Cosmopolitan beach hang-out where Shimmy used to be
The Lord Milner Hotel
A visit to Matjiesfontein is only complete with a night spent here
We say Hello Matjiesfontein! And the heart of the Victorian village is the Lord Milner Hotel. There are many people that spent a night of their honeymoon here, in room 18 (honeymoon suite with two bathtubs next to each other) – and as it’s supposed to be – everything is still the same.
120 people can stay over in Matjiesfontein, but the most special experience you could probably have is in the 15 rooms in the hotel—old-school furnishings with en-suite bathrooms. It’s positively old fashioned, but that’s what the Matjiesfontein experience is all about. Receptionist Cindy and Jonathan Rawdon (owner) welcome us at the reception in the old Standard Bank. We stroll to our room with excitement, passing spacious courtyards, stoeps and lounges filled with antiques.
Teresa the cat, sprawled as if on a throne in front of the red-carpeted staircase welcomes us, she was born in a Rolls Royce in 2003 and adopted as hotel cat (she’s a queen and only eats dry biscuits). Matjiesfontein is about taking time for details, give Teresa a pat and have a look around at all the paintings and ancient furniture you‘ll find at the old Lord Milner Hotel. The staff is dressed just as old fashioned as Matjiesfontein is, you will hear yourself saying 'that’s so old school' many times. The staff is what makes Matjiesfontein so special.
There is only one dinner-option (every day 7pm – 10pm) in Matjiesfontein, at the restaurant at the Lord Milner Hotel. The 'red jackets', the porters will welcome you at the doors. Head cook Susan is here since the beginning in 1970, Judy Rawdon tells me "You can’t mess with her". The menu always offers a chicken, lamb and steak dish and let me tell you, you won’t be hungry after this meal. The first night I go for the Portuguese chicken served with rice and vegetables, beans and sweet potatoes, my husband quickly finished his grilled Karoo lamb chops with mint butter, creamed potatoes and vegetables, beans and sweet potatoes. For dessert we share Cape Brandy pudding with custard. All very affordable. On my second night I have the biggest steak of my life. What’s so special about the Lord Milner Hotel restaurant? It’s certainly the atmosphere: the fireplace, the candles, old cutlery and crockery with a Logan print, the wooden chairs, how the friendly staff serves the food, the bonnets ('the funny things') on their heads. By the way, the bonnets on the ladies heads are "open during the day and closed at night like a sunflower" tells me our waitress.
We dine with couples young and old, some are here for their honeymoon, others here to relive it on their anniversaries, families.. I am well impressed with the wine list offering a nice collection of favourites (Lanzerac, Rooiberg, Warwick, Quoin Rock, Paul Cluver, Waterford etc.).
When it’s breakfast time (7.30am – 10am), the bonnets are open and you can expect a huge buffet with coffee, tea, fruit salad, cold meat, cereal, yogurt, fishcakes, sausages, bacon, vetkoek, French toast, fried eggs, loads of jams, marmite - this is a breakfast heaven!
In case the hotel is fully booked, there is more accommodation: the Garden Mews (for 2 persons), self catering cottages, family cottages and the infamous swimming pool suite (nice for the bride and bridesmaids getting ready before the wedding). Matjiesfontein means 100% relaxation, there are no TVs in the room (but a TV room in case you need it) and only a very slow dial-up internet connection at the reception. Welcome to the past!
by Antonia Heil | photographs by Desmond Louw
Lord Milner Hotel
Matjiesfontein | +27 (0)23 561 3011
Matjiesfontein is a small village, but there are many things to do.
For your monthly update on what’s happening in and around Cape Town, be sure to subscribe to our popular newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.