Hotel Check: The Orient

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Background

At the turn of the 21st century, Cobus du Plessis bought 280 hectares of farming properties in the Crocodile River Valley to create the Francolin Conservancy in Elandsfontein, home to three species of Francolin, several types of antelope, jackal, and caracul. He replaced the grasslands and built a 10-suite, 5-star boutique hotel for his partner Mari Dartnall and her daughter Chantel, a multi-award winning chef.

Where Is It?

On the Francolin Conservancy in Elandsfontein, it’s about a 30-minute drive from the Johannesburg suburb of Fourways and 35 minutes from Pretoria. From Johannesburg, take the William Nicol road north over the N1 Western Bypass. Turn left into the R511 towards Hartbeespoort Dam and Sun City. Continue through the Hennops River Valley to the crossing with the R104 towards Pretoria. Turn right on the R104 for three kilometres to the Elandsfontein turnoff. Turn left at the signpost and proceed with the gravel road for just over a kilometre to The Orient.

Rooms

Ten suites continue the exotic Moorish theme with fireplaces, comfy four-poster beds, antique furniture, brocaded fabrics, original oils, objets d’art, and wooden balconies with views across the valley. Kurtas – loose, comfy knee-length shirts popular in India and Pakistan – were provided along with slippers and the usual 5-star amenities, including free Wi-Fi in the rooms.

Dining

The Restaurant Mosaic, domain of Chantel – who has worked with Michelin award-winning chefs in London and Bordeaux – entices the business cognoscenti with eight-course Grande Degustation menus and five-course Petite Degustation. An à la carte menu is available too. At least 12 Chilean vintages from Concha y Toro washed down our 12 courses, and while I dutifully jotted down a few aide memoires, sadly the scribbles in my wine-soaked notebook were indecipherable by the next morning. Some morsels stood out – razor clams with horseradish mousse, lavender-scented oysters in passion fruit jelly, foie gras, quail pies, and slow braised rabbit ravioli – let’s just say the Restaurant Mosaic deserves every award, and there’ve been many. Also on site are five cellars featuring 30,000 top South African and international vintages. Décor is classically elegant Belle Époque, and Mosaic at the Orient also offers two private dining rooms. Guests can also enjoy a pre-prandial cocktail in the hotel bar or outside on the terrace.

Meeting & Conference Facilities

A Chile-based wine conference held at The Orient kicked off with a presentation in the plush Le Petit Alhambra, the hotel’s private 20-seater cinema with red velvet chairs, surround sound and a massive screen, while waiters served champagne and canapés of cured ham, quince, pickled anchovies, and salmon roe. The Concha y Toro wine tasting seminar took place in the 20-seater boardroom, with its limited edition books and Persian carpets. The Chilean delegates spoke to us via Skype, the images projected onto a big screen as well as from the computer. There are also two eight-seater conference rooms. From day symposiums to longer fully inclusive stays, conference co-ordinators are available to help with everything from banqueting to audio-visual assistance.

Leisure Facilities

Guests can rifle through collections of old, rare and new books in the library, relax on sun loungers with brief forays into the pool, or stroll the grounds where bronze Tienie Pritchard statues abound. There is even a museum and art gallery on the premises. The emphasis is on laid-back leisure time – brace your bow on the archery field, swing a croquet mallet, toss your boules on one of two Pétanque courts. Shopping malls, golf-courses and other places of interest are within easy driving reach.

Verdict

This Tshwane-style Taj Mahal – one man’s architectural tribute to his (living) woman and their daughter – is worth a visit for the Mosaic restaurant alone, but you would be well advised to stay the night. You will awaken to a symphony of birdsong, weavers building nests right outside your balcony, and probably the best eggs benedict on the planet.

Caroline Hurry

Contact
Address:
Francolin Conservancy, Elandsfontein
Tel:
+27 12 371 2902
Email: email mari@the-orient.net
Web: www.the-orient.net