Right, the gal is up before the lark so that she can watch the sunrise, here at Ellerman House, while she uses the compact 24/7 Technogym, on one of the lower terraces of this multi-level magical luxury hotel. It would be very tempting to have a lie-in, and presumably many of the regular guests, who come from the USA (UK is now second) for anything up to two weeks during winter back home, do just that. But there is so much to explore.
Much to my surprise, Ellerman House does do a breakfast buffet, but of course it is bijou and perfect, with one of the world’s best mango plates – as good as those of Copacabana Palace in Rio, and Costa Smeralda in Sardinia – and perfect berries, and fabulous plain yoghurt that is, unusually for South Africa, not sweetened. I sit outside, using the full-strength WiFi. A green health drink is not consumed fast enough and begins to separate, as if in a fascinating lab test. I gaze at South Africa’s national flower, the protea.
Back at the buffet to pick up breads, I notice a modern painting among the historical works. Ellerman House’s owner, art fanatic Paul Harris, now works with art curator Margaret Slabbert who comes regularly from Pretoria to re-arrange pieces. She believes, apparently, in deliberating hanging old and new together. She is also helping with a recent addition to the facilities, an art studio space that can be used for temporary exhibitions, or even for guests of the hotel to try their hand at an easel. The hotel, by the way, is closed to anyone not staying in the 13 bedrooms or two separate villa-suites.
What is now the art studio used to be the wine store but now Paul Harris has, wait for it, built THE most outrageously gorgeous wine store imaginable, three floors total. Down deliberately-bashed metal steps to the basement you find the Dom Pérignon room, with a wall of crushed stone from Epernay. Next to it are the main wine stores, cooler for white than red, total complement at least 7,500 bottles, including Paul Harris’ own Audacia label. Back up at ground floor, a rear room has wall art showing a selection of brandies, new through to old, from the KWV winery.
The main part of the ground floor has a wall of a copper-separated patchwork of 100 different crushed soils, from 100 wineries identified by GPS codes rather than names, just in case they are sold – ‘architect’ is sculptor Angus Taylor, who has also done the three-metre-high brick head at the entrance to Ellerman House’s troglodyte art gallery. There are two tables, to seat up to 30 diners or wine-tasters (remember Ellerman House is closed to outsiders). Pride of place at this level is this wine coil, Brian Steinhobel’s carbon fibre sculpture with 1,500 horizontal holes, all rubber-lined, to hold wine bottles during maturation.
From here, you can take yet another designer-look spiral staircase up to the top floor, which is one of the luxury hotel’s two detached villa suites. This one is glass, with minimum walls, and interior colours are soft blues to match the Indian Ocean outside. There is a big Smeg kitchen, again open almost to the elements, and an entertainment room, and three big bedrooms, and a salon, and a rooftop pool with glass bottom… Paul Harris, what WILL you do next?