Route du Bonheur: Delaire Graff Estate

Relais & Chateaux, the global fellowship of fine hospitality, have found a way to derive maximum happiness from a road trip around the Cape in just four stops. I was lucky enough to be invited on their Cape Route du Bonheur. Here is…

Happy Place #2: DelairE Graff Estate

(In case you missed Happy Place #1, go back and find out where it is.)

It’s a wonderful feeling to be driving out of the city and into the Cape Winelands on a sunny day, especially when you’re in the back of a leather-lined BMW.  But even better is driving up the tree-lined driveway of Delaire Graff Estate and taking in the incredible views from the top of the hill.

How observant of you. Yes, those are indeed some of Dylan Lewis’s cat sculptures. In fact, the estate’s gardens feature 10 of Lewis’s magnificent bronze pieces, as well as others by Deborah Bell and Anton Smit. The gardens themselves were planted by landscape artist Keith Kirsten with more than 350 different species so that they flower 365 days a year.

But the gardens and sculpture aren’t the only art you’ll find at Delaire Graff. Mr Graff (as the staff call the estate’s owner, with discernible deference) is one of the world’s top art collectors. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to meet this lady at reception:

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Recognise her? Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl was one of the world’s most popular paintings in the 50s and 60s, and is one of the most reproduced artworks of the 20th Century. But this is the original.

Apparently, there was some outcry when Laurence Graff bought the painting on auction in 2013, as people thought it would never be seen again. However, the painting is kept on permanent public display in the lobby of the estate.

The entire estate is adorned with a wonderfully curated collection of South African art, which could almost rival the collection at Ellerman House (but not quite).

However, the art at Delaire Graff is somewhat surpassed by the food and wine. A meal at Indochine, the estate’s Asian-inspired fine dining restaurant, deserves a place at the top of every food-lover’s wishlist. The sommelier pairs each carefully-composed course with one of the estate’s elegant and totally scrummy wines and it’s hard to believe just how much you can eat when it’s presented this perfectly.

But if there’s one thing that could outshine the art, gardens, views, food and wine, it’s got to be the diamonds. Behind tasteful fish-scale security shutters, the Graff diamond shop is stuffed with jewels so ridiculously large and sparkly that it’s impossible to believe they’re real.

There’s something almost sublimely mad about a diamond and emerald-encrusted watch with hands so tiny you have to squint to see the time. If you feel the slightest pangs of guilt about spending half your salary on staying and eating at Delaire Graff, I recommend a visit to the diamond shop. A discreet enquiry as to the price of one of their butterfly watches should give you a sense of what ‘silly money’ really means.

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“My dear, would you like a nice house in Cape Town or this little bagatelle?”

Better and less expensive by far to simply stay here for a day or three. After all, memories are forever too.

Continue to Happy Place #3: Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve >

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