Of course doing a safari was one thing I had pretty high on my bucket list but secretly the actual reason South Africa was on my to visit wishlist was an estate located about an hour away from Cape Town. For years I dreamt about a visit to this farm hotel in the middle of the Winelands and when I knew I was going to South Africa there was no question I would leave the country without a visit to Babylonstoren. Pretty hard to live up to expectations you might think. Well, by now I can say for myself, I’m pretty sure you will love it too.
Just one advice to start with: plan more days. Try to stay there, or anywhere near, at least for two nights, better three. You’ll need it. Not just because you will love to wander at least a day through the eight-acre organic kitchen garden with all the fruits, vegetables and herbs you can imagine. But also because you MUST do the breakfast buffet! After this you’ll be so full you won’t be able to have lunch at the same day at their Greenhouse restaurant which you shouldn’t miss either. By time the evening falls though you might find some place again (if you skipped the lunch though) for a dinner at Babel restaurant. Or, to be more clear, you háve to find some place because they’re definitely not shy on their portions at all.
The ‘farm-to-table’ philosophy is obviously well presented with a garden like theirs around. Almost everything on your plate will be grown there. For starters you choose a seasonal red, yellow or green salad that within the colour range still gives you a large variety or produce. The main courses come with a spectacular offering of sides, presented as little pieces of art on sticks, in little pots, etc. A feast for the eye as well as for the stomach. I’m unfortunately not able to tell you anything about the desserts, I was full. Satisfied. Almost exploding. People close to me know that this is definitely an exception. It might tell you something about the amount of food you’ll get. But, not complaining here. I found a good reason to go back!
Back to breakfast. I could actually do a full post about it. I took tons of pics, and tons of bites. I’ve seen a lot of hotel breakfasts over the last years but I’m confident to say there’s no other place that can tops the breakfast at Babylonstoren. If someone claims they have, I’m happy to accept an invitation to prove it.
An enormous colorful, abundant table exploding with a variety of granolas (try the savory one!), delicious yoghurts, honeycomb, jams, fresh homemade bread, oozy cheese, cured meats and of course fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden. If you can’t find enough on this table, there’s also a hot breakfast menu with options like French toast, grilled halloumi with juicy figs and courgette flower and eggs poaches, fried or in any way you can wish for. Yes, you definitely have to postpone lunch to the next day.
After breakfast go for a nap in the sun next to the hidden swimming pool or, if you’re more of an active type, for a walk or a bike ride through the estate.
With the ‘if you see something that’s ripe then pick it’ instructions this exploration somewhat turns into a little quest. Don’t forget to pet the donkeys along the way, take your picture in the cacti garden and enjoy the historic Dutch architecture with buildings that date back to 1750. In a way these Dutch influences made this place feel weirdly homy for me. Though the welcoming staff and the comfortable house we stayed in might had to do something with that as well.
Of course, at a place with its own winery, your day activities need to be enclosed with a glass of wine in the afternoon. Or even better, a wine tasting and a tour through the production space and the wine cellar. After that: Get prepared for dinner!
If you didn’t notice yet, Babylonstoren knows how to give you the ultimate Experience with a capital E. As said before, if you are ultimately privileged to stay here, you really need two, or better three nights here to fully enjoy the experience it offers. If it’s out of your budget, there are cheaper options in the area but if you schedule a trip to that area, reserve at least two days for this.
My stay there was focussed on taking photos with Maranda Engelbrecht, the creative director, food developer and stylist of Babylonstoren which was another inspiring experience in itself. To see how she uses her eye for styling and the seemingly easiness she does this with was such a pleasure in itself. I could spend days taking pictures with her, these shoots remember me why I wanted to do what I’m doing. The creativity, the food, and the lifestyle around this: it definitely made my love for this place grow even more. And another good thing that came with these shoots is that I got to taste the whole menu and got to visit areas on the estate I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Though I still need to go back and discover the acres I didn’t see and enjoy that afternoon lingering at the poolside myself.
So, I actually didn’t take this place off of my to visit list yet. I left it on. I didn’t get enough of it. I need to go back.