There is something truly magical about Babylonstoren. Not just because it’s evident what having a few billion spare Randela’s can buy but more so create from nothing. Originally a Cape Dutch farm, surrounded by the Drakenstein Mountains, its namesake comes from the Babylons Toren koppie visible from the manor house and slave bell on the property and now a mandatory destination when touring the Stellenbosch winelands tour. With an exquisite hotel with de rigour spa, gym and very tastefully appointed cottages spread around the property, it also boasts two very respectable restaurants open to the public (Babel comes with caveat though – it’s often fully booked for months in advance!)
Babel, a restaurant intoned by Maranda Engelbrecht (one of the most knowledgeable and creatively forceful woman I met and work frequently with) is the epitome of the concept “from farm to fork” and everything they serve is fresh and abundant with a strong emphasis on the visually inspiring. Unfussy and “quick’ – ‘pick, clean, serve” during the summer months, I recently had the delight of experiencing their ‘slow’ food offering during a marketing strategy workshop.
The Greenhouse, situated just beyond the mind boggling “living” garden under the watchful idea of its creator Guandala, is another delight on the Estate. Positioned under mature planted oak trees at the back of the garden, the collection of wrought iron tables and colourful Luxembourg chairs gives the restaurant a very classic European park eatery and the greenhouse-cum-tearoom is a surprising though perfectly logical refreshment station for guests who have completed one of the garden tours (starting at 10:00).
This 26m-long eye-opener made of dark green steel and 4mm hardened glass allows the Green House to experiment with varietals that have struggled or flopped – largely due to the Western Cape’s winter rainfall and lack of humidity in summer – in their breathtakingly formal fruit and vegetable garden. Exotic granadillas, ginger, cardamom, pineapples, dragonfruit, vanilla, guavadellas and much more – even a baobab tree – now have a new and happier home.
One of the biggest treats if you choose to stay over at Babylonstoren is that you get to begin the day with a Babel breakfast! Fresh fruit and juices straight from nature, homemade mueslis and thick yoghurts, farm honey, but always a choice of something delicious and hot, maybe Babylonstoren eggs and local Serrano style ham from the Valley.
Staying guests are invited to join the chefs in the open kitchen or on a foraging expedition to the garden. There will be something new for even the most seasoned foodie, try Tamarillos or home-grown Peanuts!