I must have driven past the Asara Estate hundreds of times, and at long last I had the sense to pull off the road and see what all the fuss was about.
Despite being a working wine farm, producing better wines year after year, this is also a boutique hotel, conference centre, and has an array of bars and restaurants.
My fame had preceded me and I was housed in a suite overlooking the valley and the vineyards. It was a location fit for a king – not the Zulu king, obviously, coz he is broke. Fruit, wine and DSTV awaited me in the room. All a man could desire.
The bed was comfortable, with pillows which were almost as plump as I was, and the bathroom had the normal array of towels, toilets, showers and so on. The floor was exceedingly slippery, but annoyingly I failed to slip and break anything, so was unable to sue for enough to buy the place and retire there.
There was a comfortable lounge and the casual dinning restaurant (and the breakfast room) had brilliant views. Whoever decided to turn the first sod for this hotel was a bright sod.
Unfortunately I stayed out of season, so the posh restaurant was closed. But there was an adequate array of meals. I would have preferred a few savoury snacks, and the cheese board was pretty dull, but for those with a sweet tooth, the place has a deli with very tasty biscuits, chocs and cakes. Worth a visit in its own right.
One of the joys of staying in a good hotel is being able to have a cooked breakfast, and as ISIS have not yet taken over Stellenbosch, there was plenty of bacon. I had the scrambled eggs with salmon one day; Eggs Benedict another, and there was always a fry up of eggs and bacon on offer. The buffet was ample, excellent quality, and if you did not finish your cheese platter the night before, there it was again on the buffet.
Throughout the place, the service was casual and friendly, without being too informal. And that view!
I popped into the tasting room, which is next to the hotel, and there were happy folk huddled around the tables. After being ignored for a while. I popped out again.
Like any place, there is room for improvement. They have a pizza oven, but the pizzas are not great. A nice crisp base, but the toppings taste like they comes out of a bottle.
When I tried to get a light toasted sandwich, I was on two occasions told I would have to wait until after 10pm, when the night room-service kicked in. I stood my ground, and they made a plan.
I think the staff are wonderful, but they don’t all have the service mentality drilled into them.
Of course, the highlight for me of Asara is the 320-gin selection in the gin bar. More of that later.
John Fraser was a guest of Asara.