Brookdale Estate epitomises dreaming big. The enormity of the Drakenstein Mountains and Paarl Valley make even this grand Cape Dutch manor seem diminutive. Fynbos, vineyards, orchards, parterre gardens and protected habitats – all carefully replanted by the owner – spool out in all directions, meaning views for all, fine wines on tap and self sustainability. But it's not just the owner’s vision that plays out in Imax size here; let your ambitions run wild (especially if you’ve booked the whole place), with a chef who’ll customise meals, staff who bend over backwards to meet whims and a manor you can make your own, whether you’re helping with the wine harvest, timing-out for tastings, or seeking out elusive lynxes and leopards.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine on arrival and a R500 voucher towards lunch at either the Bistro at Brookdale or Brookdale Manor House with a free bottle of Mason Road wine when you dine
11am. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability, but you’ll need to request this when booking and the hotel will let you know a couple days before your stay.
Double rooms from £285.77 (ZAR6,767), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include a Continental and cooked breakfast.
At the hotel
Butler service; living rooms, dining rooms and study; fynbos and gardens (including a kitchen garden); vineyards and wine library; fitness room; charged laundry service; free WiFi. In rooms: Smart TV with Netflix (hidden in the bed frame), Nespresso coffee machine, Smeg kettle and box of Twinings teas, minibar, fresh herbs for tea-making, air-conditioning, bathrobes, Wild Olive bath products. Exclusive-use bookings also get a private chef and villa manager.
Our favourite rooms
Rooms all follow a similar pattern: modern, luxurious, comfortable, but with just a slightly different colour accent in each. They’re democratically designed so that there are no second-best views, and we have to concur – each way you look there’s a sight to fall in love with – so your deciding factor has to be whether you’d prefer to stay upstairs in the manor, on the ground floor or in the standalone suite just outside in the grounds for a bit of extra privacy. We’re quite taken with the thought that’s gone into each space: bundles of fresh garden herbs for making teas, local Wild Olive bath products and charging ports that pop up from nightstands so you don’t have to bend over to plug things in. And for that authentic home-from-home feel the owner intended, book out the property and staff in entirety.
Even if all 12 guests have checked into the hotel you’d still have elbow room in the large garden-set pool. It’s a cool antidote to Paarl’s sometimes soaring heat, with loungers and parasols set out around a wooden deck and a pool house with changing rooms, a TV and service bar should you get thirsty (although your butler will be happy to top up your glass on request).
A range of four massages (Swedish, hot-stone, deep-tissue and aromatherapy) and mani-pedis can be carried out in your suite. There’s a small fitness room too.
Bring unprecious footwear for bombing about the estate and tramping through vineyards. And, no, we’re sorry, you cannot adopt chef Coetzee – he is an adult man and quite happy where he is.
The hotel has an impressive art collection, with works by SA-based artists such as David Thorpe, Katie Miszewski, Junior Fungai and Dominique Salm.
Kids of all ages can stay only if you book Brookdale exclusively, when rollaway beds sleep two under-12s in addition to the 12 guests. Otherwise, kids aged 13 and over can stay. Babysitting is on request and meals can be customised.
Kids of all ages can stay, but only if you’ve hired out the property in entirety.
Two rollaway beds will be provided for two under-12s to stay in the manor. There’s some flexibility about where they can be placed.
Young ‘uns get a lot of fresh air and exercise here, whether they’re off seeking out critters on nature walks, running about in the grounds or trying their hand at fly-fishing. The chef can arrange cookery lessons too.
Children can use the pool, but only if supervised at all times by an adult.
Thanks to mostly customised meals and dine-when-you-like timings, feeding kids is a doddle here.
Available on request, but must be booked two hours in advance.
No need to pack
Rainy days are few in Paarl, but bring distractions just in case.
Proprietor Tim Rudd (originally from Brookdale in Derbyshire, hence the estate’s Anglophile name) has thrown himself into this project, replacing any alien plant and tree species with indigenous ones, sowing lush fynbos and unique vine varietals from the Med, adding a fruitful organic kitchen garden and orchards, and making the manor house as luxurious as can be. His efforts in the grounds have seen wildlife take up residence in the area again, and birds such as peacocks, guinea fowl and the hadeda ibis have safe habitats amid the milkwood and waterberry trees. All farming is minimal intervention, the swimming pool uses bore and rain water, and wines are made in Earth-kind fashion.
Staff aim to surprise guests with a new dinner setting each day: one of two dining rooms, in the pool house or pavilion beside the pool, the front porch, helipad…adding a frisson of excitement to evenings.
Go-with-the-flow farm wear by day, and like a fine wine by night: poured into something elegant.
To allow chef Gary Coetzee’s creativity to flourish, and to customise meals to guests’ tastes and dietary peccadilloes, lunch and dinner menus change daily. Breakfast is a little more set in stone but there’s always a changing special that’ll have you leaping out of bed in anticipation. A passionate and experienced chef, your appetite is in very good hands with Coetzee, who harvests ingredients from the gardens and has very good relations with local farms and suppliers. You might have spinach and ricotta tortellini in a creamy chenin-blanc sauce, Moroccan-spiced lamb in tomato fondue, springbok with butternut purée, or lime nougat with lemongrass curd. And, on request, the kitchen will rustle you up a gourmet picnic.
Brookdale Estate’s Mason Road wine collection will be readily available throughout your stay, with a selection that runs from straw-hued chenin to a blushing rosé to a deep dark syrah. And there’s a selection of beers, soft drinks and spirits for the less wine-enthused.
Dining times are loosely set at 8am for breakfast, 12 noon for lunch and 7pm for dinner, but these can be tweaked to suit guests.
Snacks and drinks can be brought to your room from 8am to 6pm.
Brookdale Estate is in a get-and-stay-away patch of rural Paarl, amid rampant fynbos, manicured gardens and giving vineyards, overlooking the Drakenstein mountains and Paarl Rock.
The nearest travel hub to the hotel is Cape Town International, just an hour’s drive away. Transfers (in various vehicles, including luxury cars) can be arranged on request up to 48 hours in advance of your stay.
Brookdale’s remoteness makes a car very handy, but the whole stay is geared towards lazy retreating until check-out, so you could survive on airport transfers topping and tailing your stay.
Why arrive on wheels when you could swoop majestically in from the sky like one of the native fish eagles – the hotel has a helipad to help you make that so.
Worth getting out of bed for
While not as well known as other wine-rich South African hotspots like Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, undersung Paarl is becoming a siren song for oenophiles and suckers for spectacular views. And, Brookdale Estate – a working vineyard and farm at the foot of the Drakenstein Mountains in the Paarl Valley – has an abundance of both. There’s a kind of crazy paving of terrains at the hotel to explore: gardens manicured into intricate parterre, vines in long flowing lines, fynbos allowed to run wild. The owner put years of work into setting the scene, ripping out alien plants for indigenous ones, sowing lesser-known wine varietals from Portugal and France, nurturing bird habitats and making this an excellent expanse for horse rides, biking (if you’re not bringing your own cycle, ask the hotel in advance to hire some), nature trails (keep your eyes peeled for lynxes, foxes, eagles, flamingoes and porcupines) and guided tours. And there are yet more ways in which the hotel entices you to stay onsite – massages in suites, cookery lessons with chef Coetzee and tastings of Mason Road wines; arrive at harvest time and you can help with picking or even stomping grapes, and join in the winemaking process. Paarl has plenty to offer in the way of entertainment too. Santé Day Spa offers holistic skincare, hydrotherapy healing, vinotherapy and even a labyrinth to keep your mind on its toes too, while Yoga House is the go-to for morning sun salutations. The hotel has partnered up to provide private climbs up Paarl Rock or the Huguenot Peak, or exploring Krom River’s rock pools and kloofs. White-knucklers can take to the skies for paragliding and heli-flips and some nearby vineyards will let you bomb through their estate on a quad bike. While fly-fishing sessions and spins round the elegantly landscaped Pearl Valley Golf Course will reset your heart rate to normal. And there are two important monuments worthy of your time: the Taal Monument, celebrating when Afrikaans became South Africa’s official language in 1975; and the Mandela statue at Klein Drakenstein, where he was released from prison in 1990.
Again, Paarl hasn’t fully blipped onto SA gastronome’s radars, but we predict that will change very shortly, because culinary offerings are strong. Take Noop which – set in a heritage building and cooking with ingredients of the purest provenance – gets a big old ‘yep’ from us. Menus change according to what captures the chefs’ interest that day, but expect pork belly sticky with honey and soy, served with coconut-curry cream and tempura lychees; Kalahari springbok loin in a Madagascan green peppercorn and brandy jus; and crêpes Suzette. Otherwise, Jewells had us at the words ‘charcuterie whizz’, and you can taste chef Neil Jewell’s excellent cured meats with wines from the Spice Route estate, but you may as well go the whole hog and stay for dinner of tagliatelle with aubergine, halloumi and zaatar; Red Angus beef with sarladaise potatoes; pan-roasted line fish with mussel beignets and tomato dressing; or a guava soufflé with white chocolate and macadamia. And for swoonsome nights, Faber at Avondale has a devastatingly beautiful setting (plump for a veranda table), a saintly sustainable ethos and delicious farm-forged dining. Try fricassee of Mozambican prawns and Saldhana Bay mussels with a coconut, fermented chilli and lime velouté; confit-rabbit-leg tortellini with smoked bone marrow, fried onions and mixed foraged mushrooms; and pan-roasted fallow deer with caramelised nectarines, apple pureé and poached turnips.
Forgive the punny name and hit cathedral-like café Bean in Love for breakfasts of boerewors omelettes, Bovril French toast roll-ups and eggy chorizo breakfast buns. And – let’s be honest – you won’t primarily come to the Alpaca Loom for the food. No, you’ll want to frolic with and stroke its fuzzy bucktooth denizens; but it does serve some very decent cakes and coffee too.
Your wine needs are met onsite, but to expand your Paarl palate, follow your nose to nearby cellars. Nederburg has been making excellent wines for more than two centuries, and even offers blindfolded tastings to make the experience more emotive. And fifth-generation estate Landskroon offers unique pairings such as biltong, Turkish delight, droëwors and nougat.
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 get-too-comfy home turned hotel in Paarl and unpacked a bag jangling with bottles and scented with a bundle of fresh herbs, a full account of their privacy-assured break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Brookdale Estate in South Africa…
Being selfish is encouraged at Brookdale Estate. After all, your time spent here is tailored to be all about one thing: you (well, and whoever’s travelled with you). From the moment your butler sweeps away your luggage – just after you’ve touched down on the helipad, of course – you call the shots. And, what a place to command…there’s a suite of staff ready to facilitate fantasies, a Cape Dutch manor which authentically feels like home (at all times, but especially when booked exclusively), and a truly spectacular part of the Paarl Valley giving glorious mountain scenery all around. As a working vineyard and farm, you won’t just be blessed with fine vintages whenever you give your butler the nod, but you can also muck in with the harvest (picking, stomping and sorting grapes) if you wish. Further farm adventures include following nature trails to spy on peacocks and ibises, lynxes and leopards (if you’re lucky), whipping through fynbos on horseback or picnicking peacefully in the prettiest of corners. When you’re done running wild, menus and dining spaces are switched up frequently (and tailored to your tastes) to make each day feel like a (well-received) surprise party, and in your room, you’ll find yet more wines to work your way through – go on, you deserve it.