Ninety minutes’ drive from Cape Town, the idyllic Franschhoek – French town – was founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, and that Franco-association is still really apparent today. The gal always thinks, actually, that Franschhoek is really like California’s St Helena, but without the American town‘s Route-29, crowded with silver-tube RVs, recreational vehicles. Franschhoek’s main route, Huguenot Street, by contrast, is relatively quiet, and its buildings either side are either really historic, or they look so. There are superb restaurants – see the video, below, of Chris Erasmus at his Foliage restaurant, on Huguenot. The main street also has some of the area’s many luxury hotels.
I arrived with Tausch Travels, the excellent DMC that has driven me before. We passed a church, above, and some fascinating stores and restaurants. Later I took first a cycle ride along Huguenot, keeping to the bike lanes either side of the car routes, and then I walked, checking on some of the intriguing shops. One offered winetasting, 20 olive oils for you to design your own blend, and a range of intriguing and highly alcoholic liqueurs. But I came across many unique pointers here in Franschhoek. See my good friend Luis Pinheiro eating his favourite sticky-bun icecream. The famous Le Quartier Français hotel and restaurants apparently serves home-made sticky buns at breakfast, and any left-overs become icecream. Le Quartier Français, known to insiders as LQF, leaves so many memories. First, its main restaurant, run by Netherlands-born chef Margot Janse for many years, is booked weeks ahead.
Interesting fact, here: Margot started cooking 200 hot lunches every day, for underprivileged kids in local primary schools and, sponsored by LQF guests, she and her team still do this, and another 1,100 hot lunches, also paid for by LQF guests, are cooked in schools. I did not actually stay in LQF, but I lunched in the second restaurant, which is tapas style, and I used its Technogym. I also oohed and aahed at some of the furnishings. Look at this clever way of storing paperbacks, under glass-topped coffee table – you can take out books to read.
LQF is now owned by the magnificent and magnanimous Analjit (Bas) Singh, who has more or less got out of all his 12 companies in healthcare, pharmaceuticals and technology. Hospitality was not on his agenda until he arrived in Franschhoek – not surprisingly, as a wine lover who is a member of the Napa Wine Reserve club at Meadowood, he fell in love with Franschhoek and its vineyards, and its surrounding mountains. Before he knew it he had his first luxury hotel, LQF, and he formed the Leeu Collection, named for Leeu, lion. And now read more about what Bas Singh and the Leeu Collection are up to…