Grande Roche Hotel celebrates landmark pearl of an anniversary


IT is law that anything enjoyed at a hotel, that you sneak into your bag to take home, will not be quite as satisfying as it was at that establishment (the criminal thrill notwithstanding). I’m not talking about the big ticket items like the robes or the kettle or the pillows. Don’t take those; pens and miniature soaps are fair game and exempt from this law. A perfect example is the chocolate chip cookies in the jar at the tea and coffee station in Grande Roche suites, which is how I justified eating them all during my stay.

If I hadn’t they wouldn’t be recycled anyway, so that would have been a cruel and unnecessary waste. But I also instinctively knew, even if I legitimately wrapped them up in a napkin, they simply would not be as delicious after being transported to a new location. I don’t question the science behind this, it’s simply true. Those cookies are utterly delicious, with generous chocolate and butter you can taste. I have no regrets.

The Grande Roche in Paarl is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, traditionally marked by the pearl for marriages which reach this milestone, and beautifully tied in with the the town first named for the “pearls” of granite which shimmer on the mountain slopes above. For the unilingual, Paarl is die Pêrel in Afrikaans – literally “the pearl”.

Paarl residents Hansie and Theresa Britz bought the property in 2019, and have weathered the Covid storm. The couple also owns Under Oaks wine estate, about 15 minutes’ drive away, so naturally their wines are represented at the restaurant at Grande Roche (and also in the suite where a complimentary bottle of Sauvignon Blanc was chilling in the fridge), where Kevin Grobler is head chef. We hadn’t seen each other since his time at Delaire Graff in Stellenbosch some years ago so it was an affectionate reunion, with hugs, and glasses of wine while I had dinner. Kevin also held a senior position at Michelin-starred restaurant JAN in Nice which is a most respectable entry for a resumé.

I began in the elegant lounge with the new, specially created Pearl Of Paarl cocktail, which is a brandy play on a Sour and garnished with a little meringue. Thereafter I moved to the restaurant, which is lit by a row of grand chandeliers, glittering sconces, as well as lots of candles. Here, and in other spaces on the property, lush potted plants are in abundance, emanating a cool, tropical feel. The menu offers a selection of starters which are also available in full portion sizes, additional main courses, and desserts. Well, that’s one menu; there are several more which you can view on the website, including Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I would say “for those who plan far ahead” but the end (of the year) is closer than it seems. Eleven weeks until 2023. I’ll show myself out.

Kevin Grobler

Peruse the offerings at your leisure. I have purposely not looked at the breakfast menu, which I skipped because I was eating cookies on my stoep, with Red Espresso espresso (I only lost one unused capsule inside the machine); if I look I might be sorry to see what I missed. For dinner, I decided to have two starters: the grilled lettuce with anchovy butter, toasted almonds and nori jumped off the page for me, and it was even better when I found it had slivers of white anchovies as well. Damn, I love those little things, and grilling or charring lettuce is something that should be done more often. The wine pairing was the same Under Oaks SB that I had in my suite.

My second starter was beef carpaccio with charred onion puree, mustard seeds, crispy onions, truffle dressing, and deep fried capers. It makes me so happy when there is truffle when truffle is promised, because so often it’s boasted about on a menu but fails to materialise. It’s such a distinctive flavour you really can’t say it gets lost anywhere. The wine was Gaia Chenin Semillon blend. On to the main course, Kevin said he was somewhat surprised at what I’d chosen: the vegetarian dish of potatoes and leeks, basically a reconstructed vichyssoise. And why not? I love potatoes, and I love leeks, and I enjoy a virtually unrestricted diet. The wine was a Chardonnay from Olsen.

I was full enough to not need dessert, but we must be very clear on the grey area between need and want, and the intrigue presented by the combination of chocolate fondant, beetroot ice cream and pickled beetroot – an interesting conclusion, sitting happily in the zone of “not too sweet”, which is how I roll.

Back in the suite, the housekeeping fairies had laid out my robe and feet pillows, a pamphlet with sudoku puzzles was on the night stand (a sweet thought but I’ve never learned the rules; I swept the pen into my bag), and a cream-filled chocolate bon bon under a glass cloche with a bottle of water were on a mirrored tray. The bathroom lighting had been turned to subtle, and a bubble bath beckoned.

Warmed through, the plump pillows, the soft grassy scent of the thatched roof, and blissfully dark room ensured a good night’s rest. It puzzles me how people in movies only wake up when there is a blazing swathe of sunlight across their face. Also, why can they not just put coffee in the darn cup? That, or find actors who can convincingly pretend to be drinking a liquid that we can plainly see is not there.

Anyway. In other news, Grande Roche has bottled its first wine from its own vineyards, a Cab/Shiraz blend. It will be available exclusively in the restaurant.

To celebrate the hotel’s 30th anniversary, Grande Roche is offering two fantastic accommodation packages for guests to experience all that the hotel has to offer.

Grande Roche 30th Anniversary Package #1

  • One night’s accommodation for two guests in a Terrace Suite, breakfast included
  • Sunset canapés and signature cocktail of the day
  • A four-course gourmet dinner experience at the Restaurant at Grande Roche 
  • A bottle of selected Under Oaks estate wine to be enjoyed with dinner
  • R5 450, based on 2 persons sharing

Grande Roche 30th Anniversary Package #2  

  • One night’s accommodation for two guests in a Terrace Suite, breakfast included
  • Sunset canapés and signature cocktail of the day
  • A 4-course gourmet dinner experience at Grande Roche Restaurant
  • A bottle of selected Under Oaks estate wine to be enjoyed with dinner
  • A 60-minute couples’ massage 
  • R6 950, based on 2 persons sharing

Both packages may be extended upon request, with additional nights booked at a cost of R3 850 per night, including accommodation and breakfast. Valid from 1 March 2023 – 30 June 2023 and subject to availabilitity.   Terms and conditions apply. For booking enquiries, email [email protected] or call call +27 (0)21 863 5100. Also enquire about the beautiful High Teas on offer as well as Kevin’s monthly Food & Wine Celebration Dinners.

For more information about Grande Roche Hotel and Grande Roche Restaurant, click here or email [email protected]. The Grande Roche Hotel is located at 1 Plantasie Street, Paarl. Follow the journey to re-birth on Twitter @Grande_Roche, Facebook (GrandeRoche) and Instagram (Grande_Roche). 

#GrandeRoche #GrandeRoche30yrs #PearlofPaarl

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