Analjit (Bas) Singh is doing a Town Like Alice, but in Franschhoek, 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. He bought his first hotel, Le Quartier Français, at #16 and #18 Huguenot Street, and used it as the core for his newly-formed Leeu Collection. Next he bought a restaurant at #14, Huguenot Street, and turned it into a highly popular microbrewery, Tuk Tuk, complete with two copper stills and a highly qualified master brewer. He also bought #12, #10 and #8 Huguenot Street, and #12, which had a 1971-vintage Cape Dutch building operating as a bed and breakfast, is now, says the gal, the most lovely Leeu House hotel. It has its own big garden and oval pool, occupying whatever was on plot #10 (plot eight is currently used for storage).
Leeu House gardens, as in all elements of the Leeu Collection, are exquisite. The front lawns hold two lifesize statues. One is of Gandhi, who arrived in South Africa in 1893, as a newly-qualified, 24-year old lawyer, to work on behalf of a local Indian trader here – and stayed in Africa, on and off, until 1914. The other statue shows a smiling Mandela, holding a chair – this is just perfect for selfies. There are more brilliant sculptures in the 130-acre vineyards on sloping land three miles from downtown Franschhoek that form Leeu Estates (even the lines of working vines are meticulously exact, and absolutely weed-free). Leeu Estates’ Manor House was going to be a private house for the Singh family, but Bas Singh cannot let an opportunity pass, and it opens June 15th, 2016, as a ten room hotel, plus two apartments, and an art gallery.
Like every project Bas Singh is doing, the Manor House and Leeu House are being decorated by Beverley Boswell. At Leeu House, seagrass carpeting in the 12 bedrooms leads to big bathrooms, with marble floors, and under-heating. Colouring is palest taupe or off-white, apart from some really bold art in public areas (see a bit of the blue female nude, modestly shrouded by white orchids, shown at the top of the page here. There is stunning furniture throughout. Room nine has a silk-smooth soft oak coffee table, its top inset with a coin – and I love the two bedside lamps, both with wrought-iron tree-like base rods that bifurcate, as if into twigs, and one ‘twig’, with a bird on it, emerges from the top of the lampshade.
Guests at Leeu House can dine-and-sign at the Leeu Collection’s Le Quartier Français restaurants, or at Tuk Tuk micro brewery or, from June 15th, at the Manor House. It also has its own charming eating place, more like a bijou club lounge than a restaurant per se. I breakfasted there – see the video below. Oh the yoghurt (it was so rich I thought it was double cream). Really, sitting outside as the sun came up, looking at the hotel’s private pool, was an amazing final memory of this very special luxury hotel.