Paris by the sea

Abalone House is a quirky, romantic hideaway in Paternoster

Stepping inside this five-star guesthouse is like being welcomed into an old friend’s home. A cheerful staff member, who immediately knows us by first names, pours glasses of bubbly and takes us on a tour.

We’re in Paternoster for the weekend, and we’ll be sleeping here at Abalone House. Room after room is decorated with exquisite antiques, and rich colours make up the backdrop. Old is mixed seamlessly with new—from the library with ancient books, to the screen that shields the kitchen: it’s imprinted with photographs and you can see the chefs move behind it; a blur of whites.

Opposite this in the entrance hall hangs a Tretchikoff print. Owners Johann Jansen van Vuuren and Stef Venter’s love for the South African born artist is evident. Vibrant prints abound on the walls and the electric colour palette of the guesthouse is clearly inspired by the artist’s whimsy.

High tea

We get settled into our accommodation, and head back downstairs to The Orchid Room for high tea. The room is so named for the profusion of orchids dotted throughout; from deep mauve to tiny blooms with jungle patterns. Sitting at a table that looks out onto the sea, we tuck into smoked snoek mini sandwiches, scones drowning in cream and jam, and a delicate slice of kiwi sponge cake.

While we’re finishing up the manager comes in and asks us to join the rest of the guests at the front. Apparently a couple had just gone down to the beach, and had gotten engaged. When they come through the doors we shower them with rose petals and raucous applause.

The beach

Our turn to head to the beach. I eye my boyfriend suspiciously, hmm, he doesn’t look like he’s about to propose, safe for now.

The fishing village of Paternoster is simply beautiful to behold. All of the buildings are white, driving home its quintessential seaside feel.

On the beach a blood-orange sun dips into the blue horizon. A group of fishermen have thrown out a wide net and are pulling in a multitude of thrashing haarders, not doubt bound to be bokkoms, that West Coast specialty of ‘fish biltong.’

We walk until the sun has truly sunk, and the sky becomes a glittering galaxy. Free from light pollution, the universe is revealed in all its icy glory. I remember spotting a telescope in The Orchid Room and make a mental note to check it out later.

Saffron Restaurant

Soon it’s time for dinner. Infused with rose light, the room is opulently decked out; high wing-backed chairs, subtly sparkling chandeliers, deep carpeting, all combine to make us feel as if we’re in Paris by the sea.

The menu is most certainly fine dining, but with a modern West Coast take that’s quite special. The restaurant’s namesake also features on the menu, running as a thread throughout (excuse the expression). We dine on carrot and saffron soup, fillet in a truffle consommé, and chocolate risotto balls with marmalade ice cream for dessert.

The menu changes frequently, guests can expect everything from West Coast seafood, to more avant-garde creations from executive chef Darren Stewart. His wife Lindsay heads up front of house, and not only is she charming, but also incredibly helpful, peppering us with suggestions of things to do in Paternoster. At the moment they’re running a six-course special, and they often create affordable deals in low season.

To bed

With eyes rolling in the back of our heads we head to our room. On entering, we hear Enya playing softly through speakers, and our snug dressing gowns and slippers are laid out on the large bed. We go to sleep with a huge Tretchikoff print looking down on us.

The loft room is as beautifully furnished as the rest of the guesthouse; antiques mix with contemporary finishings. And the slanted wooden roof has a insulating effect.

There are 10 suites that circle an outside courtyard, complete with its own pool. And, you can see for miles, eyes unhindered, on the roof deck. There’s a boardroom for conferencing, but one of my favourite rooms is the Africa Bar, here old world meets new world in one big comforting collision. A fireplace takes up a whole wall, and bar’s range is staggering.

We sleep in, a wash of pummeling rain making it hard to get out of bed. This means we miss breakfast, but with last night’s feast and lunch at Oep ve Koep in front of us, somehow I think we’ll survive.

Words and photographs by Malu Lambert

Abalone House
No.3 Kriedoring Street | Paternoster | Western Cape | (022) 752 2044

Read more about our lunch at Oep ve Koep. And, we've compiled a list of places for you to stay in Paternoster, from beach camping to luxury living.

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