The setting for 7 Koppies Farm is immense in proportion, with 50 hectares of thriving fynbos you feel you could reach out and ruffle, meandering around its rugged namesake ‘koppies’ (stony hills) and out to the Simonberg mountains. An Edenic view, and just a hint of the region’s majestic rurality. But, back at the homestead things are cosy as can be. A log-burner warms the communal kitchen, the house butler mixes up G&Ts, guests gather on the shaded poolside veranda, and a muddle of heirlooms, travel finds, vintage pieces and local artworks show that this house is loved and lived-in. Not trying to be a wine estate or Michelin-starred darling – there’s enough of that in the surroundings – this hideaway wants to make you feel at home, which it does with immense success.
Five individually designed suites and a standalone villa.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2.30pm.
Double rooms from £187.16 (ZAR3,975), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates usually include a generous Continental breakfast spread made of garden gathered and locally sought ingredients. A minimum two-night stay is required.
The farmhouse rooms are already very charming, but if you'd like a touch more privacy and some elbow-throwing space, book the Mountain and Orchard rooms together, which will give you a two-bedroom country hideaway with a seating area and balcony.
To give the staff a break and for some spring (well, winter) cleaning, the hotel is closed for four to six weeks over June and July.
At the hotel
Working farm, fynbos, chef’s garden, house butler, kitchen and pantry, dining and sitting room, two free-to-borrow mountain bikes, boutique, free WiFi (patchy in the outdoors). In rooms: Air-conditioning and a ceiling fan.
Our favourite rooms
Choosing a favourite room is a toughie – each has a unique personality; and one of the owners runs interior-design firm Lumisol, and here he’s plied his trade hard. You might find botanical drawings from a Parisian flea, Swedish spindleback chairs from the Sixties, lamps shaped like owls and pineapples, bedcovers in Jaipur-inspired blockprint, paintings by Sri Lankan artist Vajira Gunawardena, James Mudge carpentry, Tissus d’Hélène linens and William Morris patterns. The Garden and Orchard rooms stand out for their verdant views, the Valley Suite for its cosy reading nook, stone walls and Franschhoek Valley overlook, and – for honeymooners – the Courtyard Suite, with its four-poster and green-granite-topped bath tub is especially dreamy.
The owners of 7 Koppies – interior designer Marc-Ludolf von Schmarsow and Ampersand Travel founder James Jayasundera – couldn’t have picked a better spot for the 25-metre pool. As you paddle along, you can take in the natural wonder that is the Franschhoek Valley and the distant mountains. And, here the owners have paid homage to their roots – the barn-style open-air pavilions on either side of the pool where guests can sit around a fireplace or take drinks in the shade, nod to both the Italian farm buildings von Schmarsow grew up around, and the indoor-outdoor designs of Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, the famous son of Jayasundera’s home country.
There’s no spa, but the hotel can call in therapists to give you a massage (twosomes can take one together on request), facial or mani-pedi; tables can be set up in your room or by the pool to make the most of the view.
No, put that robe down, and that pool towel – yes, we know they’re lovely, but you can’t just take them. Luckily just around the corner is the hotel’s small yet stylish boutique, which came about at the demand of covetous guests. Here you can buy the linen robes and Simply Bee bath products from your room; colourful locally made Mungo pool towels and pickings and preserves from the estate gardens and orchards.
The Rockwood Cottage, set around the curve of a koppie, isn’t too far a walk from the farmhouse, but should you need transport staff will be happy to help.
This swooningly romantic stay is for over-13s only.
The owners have tended the farm back into fine shape. The farmhouse was restored using local materials, and in laying out the grounds, garden designer Franchesca Watson and botanist Fiona Powrie (from Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden) have seamlessly blended endemic plants into the landscape and coaxed out a kitchen garden which provides ingredients for breakfasts and light lunches and dinners, alongside the fruit and olive groves. The fynbos are fiercely protected here, with invasive species quickly shown the boot, and three attendants to keep them pristine and carefully watch the firebreaks. Water is solar heated, the owners encourage guests to turn off lights, Simply Bee bath products are all natural, and shopping trips are carefully planned to cut down fuel usage.
Almost all meals are served alfresco by the pool – you don’t want to miss a second of the sky floridly colouring the landscape. But, in winter you might want to gather round carpenter James Mudges’ picnic-bench-style kitchen table.
You might feel a sense of duty to the decor, which is impeccable all round – so perhaps mix in a William Morris floral, vintage curiosity or something wabi-sabi-esque with your wardrobe.
Game recognises game here – 7 Koppies doesn’t feel the need to compete with the neighbourhood’s superstar restaurants, so they do what they do best: keep things home-y. Come morning, the kitchen counters are laden with fresh fruit (including citrus fruits and prickly pears from the orchards), granola, breads, pastries and more. Followed by a hot course, which could be an omelette made using spinach from the kitchen garden planters or toast stacked with fresh veggies and poached eggs. Otherwise, you can request one of the light lunches and suppers they offer: a warming chicken pie, schnitzel with salad, beef-shin lasagna, followed by a slice of homemade cake..
Help yourself from an honesty bar awash with choice picks from local – and further-flung – vineyards, spirits and soft drinks. Or get the house butler to mix you a cocktail – he makes a mean G&T.
Breakfast runs from 8am till 9.45am, lunch is more fluid, served throughout the day, and dinner runs from 6.30pm to 8pm.
The hotel’s a mere 20-minute drive from the whimsical porchfronts of Franschhoek’s high street, but it feels far removed, surrounded by rambling fynbos and craggy koppies. It’s circled by fine wineries, nature reserves and restaurants with serious reps.
At an hour’s drive away, Cape Town International is the closest airport. The hotel can arrange transfers for ZAR1,200 for two.
Biking is big down here – the hotel itself has several intriguing routes, and Franschhoek’s wine tram fills in for a designated driver, but otherwise these rolling hills and wide-open expanses demand a car, and have plenty of promise for road-trippers. Hire at the airport in Cape Town (but don’t get something flashy and low-slung, it’ll grate against the hotel’s uneven stretches), and note that 7 Koppies’ locale is unlikely to be picked up on GPS; but don’t fret, staff will email you clear directions when you book. There’s free parking onsite.
With the hotel’s blessing, you could also chopper in.
Worth getting out of bed for
As with all good hotel stories, 7 Koppies’ has a few twists and turns. The owners didn’t see the property in an estate agents’ window until hours before they were due to fly home; the land was scrubby and unsuitable for farming, and the house was decidedly less tasteful than it looks now – with false ceilings and regrettable Eighties decor. But, they weren’t set on farming beyond the orchards and kitchen garden – which are doing very well, thank you – and even the strictest aesthete would overlook a dodgy colour scheme for the rippling hues of fynbos tumbling towards the horizon. Add a koppie here, a mountain there and it’s all very magical. You can follow trails through the grounds, spying rare flowering beauties along the way, or the hotel can arrange for a botanist to talk you through the Cape Floral Kingdom. Keep your eyes peeled for unique birdlife as you go (the hotel’s library has taxonomies to parse). Take your wanderings one – or many – steps further, by heading up into the hills and peaks. The Vista Trail meanders through the Mont Rochelle nature reserve or tackle the full-day Perdekop Trail which climbs to the highest peak. Guides can be arranged on request. And the Berg River Dam is the starting point for rewarding hikes. Get on your bike (the hotel can help with hire) for three adventures – the curiously named ‘child-friendly wine-tasting tour’ (through Mont Rochelle, Grande Provence and Franschhoek Cellar); the ‘adults’ wine tour’ (through Rickety Bridge, La Couronne, Glenwood and Hey Joe Brewing Company to placate beer-lovers), or mountain bike the ‘adventure route’ into the hills. Alternatively take an e-bike ride from La Couronne to tastings at nearby estates – if you don’t want things to get too wobbly, you’ll have a saddlebag that can hold a few bottles. Or ride the wine tram, which charmingly trundles to the most notable estates and lets you get as merry as you like. Each cellar has its merits, but only one has Pigcasso – a hog with Babe-level talent who paints using a brush in her mouth. Stop to taste the wines, then marvel at the swine. Fly-fish in the trout-rich riverlets through the Du Toits Kloof mountain range, tour the large-scale South African bronzes set in Leeu Estates garden, or hop on horseback for yet more drinkables. And, in Franschhoek, take the spring ‘specials tour’ through Babylonstoren gardens to see thousands of clivia lilies bloom, covet the fine specimens at Franschhoek Motor Museum, and come Fridays, enjoy revels and street eats at Boschendal Night Market.
Buckle up – or rather unbuckle – there are around 50 upper-echelon restaurants within a 10-minute radius of the hotel alone. Testament to Franschhoek’s fecundity – and a delicious evolution of traditional South African cookery and the influence of the refugee Huguenots who settled and planted vines in the 17th century. The choice is overwhelming but we’ve whittled down some favourites. Delaire Graff Restaurant has a terrace with an impeccable aspect and large-scale sculptures, plus plates as art, serving up fish with a cashew and coconut velouté and tomato chutney, and pink prawns with granadilla, lemon, basil and sago crisp. Chefs Warehouse at Maison gets inventive: pastrami pretzels come with house pickles, ceviche with local naartjie and passionfruit, and tuna yakitori with miso, chilli and nori flatbread. Babel at Babylonstoren has a very reasonable menu with a plant focus (smoked cauliflower with Huguenot cheese and dukkah; caramelised cabbage with cumin in a bobotie sauce), and lush vineyard Tokara has springbok loin with pot pie drizzled in a whiskey-laced jus, Bonsmara beef with parmesan and nutmeg polenta and goat’s milk pumpkin crème caramel with orange. Protégé is a favourite of the owners for its spiced lamb ribs with rum-braised pineapple, beef in a pepper-truffle cream and curried Cape Malay tuna. But wait, there’s more – what Reubens turns out is as masterful and eye-catching as anything its namesake painted, with kudu loin in a pear and saffron chutney or oysters piled high with yuzu sorbet, cucumber-and-apple salsa and caviar. And, Le Coin Française (the literal meaning of Franschhoek’s name) has tasting journeys that take you through the likes of onion velouté with 12-hour braised beef cheek and gruyère soufflé, butter-poached langoustine with vineyard shoots and a pancetta risotto, and duck with confit tomato and tamarind, ending on a high with a gingery New York-style cheesecake.
We’re pretty sure you could go round the farm’s orchards and kitchen garden, snacking as you go, but your hosts are already very generous, so find your picnic pickings at Ou Meul Bakkery, which sells puff pastry pies, sourdough loaves, patisserie, preserves, cakes and sandwiches.
We think there’s somewhere to get a drink around here; after all, they don’t call it the Winelands for nothing. In fact, you can’t swing a bottle lustily without hitting a vine here. Working your way through all the cellars and estates would probably put you in hospital, so here are the toasts of the town. Award-garlanded Boschendal is one of the oldest estates in the Western Cape, and they’ve honed their chardonnay and shiraz varieties over the years, alongside producing a mean Méthode Cap Classique. And after your tasting you can bike through the hills, browse the homewares store or muse over the art collection (in partnership with the Norval Foundation). With 325 years of wine-making expertise, Grande Provence is also a grand dame of the region. It pumps out all the greatest hits, but it’s renowned for its – probably aptly named – Angels Tears collection. Dieu Donné sits high in the Franschhoek Mountains, and pairs sigh-worthy vistas with easy-drinking new-world wines and old-world-style reds. And Solms Delta is celebratorily South African – the farms’ workers own half of the business, historic treasures are displayed in a museum onsite, hosts will introduce you to local music, and of course the wines are top form.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this farmstead with flair in Franschhoek and unpacked their logo-ed linen robes and locally made pool towels, a full account of their wind-down, wine-up break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside 7 Koppies Farm in the Winelands…
Avid travellers that we are, we’re not ones to play chicken with impending flights; however, luckily, interior designer Marc-Ludolf von Schmarsow and Ampersand Travel founder James Jayasundera are. With mere hours to go before flying home from a house-buying trip to Franschhoek, they saw a farm with plenty of promise to unlock in an estate agents’ window and immediately set about viewing it. They may not have made the flight, but this set them off on a far more exciting journey, becoming the owners of boutique retreat 7 Koppies Farm. Perhaps their international origins and globetrotting added to their daring: Marc has lived in Rome, Milan and Munich – running his design firm Lumisol – and James is of Sri Lankan and British heritage, also grew up in Rome, founded a luxury travel company and helped to set up vintage tented camp Wolwedans in Namibia. So, they know their stuff, and in the exquisite Cape Dutch meets Arts and Crafts farmstead elements of their cultural heritage (indoor-outdoor pavilions inspired by Sri Lankan architect Geofrey Bawa, a hefty dose of Italian romance, not to mention the name, inspired by Rome’s seven hills) and finds from their travels (printed textiles from Jaipur, paintings by Sri Lankan artists, furnishings made locally, Parisian vintage pieces, a fountain shaped like Grecian god of drunkenness Silenus) signpost their story. The setting might be something most can only daydream about – with riotous fynbos; flowers and trees springing forth from all corners; high-rise koppies (hills); and a scattering of mountains for good measure, but the house is very much a home, lavished with love and designed to welcome. Stay awhile sipping G&Ts by the pool, breakfasting before the vastness of Franschhoek Valley, and getting to know the local wines, and you too might find yourself forgetting about that pesky flight home.