WHEN the name of a place contains a certain word, it’s gratifying when that thing actually exists; The Vineyard Country House in Montagu delivers exactly what it promises – a view of the vineyards (and orchards) among which it is set.
The property comprises five exquisitely and individually decorated spacious en-suite rooms which open onto deep shaded verandas. To the best of my observational skills, all have outside showers (with varying levels of modesty) which will be incredibly welcome when the summer temperatures climb into the 40s. There’s also a pretty pool in which to cool down; we braved it for a bracing first dip of the season.
Vineyard Country House is on your right as you drive into Montagu, with the entrance in Long Street. Behind the walls are the titular vineyards, each vibrant green row bracketed with abundantly flowering rose trees, their boughs laden with scented white blooms, as well as the orchards which beckon enticingly with their promise of gentle walks in the cool of dusk or dawn.
Owned and run by Louise Smith and Lauren Zarges – ably assisted by the roly-poly pugs Isabella and Basil and friendly kitty Neville-Anne (named thus because when she arrived her gender had not yet been determined; conversely it was the former that stuck) – this place has a sincere feeling of being in someone’s private home where you are being put up in one of the spare bedrooms.
After dropping our bags in the room and oohing and aahing over all the prettiness, we plumped ourselves down in the communal lounge area which is filled with books, board games and to my eternal delight, a turntable and records. And what a wonderful collection too – Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Led Zeppelin…we were told we could do whatever made us happy. It turns out, playing music and drinking gin and tonic while Louise and Lauren cooked dinner did exactly that.
The food here was how our journey began, when Louise emailed to tell me about their guest house. “We may be a little biased but we are pretty sure that our beautiful property is worth a visit. We have been in Montagu for six and a half years and have built up an international reputation for our food and accommodation,” she wrote.
“We are situated on a working farm with a small vineyard and our food footprint is tiny – local honey and preserves, homemade butter and breads, eggs, milk and cream from our neighbours, fresh trout from a mountain farm a few kilometres out of town – all delicious and always beautifully presented.”
She was not making it up.
We were invited to dine with our hosts and their friends on the first evening, and were treated to a magnificent three-course meal, displayed as gorgeously as any good restaurant in the big city. “Pork belly or lamb?” Louise had asked ahead of our arrival. We chose the pork belly and were not disappointed; that crackling was just superb, the stuff of dreams.
Breakfasts are also three-course affairs, and vary according to what’s best on that day. Louise’s omelettes are the lightest and fluffiest I have ever encountered (which is saying a lot because I almost always have an omelette for breakfast on my travels) and she very kindly shared her cooking secret with me. Perhaps she’ll do the same for you.
Suitably fortified with a hearty brekkie, you can sally forth to explore the cute little town. If you’re there over a weekend, there’s a market every Saturday morning next door to the church. I’ve been there twice in the past couple of months and both times found excellent second hand books, and pretty jewellery. It seems as if the traders change from time to time too, so there’s a good chance you’ll see different things.
When the hunger pangs kick in again, you can choose from eateries in the town, or head down to the local supermarket to pick up something to eat back at the guest house.
Apart from these moments of frenetic activity I’ve described, we managed to pass the entire two days and two nights with nary another single plan in place. It was wonderfully relaxing and the personal touch of being sent on our way with a handpicked bunch of flowers and herbs from the garden was the perfect finale.
Where: 42 Long Street, Montagu
Telephone: 023 614 3808
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN
- An edited version of this story first appeared in Independent Travel, November 3, 2018