath’s etching on hospitality history comes fully into play. Remarkable not only for location, this property is noted for exceptional cuisine, the Sun Lounge and especially the in-house Carchele Beauty Spa. Taking time to observe some of nature’s most wonderful and endangered creatures, in absolute luxury, enjoying legendary hospitality, this place is my idea of vacation. If you are in search of the unforgettable, have breakfast at The Marine (image top).
The Plettenberg Hotel (above & below) – The best is so often last, and the last is often first, have you noticed that? This hotel situated on Plettenberg Bay, is a marvel of design meets top drawer hospitality. The first of the hotels Liz set out to rejuvenate, the place is clearly an act of love by the matron of this collection, not to mention her wonderful team. One thing I learned working as an engineer on South Carolina’s coastal playground, being environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing is an easier said than done developmental task. And if location means anything at all, The Plettenberg is leagues differentiated from the rest of the hospitality world.
For pampering beyond the expected and adventure possibility unlike almost any other place, guests of this McGrath Collection accommodation can play with dolphins and whale watch, or bungee off a precipice. Treetop canopy tours, culinary adventure, or sightseeing destinations galore, visitors can either disappear into the lap of secluded luxury – or better yet combine laziness with pure out backpacking thrills.
Not far off hotel guests will find; the legendary Crags (20 something minutes), Tsitsikamma Forest (less than an hour), and of course the famous town of Knysna where they can partake of the annual Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival (last month, sorry). You see the diversity of pleasures, I know.
We Mentioned A Culinary Journey Too
If the name Peter Tempelhoff does not ring a bell, the executive chef of Liz McGrath’s “Collection” currently possesses 9 Rossouw’s stars and countless other accolades. His years in association with some of the world’s culinary masters, not to mention creative and artistic perfection of his own making, bring Peter into the limelight as one of the world’s best.
His Greenhouse and Sand @ The Plettenberg afford The Collection dining guests nothing less than gastronomical wonderment. From the outdoor Barbie to the most exquisite fare, even his renown MSK MSK specialty ingredients offered worldwide, these hotels are unsurpassed for their uniqueness and creative culinary treats. Tempelhoff actually influences 5 Relais & Châteaux restaurants, 3 of which are in Ms. McGrath’s Collection. I’ve taken the liberty of taking copying the top portion of the menu from Sand at the Plettenberg to entice reader taste-buds.
And, Caring Is Good for Business
If I suggested the Liz McGrath Collection team is more wired than Hilton, would that surprise you? For the non-tech oriented reader, the term “wired” in this sense means looped into the social web. Facebook, Twitter, g+, adding a front desk of sorts on social media end of things only makes sense. Funny how so few actually manage to do it. And maybe this is why small exclusive groups of Relais and Chateaux Hotels get an advantage over the larger chains? Some businesses still use the telegraph to communicate with guests, hotels like these in The Collection by Liz McGrath use Twitter.
Not to shed too much light on the humble and charming people of Ms. McGrath’s hotels, two very nice ladies responded right out of hand (within a couple of minutes) to my tweeted request, and an email. Of the hundreds of connections I have made via social media channels, I must say Veronique and Natasha(last names withheld) beat all other professional connections hands down. Courteous and kind, almost to a flaw, who was it that said “Saying yes too many times makes one a hotelier?” In fact, the reason for this (maybe the longest review by me ever) article is largely because of the people The Collection employs. And there we are!
What the guest needs to know is how he or she will be treated. Caring people make the pillows crisp, they ensure your room looks out over a pristine canopy (if possible), the caring innkeeper goes the extra yard to ensure everything about your visit is perfect. And people make hospitality perfect. Add in some of South Africa’s most compelling landscape and attractions and…. Voila!, as they say.
Anyone covering these exquisite hotels would be remiss in not mentioning Liz McGrath. The wife of Gerald McGrath, a successful Johannesburg businessman and Chairman to Gallo Africa, Liz’s formula for success seems to be embarking into businesses that involve things she loves. Sadly, her husband passed away some years back, but Liz has gone on to inspire a whole generation of young hoteliers.
Having received just about every award one can in this business, one of her team maybe put this lady’s impact on the business of being a hotelier best speaking of a Women’s Day Tribute there in South Africa;
“On Women’s Day, South Africa commemorates the brave women who made such a valuable contribution to our society and pays tribute to the women who continue to inspire us today! We felt it a most opportune day to honour the very special Liz McGrath who is a daily inspiration to us all.”
After having written about 20,000 of these reviews, news articles, and editorials any writer tends to become a little less impressed with the subject matter. I can think of a few hoteliers that so impressed me, some I would love to claim as friends. Philippe Vaurs in Paris comes to mind, I had to mention him, such a wonderful man. I have never met Liz McGrath, but do you know what I can tell about her? Like Vaurs, the people she puts faith in are extraordinary, wonderful, kind, and classy. Philippe’s and others of our hospitality friends surrounded themselves so.
Just when you least expect it, you may just be impressed all to pieces. Ask me where I want my family to vacation when we make it to Cape Town. I’ll answer; “There’s a Collection of places to consider.”
Below Liz McGrath talks with ifood.