BACKGROUND: First built in 2007, the hotel underwent two full renovations before the Mont d’Or group bought it in November 2012 and renovated it again in 2015. The four other venues in the Mont d’Or collection are the Swartberg Hotel in Prince Albert, Monte Bello Estate in Bloemfontein, Bohemian House in Pretoria, and a Franschhoek property. The Mont d’Or group is part of the Extraordinary Collection of luxury lodges and hotels in southern Africa, which handles the marketing. With its flat roof tossed amid mountainous swells of the Rooiberge and Maloti, this boutique hotel feels like the love-child of a multi-roomed millionaire’s mansion and a cruise ship in a sea of golf-course greens, blue-gums, willows, and poplars.
WHERE IS IT? Situated at 502 Sias Oosthuizen Lane in the bucolic town of Clarens, it’s a three-hour drive from Johannesburg or Durban, and just 17 kilometres from the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, where towering sandstone galleries depict ancient subterranean rock art and antelope roam 11,600 hectares of highland habitat cleaved by the Caledon River.
ROOMS FACILITIES: All 24 air-conditioned rooms offer satellite TV, tea/coffee-making facilities, bar fridges, safes and en-suite bathrooms. My Executive Room, one of 12, had French doors opening onto a communal terrace with marvellous mountain views from two sides. There was a large bath, which I didn’t use – even though Clarens clearly gets enough rain – and a shower with great water pressure. The queen-sized bed had a lovely wooden headboard with two matching side-tables, stylish lamps in soothing shades of creams and taupe to match the embossed wallpaper and plush leather seating. Add an electric blanket, a fireplace, a wooden writing desk, flat-screen TV and complimentary wi-fi, and your cosy home-from-home feel is complete. There are also eight Classic Rooms, all with fireplaces, four Family Rooms and a Paraplegic Room. In addition, a house that can accommodate nine guests self-catering, is also available.
RESTAURANTS & BARS: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in La Vue Parfaite, the main restaurant that seats 80. Dinners comprise a buffet for bigger groups or an a la carte menu with robust portions of typical South African cuisine such as succulent oxtail served with samp, chicken curry, and an assortment of fish and seafood. Breakfasts, included in the rate, are hearty affairs with freshly baked hot croissants, cereals, eggs, bacon, sausages, fried potatoes and baked beans. There is also a private dining venue for 12 guests and an elegantly appointed bar area with plush leather seating, most conducive to the sharing of war stories between groups of Maloti Mountain hikers. A crackling log fire further adds to the warm ambience.
CONFERENCE FACILITIES: The hotel’s fully-equipped conferencing venue can seat up to 80 delegates in a variety of seating configurations from classroom to horseshoe. Equipment includes white board, slide projectors, flip charts, fixed screens, and lectern, with private bathroom facilities for delegates. Mont d’Or staff will gladly assist with team building activities, such as white-water rafting, quad biking, zip lining, abseiling, paintballing, archery, putt-putt, a climbing wall, mountain biking, and enduro trails in conjunction with the Clarens Xtreme company that specialises in corporate groups. The hotel also offers bicycles for hire and can arrange special game drives with a farm nearby. A drive to the Golden Gate park to see the vultures amid spectacular scenery is highly recommended.
LEISURE FACILITIES: A spa with three therapists offers a range of relaxing treatments, from hot stone massages to facials, manicures, and pedicures. Having done more than enough walking around the captivating little town and surrounds, I opted for an hour-long Mediterranean foot treatment involving paraffin wax that was worth the drive to Clarens alone. Golfers can tee off at the Clarens Golf & Leisure Estate 18-hole course right next door beneath the Horeb mountain and skiing packages to Lesotho can also be organised in winter.
VERDICT: An ideal conference or family venue, the Mont d’Or offers all the conveniences of a four-star luxury hotel with a laid-back village vibe. When you factor in the smooth service, spa, culinary flair, free parking, and truly spectacular views in every direction, corporate bonding is a given.