A very Neil Perry African adventure

Like Australia, South Africa is blessed with much bounty from both the sea and land. And who better to give you the tour than super chef Neil Perry.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, enjoys some South African luxury while sampling the country's sea-dwelling and shore-based delectables.

About two years ago I turned to Mr NQN one day and whispered "honey, I think somehow I became a travel writer!” Although this sounds disingenuous, it was a real moment for me but it was only after I had written about a lot of trips that I realised that I had become what I had always dreamed of being.

However, one thing that I have learned over the years. Even though jetlag may have taken hold, you just need to try to power through it because there are some truly spectacular sights and places to visit that you are privileged to visit. Touching down in Johannesburg and taking a transfer flight to stunning Cape Town, we are indeed in a jetlagged daze. We also make the mistake of checking the time in Sydney (4am mistake!).

We are headed to Ellerman House, our home away from home for the next two nights. And over the following week we will follow Rockpool chef and owner Neil Perry and his wife Samantha as Neil films 'webisodes' of his tour of South Africa.

cape town south africa

The drive towards Ellerman House is all curves and it sits on the slopes facing Lions Head Mountain above Bantry Bay which affords it some truly unforgettable views of the Atlantic seaboard. The Cape Edwardian mansion was named after the shipping magnate Sir John Ellerman. It was his family’s summer residence and in 1992, it was converted into a nine room, two suite and private villa hotel. It is part of the luxurious Relais and Chateaux family.

The main sitting room is opulent, elegant and luxurious. Without a formal lobby, it is designed so that you feel like you are staying in someone’s house and the friendly, relaxed service from all members of staff also contribute to this. There are comfortable couches on which to sink sore bones into. Expansive flower arrangements perfume and beautify at every turn.

cape town south africa

South African art plays a large role in the decor and they have several priceless originals including a beautiful Irma Stern painting. She is recognised as South Africa’s most sellable artist with her paintings fetching up to $14 million ZAR or $1.6 million. The dining room has a John Meyer painting and other artists like Pierneef also feature.

I walk down to my room downstairs which is number 11, the East Wing suite and open the double doors. I take a sharp intake of breath. Even through the haze of jetlag and the need to sleep, what strikes me is how beautiful it is. The main room has an eight person dining table setting with a glass top and leopard print covered chairs. A welcome refreshment of fruit salad greets me along with some house made iced tea.

There are complimentary spirits with scotch, gin and house made lime cordial and if you prefer other spirits, just tell them and they will stock them. The top drawer holds all of the accoutrements for making your own gin and tonic and the second drawer holds a range of complimentary snacks from coconut dusted marshmallows, lollies, chocolates and potato crisps.

It is dark when we check in so I am excited to see what the view outside will look like tomorrow morning but taking a peek past the curtains, I see the faint twinkle of lights in the distance. The East Wing Suite also has garden access through one of its two balcony doors and there are sun lounges so that you can sit and soak up the sun like a cat at leisure. The 26 sq m wraparound balcony extends around the room which is a total of 120 sq m.

I walk through to the bedroom and pause in front of the king sized bed. Each room is decorated differently with different colour schemes to each and this one is decorated in golden and metallic hues. Heated carpet warms my feet. There is a second sitting room adjacent to the bedroom and from there, two chaise lounges sit side by side with books in between them meant for leafing. And if the view gets too much, there are two televisions in each room.

The walk in wardrobe is sizeable and leads to the oversize bathroom, a cream marble beauty with a bath to the right and two sinks in front. In the far corner is a toilet and bidet decked out with magazines. Amenities are by South African brand Charlotte Rhys and include a vanity kit with cotton tips, pads, shower cap and sewing kit, soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bath foam and bath salts. There are robes and slippers to envelop after a bubble filled bath.

The shower has an enormous, old fashioned shower head the size of a frying pan. International plugs mean no adaptors are necessary and there is also free wifi and a complimentary laundry service which picks up at 10:30am and returns it with turn down wrapped in tissue paper in a box.

Ellerman House’s cellar has 7500 bottles of wine and the personable Veronica Canha-Hibbert is the executive chef. The open kitchen means that guests can walk past and see them preparing the meals and often request certain dishes which they are happy to fulfil as part of their ”guest centred catering” edict. The food served at Ellerman House could feature items such as brule chicken liver parfait, fragrant pork belly confit, kalamansi lime cheesecake or banoffee millionaire and a new menu is created every day.

Turndown in the room has already been performed and they lay down a cloth and slippers. A Lindt chocolate is put on the pillow and there’s also a three day forecast (that incidentally mirrors the weather that we have just left in Sydney). I place a wake up call and an order of a pot of tea for the morning as there isn’t a kettle in the room. I can’t resist and take a bath even though the hour is very late and I light the mini candle provided and soak away any soreness from the flight. I climb into bed and I squeal with delight. No, it wasn’t Mr NQN, but it was a knitted hot water bottle slipped in under the doona that kept me warm the whole night instead.

The next day after a wonderful but brief snooze I have my tray of tea waiting for me and I do some work. I should mention that over the next two days, whenever I order tea, they deliver it anywhere on the grounds and I never have to specify how I like it or what tea I would like as they just remember. Excitedly, I open the curtains periodically while waiting for sunrise which doesn’t happen until 7:40am. And it’s worth the wait as the sun slowly casts a glow of light onto the Atlantic coast and the view of white houses lining the beach and light sand conspire to make the coastline of Cape Town one of the most eye catching views.

I go down for breakfast and join Neil and his wife Samantha at their table. They’re both very down to earth and approachable and are as excited as we all are about being in South Africa. For many of us, it is our first time here and we had no idea what to expect...

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