Down a quiet dusty road in Franschhoek is nestled the dreamy,
and beautiful La Residence, the pride and joy of owners
Phil and Liz Biden
It was early in 2010 when Liz and Phil Biden, the owners of The Royal Portfolio, first invited me to visit and review one of their properties. That was the extraordinary Royal Malewane and Africa House in the greater Kruger National Park – an exquisite escape from city life into the bush, surrounded by the Big Five and luxuriously designed and styled by Liz herself to offer you her unique blend of 5 star-style meeting the wild of nature. Then followed a visit to their next property Birkenhead House in the Coastal town of Hermanus and a chance to experience more of the magic, this time blending that 5 star style with the wild of the ocean, once again perfectly executed. And so finally it was time to experience their final property, La Residence, nestled quietly in Franschhoek in the Cape Wine-lands. Having experienced their previous two properties, and having heard so much about La Residence, I wasn’t expecting to be disappointed, and I wasn’t. Blending Liz’s now well-known signature style within the beautiful Cape Wine-lands has produced a delightful and charming retreat from which to base yourself in luxury while you plan your visit to one of the most beautiful places on earth. La Residence was added to the Royal Portfolio during 2008 when it opened its doors for the first time, having been painstakingly designed, built, decorated and furnished by Liz and her team to her now well-known exacting standards. Comprising 11 individually designed and distinctive suites and, in the gardens, 5 magnificent villas La Residence could easily be argued to be the most significant hotel property in the Cape Wine-lands. A short drive up a private road, past some buck and a very cute Shetland pony, and you turn into the driveway for the property where you are warmly welcomed by a number of the staff and the start of your every need and whim being addressed begins. I find that the difference between newly trained staff and seasoned, caring professionals is always patently obvious and here at La Residence that is no different. The staff at La Residence is extremely polite, courteous, welcoming and beyond all else, are professionals in their trade. They successfully cut a fine balance here between meeting your every need and blending into the background, and as a result you never want for anything nor do you ever feel that you are being hustled and bustled. As a result you can easily have a private, personal and romantic experience as though it’s just the two of you and there’s no one else around. Led by Edward, the charming General Manager, the team here performs to the same standards that you have come to expect from the finest establishments whether in South Africa, Europe or the United States. Each of the large suites is individually decorated and themed. Each theme, expertly executed and holds you close in the same way that the luxurious bedding in each suite holds you close at night.
Your suite is too good to be true and too good to leave, and so be careful as you may find yourself changing your travel plans and spontaneously staying on for several additional nights. From the Victorian roll top baths and the dinner plate sized showerheads in the extremely large bathrooms through to the huge bed and ‘to die for’ bedding in the bedroom, every aspect of luxury has been catered for. Open the curtains, shutters and doors leading onto your balcony and you are blown away by the Wine-lands view directly in front of you, and with the extremely well stocked mini-bar at hand and room service a mere button press away it’s easy to argue that your stay at La Residence can start and end in your suite as you really need go no further. But it is when you explore the property further that the true magic of La Residence reveals itself. Starting with what I refer to as the grand hall, complete with sitting room and mezzanine library at one end, and moving past a large open fireplace and the tables that form the restaurant to the other end, that holds the buffet accompaniment to your breakfast and at night becomes the chef’s table to delight you with the culinary tips and techniques from the world class La Residence chefs. Doors all around the hall open to various other parts of the property, the terrace where you can also dine aside the magnificent Wine-lands views, the rolling lawn that leads down to the gazebo and the lake and the doors that open to the entrance, your valeted car and unfortunately, at some point, your departure from the La Res magic. Dining in and around Franschhoek offers you some of the very best restaurants you will ever experience and so for the chefs at La Residence as they rise very early every morning knowing that they face stiff competition for your patronage, and added to this that as chefs they are often cooking for some of the world’s most discerning guests and you’ll easily understand that for any lessor chef they may just get right back under the duvet and curl up into a little ball rather than face this daily culinary challenge. Not for the chefs at La Residence though as they deliver fresh, clean, beautifully presented and exciting menu choices ranging from expertly prepared meat and game through fish and seafood down to the lightest, prettiest and exciting salad should your palate rather prefer something more modest. With the suggested wine pairings from the friendly and knowledgeable sommelier, the truly magnificent wine list to pore through and the personal and professional waitrons to attend to your specific requirements, your dining experience for any meal is a truly delightful and very tasty experience. But caution should be noted though as La Residence quietly slips in an afternoon tea to rival the best mid-afternoon that is too good to resist and thus a pampering treatment in their spa facility, a session in their gymnasium or a brisk walk around the property may be required before dinner is served! And so whether your time at La Residence is for romance, business, as a base for the Wine-lands or just because you can, you will discover a magical place that caters for your mood, your desire and your version of luxury with room to spare.