At the base of the magnificent Paarl Rock lies the equally impressive Grande Roche Hotel, a historical monument lovingly restored into one of South Africa’s finest 5* hotels. Turning off the bustling main road in Paarl you quickly reach the gates of the Grande Roche, and immediately a sense of calm embraces you. The serenity of this beautiful old lady is infectious. The staff exude professional warmth and a hospitable charm, meeting you at your car to carry your luggage to the room. You know you are in good hands when you are gifted your own personal Charlotte Rhys hand sanitiser on check-in.
The original buildings, which date back to 1701 still stand, including former slave quarters, stable and garage houses, all of which have been transformed into luxury suites. A beautiful Cape Dutch Manor House is the epicentre of the hotel and home to the remarkable Grande Roche Restaurant. The buildings are nestled within beautifully manicured gardens, surrounded by imposing views of mountains and vineyards, a haven in the heart of Paarl.
The building’s exterior radiates old world charm. Stepping inside, you are met with stylish contemporary interiors oozing Cape character. Incredible attention to detail and all the amenities you could wish for, beautifully presented. I often critique a hotel on their shower and the power thereof, and my word, the shower at the Grande Roche over-delivers, as does the bath and complimentary Charlotte Rhys toiletries.
We dropped our bags in our gorgeous room and after an insatiable desire never to leave, changed and meandered through the flourishing gardens and found our way to the pool. We were met with refreshing strawberry mocktails, a shimmering turquoise pool, palm trees and a sense of serenity. An enchanting waitress offered us a snack menu and extensive drink menu; we lay back in the 38-degree heat, and there was nowhere else we would rather be.
Towards the end of 2020 The Restaurant at Grande Roche was taken over by Kevin Grobler and his wife Inemari, and her parents Celia and Rayno Rabie. Grobler has an impressive CV, including running the kitchen at Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s Michelin-starred JAN in Nice, France; and head chef position at Delaire Graff outside Stellenbosch. Inemari is an established chef in her own right and her creativity as a food stylist will add flair to the visual experience of the meals.
“Although I’ve had my share of business experience I realised I can’t do this alone. Especially not such a big setup, so I called in the cavalry. My wife, who is a food stylist but also a qualified chef, Theresa Britz, Grande Roche owner and the hotel’s director Johann Bouwer have the right background and experience to complete the package. This way I get to focus on the food and not get lost in the running of the business.” Says Kevin.
We started our dining experience on the terrace with incredible panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and vineyards, sipping Graham Beck Cap Classique as the skies turned pink. To start, I chose Beef, Pickled Beetroot, Caramelized Onion Cream, Horseradish Mousse. The perfectly balanced dish was full of complementary and familiar flavours and a delightful start to what ensued a spectacular meal.
We moved inside for the mains, into a remarkable dining room; luxurious interiors, dancing with a comforting-warmth, glistening touches of mustard and gold hues echoing the candlelit tables, chandeliers and mirrors. Having had beef for starters, I warily ordered Dry Aged Duck Breast, Whiskey Pickled Cherries, Orange-Glazed Potato, Duck Jus for mains. My hesitation was due to many poorly cooked duck dishes in South African restaurants; it seems to be meat that is difficult to master on South African soil for some reason. My fears were quickly resolved on receipt of my main course; the duck was succulent and perfectly cooked. Both my husband and my portions were beyond generous in size, definitely catering for the Paarl locals. An array of extra sides were also served; there was no chance anyone could leave The Grande Roche Restaurant hungry nor complain of ‘measly fine dining portions’. We couldn’t resist a taste of the desserts after such a delicious gastronomic series that led us here, and the goat’s cheese cheesecake certainly didn’t disappoint.
Have a look at the menus here https://granderoche.com/restaurant-2/.
The morning after
In no rush to leave, I soaked my wine flu away in a soothing bath scented with Charlotte Rhys bath salts. I ordered room service, and sitting in my fluffy white gown, on my private terrace over looking the vineyards, I indulged in the most decadent lemon & Poppyseed Flapjacks, Cream Cheese Frosting with extra Bacon (of course!) accompanied by the most delicious orange juice. This was the most impeccable ending to the most wonderful stay. I couldn’t have asked for more and left with fond memories and a full heart. I can’t recommend The Grande Roche enough; having stayed at other 5* establishments, I can fairly state that they go the extra mile to fulfil all your needs, to pamper and indulge you with a luxurious stay. I was sad to leave but so appreciative of the 24-hour stay and to have the opportunity to share my experiences with others.
For more information and to book your stay have a look at their website https://granderoche.com