Must Visit: The Royal Portfolio

Travel

March 26, 2018 | BY Marga Manlapig

With three hotels offering exceptional amenities in the city, countryside, and safari trail, The Royal Portfolio transforms a trip to South Africa into a most luxurious sojourn

Exceptional luxury, plush comfort, and gracious service are not the words one usually hears when the notion of travelling to South Africa comes up. Despite living in more enlightened times, many still think that a trek to this country involves roughing it out either in the humid jungle or on the arid veldt. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth, as The Royal Portfolio proudly boasts of some of the country’s most luxurious hotel and resort stays.

Established by husband and wife team Phil and Liz Biden in 1999 when they converted their summer home in north-eastern South Africa into what is now the Royal Malewane, The Royal Portfolio currently boasts of four hotels and one serviced residence facility, all located in some of the most scenic and historically relevant areas of the country.

Philippine Tatler recently had the privilege of experiencing the nest in South African hospitality by way of three Royal Portfolio hotels that offer the best city, countryside, and safari experiences. From luxurious amenities to world-class cuisine, it has put South Africa on the map for truly luxe getaways.

Each of The Royal Portfolio’s properties captures the essence of its location: a distinctive and dynamic urban vibe at The Silo in Cape Town; a more laid-back feel tinged with the rustic elegance of rural France at La Residence in Franschhoek; and a sense of lively adventure at the Royal Malewane as one roams through the expanse of the Greater Kruger National Park.

The Silo

It’s a hotel that has the additional cachet of being located inside one of Cape Town’s most iconic structures—one it shares with the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (Zeitz MOCAA), which is rapidly gaining attention as a regional hub for arts and culture.

The building that houses The Silo is exactly that: a towering grain storage facility that was at the heart of South Africa’s industrial and agriculture development for nearly 80 years. Under the hand of award-winning British architect Thomas Heatherwick, the structure has been transformed into two facilities: the luxury hotel in what was the elevator tower and the museum in the storage silos below.

Officially opened in mid-2017, the 28-room Silo takes pride in its thoroughly modern design both inside and out. The building’s exterior is characterised by 5.5m multifaceted pillowed windows that curve outward to give the illusion that the building changes form depending on the location of the sun. On the inside, the windows offer magnificent views of Table Mountain, the bustling activity of the port area below, as well as the elegant commercial enclave that is the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Waterfront.

Each of the rooms bears the mark of Liz Biden’s impeccable style, as she herself personally designed and decorated them. Modernity is in full play when it comes to the décor with bold, colourful pieces of art juxtaposed against the stark industrial surroundings. Here, glass and steel are balanced by soft fabrics and whimsical bric-a-brac to create spaces that wouldn’t be out of place in the museum downstairs, but also offer solid, elegant comfort.

Speaking of the museum, guests can arrange for private tours of the Zeitz MOCAA through the hotel concierge or enjoy a more intimate artistic experience through The Vault, an exclusive gallery featuring the owners’ extensive art collection.

The Silo is also gaining a reputation for offering some of Cape Town’s best dining experiences thanks to executive chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert. The hotel’s Granary Café offers a delectable selection of international specialities paired with wines from South Africa’s leading wineries. The café’s breakfasts are considered a real treat with classics like eggs Benedict given a delectable twist, while the weekly Sunday Roasts have become an event that many Capetonians look forward to. Likewise, sundowners can be enjoyed at the Willaston Bar together with an excellent menu of bar snacks.

Whichever hotel one chooses to stay in, however, The Royal Portfolio always makes sure that the guest feels at home even while taking in sights and sensations that are all unique to the region. Indeed, for the Bidens, The Royal Portfolio will always be a family business that will stay true to its roots: their rich South African heritage.

La Residence

Located in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, the Franschhoek Valley shows a completely different side of the country.

The area’s name is a giveaway to its history: Franche Hoek—the French corner, as Protestant immigrants from France (the Huguenots) moved here in the 17th century, bringing traditions and customs that have enriched local culture.

A true haven in the mountains, Franschhoek is South African wine country: vineyards as far as the eye can see, lushly forested areas, and a distinctly more temperate climate.

With that in mind, The Royal Portfolio’s La Residence offers the genteel comfort of chateau living to guests seeking gustatory pleasures in the heart of South African gastronomy.

Located on a 30-acre estate, La Residence exudes rustic French elegance. On the outside, the architecture is reminiscent of Provençal country homes; indoors, a more luxurious aesthetic can be seen in crystal chandeliers, black and white marble floors, and ornate yet comfortable furniture upholstered in rich reds.

As with the rooms of other properties in The Royal Portfolio, the suites at La Residence combine a beautifully curated aesthetic with sheer comfort. Here, each suite has its own colour scheme and adheres to a particular theme. One room may be a study in gold and orange decorated with Tibetan art and artefacts; another would call to mind a room at Versailles with its marble oors and gilded accents.

Given that Franschhoek is the food and beverage capital of South Africa, it comes as no surprise that the cuisine served at La Residence is a major draw for both domestic and international travellers. Here, executive chef Lennard Marais puts an emphasis on eating in season and on location: locally farmed produce is used extensively in dishes, with some ingredients coming straight from the hotel’s own vegetable and herb gardens. Meals can be enjoyed in the comfort of the Great Hall or al fresco in the garden bower-inspired Persian Alley. Its location among vineyards enables La Residence to offer the very best wines in the region and also hosts exclusive wine tastings from time to time.

Guests also have the option to go wine tasting around Franschhoek, visiting vineyards and wineries by helicopter; indulge themselves at a local bespoke chocolaterie; immerse themselves in the unique culture of the region by visiting local museums or townships; or consider something more active like trout fishing, hiking, or paragliding.

Royal Malewane

The middle of South African bush country is probably one of the last places where one could expect to find exquisite lodgings that also offer world-class cuisine and spa therapies that have won international accolades, but the Royal Malewane offers solid luxury to travellers seeking a more refined safari experience.

Located in the Greater Kruger National Park, one of the country’s leading nature conservation zones, the Royal Malewane is a luxury safari lodge that offers an elegant alternative to more traditional veldt and bush treks. Lodgings are divided into two: accommodations in the main lodge which consist of eight suites, and the Africa House which can accommodate 12 guests at a time.

Each of the six luxury suites at the main lodge has an area of 116.5sqm, inclusive of an external deck and plunge pool where one may choose to relax. These suites also have gazebos for entertaining friends in, as well as replaces to stave off the chill of the cold season. The considerably more expansive royal suites have the same amenities, but also boast of a wider floor area at 300sqm and are furnished with plush Persian rugs and beautifully crafted deck furniture. Those staying in the royal suites can also avail of the services of a private chef and personal butlers, as well as a guide and vehicle for sightseeing outside the resort.

Africa House, on the other hand, adds a touch of native colour to bespoke luxury. The 680sqm accommodation features exquisitely crafted interior doors made from teakwood found in Lamu, meticulously carved four-poster beds from Mombasa, as well as modern African furnishings all expertly curated by Liz Biden.

In this location, game viewing is a prime attraction as this is the natural habitat of the Big Five safari animals: lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhinoceros. Guests can also customise their safaris by zoological or botanical interests, all led by expert guides who can share insights into the various ecosystems that populate the region. Other attractions include tours of the nearby Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, helicopter flights through scenic Blyde Canyon, hot air balloon flights, and a genteel round of golf at the Leopard Creek course.

Africa House, on the other hand, adds a touch of native colour to bespoke luxury. The 680sqm accommodation features exquisitely crafted interior doors made from teakwood found in Lamu, meticulously carved four-poster beds from Mombasa, as well as modern African furnishings all expertly curated by Liz Biden.

In this location, game viewing is a prime attraction as this is the natural habitat of the Big Five safari animals: lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhinoceros. Guests can also customise their safaris by zoological or botanical interests, all led by expert guides who can share insights into the various ecosystems that populate the region. Other attractions include tours of the nearby Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, helicopter flights through scenic Blyde Canyon, hot air balloon flights, and a genteel round of golf at the Leopard Creek course.

All that trekking can be exhausting, but guests seeking a soothing touch can drop by the award- winning Waters of Royal Malewane Bush Spa. Cited by British Tatler several times as one of the best spas in the world, this facility offers hydrotherapy using mineral-rich water taken from local sources—a most relaxing way to end an adventurous day.