Ellerman House, Cape Town: Not cheap, but for wine lovers, it's priceless

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The Independent Travel

There are 7,500 bottles in the wine cellar of Ellerman House. They have always been central to Ellerman's dining experience but are now taking over the hotel itself. At the end of last year, Ellerman House opened a second luxury villa. It has three floors, three bedrooms – each with its own terrace looking out over the ocean – an infinity pool on the roof, a surround-sound mini-cinema and a professional kitchen that comes complete with a 24-hour chef. The showstopper, though, is the villa's ground floor, and below – which is open to all guests.

This is Ellerman House's new Wine Gallery, a temple to booze. At its centre is a giant, walkthrough wine rack in the shape of a corkscrew. Stuffed with Chardonnay and Shiraz from the Stellenbosch and beyond, it leads down to the cellar proper.

Everything, from the staircases to the light fittings, was designed by South African artists, led by Angus Taylor. His feature wall is made up of tiles of soil samples from 100 wine farms around the country – so you can see a little of the ground that the grapes grew while you drink the wine that they made. The sommelier runs tastings at the bar; independent oenophiles can download the hotel's wine app.

As a place to start an exploration of South African wines, it is hard to beat. But it doesn't come cheap: the villa starts at the equivalent of almost £2,400 per night.

Less extravagant, though no less welcoming, the main hotel building is an elegant Edwardian mansion with verandas and balconies overlooking springy green lawns, gardens planted with indigenous flora from the Kirstenbosch and a small, breezy pool surrounded by wrought-iron loungers with monochrome striped cushions.

In the gym, the treadmill comes with fabulous views. The spa villa and treatment rooms are centred around a shared pool and terrace.

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Sumptuous rooms (Ross Hillier)

The Ellerman ethos is a home from home – though, as part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio, it is more plush and rather more formal than that suggests. It is, however, extremely peaceful. It was the summer residence of a shipping magnate before the South African investment banker Paul Harris turned it into a hotel in 1992. His South African art collection covers every inch of wall space.

The windows in a gallery on the lower terrace look across to the infamous Robben Island. The gallery features mainly contemporary artworks, many inspired by Nelson Mandela, the island prison's most celebrated inmate.

The home-from-home mantra extends to the catering. A 24-hour pantry has tea, coffee, soft drinks and beer, as well as sandwiches, cakes and jars of sweets to raid. The kitchen is open to guests who are encouraged to chat to chefs and make requests.

Breakfast and dinner are served on the terrace, weather permitting, which is preferable to a rather stuffy formal dining room. Dinner highlights include Cape Malay pickled yellowtail, springbok loin with celeriac and cranberry and, of course, a wine list as fat as a Bible.

Location

Ellerman House is in Bantry Bay, an expensive suburb of upmarket hotels, holiday homes and mansions clustered below the Lion's Head mountain and above the Atlantic shore. The centre of Cape Town and the Waterfront are both 10 minutes' drive away. The airport is half-an-hour's drive.

The hotel provides free airport links plus transfers within 15km during the day.

The hotel is well located for exploring Cape Town's beaches. The four smart, sandy coves of Clifton, and must-visit beach bar Bungalow are a 20-minute downhill walk, or five minutes' drive. Camps Bay, with its views of Table Mountain and busy pavement cafés, is 10 minutes by car. The entrance to Table Mountain's trails and cable car is 10 minutes' drive up the hill.

The Winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are under an hour away via a spectacular drive.

Comfort

There are 13 rooms at Ellerman House and two three-bedroom villas. The rooms in the main house are refined and stuffed with old-world comforts – lush carpets, heavy wooden furniture, giant bath-tubs. The Deluxe House Rooms have large terraces with sun loungers that look out over the gardens and the ocean.

The villas are more contemporary and super-sleek in style. There is 24-hour security and all rooms have Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and a generous complimentary minibar, including everything for a sunset gin and tonic on the balcony – right down to a fresh lime, chopping board and knife. Perhaps like home, after all, only with far better views.

Travel essentials

Ellerman House, 180 Kloof Road, Bantry Bay, Cape Town 8005, South Africa. 00 27 21 430 3200; ellerman.co.za

Rooms *****

Value ***

Service ****

Double rooms from ZAR5,500 (£307) in low season (1 May-31 October), including breakfast and airport transfers.

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