Throughout our adventures in South Africa, the warmest, most genuine welcome I received was at the Abalone House & Spa. I had made the 160km drive north up the western coast from Cape Town to the delightful fishing village of Paternoster, to stay at this renowned boutique guest house retreat.
Leigh Longden, the General Manager greeted us at the door and welcomed us into this gloriously boho-chic property, with its wonderful, eclectic interiors and privileged sea-facing location. Within moments we were invited to take a seat and we were served glasses of bubbles and fresh oysters – now that is what I call a luxury welcome!
Paternoster is one of the most charming villages on the Western coast. The drive from Cape Town airport is an easy, straight road that runs along the Atlantic shore. Leaving behind the metropolis, one passes large expanses of countryside and a few coastal communities before arriving at Paternoster. The village looks lost in time, a peaceful, sleepy fishing hamlet of modest, white washed homes, and small guest houses.
Abalone House has a genuinely unique feel. The owners have created a special place that captures the simplicity and homeyness of its seaside village location, yet have enhanced it with creative, sophisticated interiors of antiques and art. Leigh is very much part of Abalone House with her gracious, welcoming style and professionalism – she brings the place alive and gives it soul.
I stayed in a luxury superior room on the first floor, with access to a sea-view roof terrace decorated with potted plants and furnished with vintage-style steamer sun loungers and a hot tub. The bedroom windows had wooden plantation-style shutters that when opened revealed a wonderful view of the turquoise Atlantic.
The room wasn’t extravagantly luxurious, more homey and welcoming, yet it had lots of lovely touches such as a cut glass decanter of sherry with glasses; fresh flowers and amenities such as air-conditioning, under-floor heating, a CD player, flat screen TV and a small fridge for refreshments; as well as tea and coffee making facilities.
There was a turndown service, so after dinner we came back to a prepared room and chocolate treats served on a seashell. This is undoubtedly a romantic place.
The bathroom, equipped with both a tub and large shower, was filled with the relaxing aroma of essential oils. There were full-size ‘Healing Earth’ shower and body products – the same brand as those used in the adjacent spa.
Beside the bath tub was a basket filled with natural bath salts and a local clam shell for taking generous scoopfuls for a relaxing bath. The wash hand basin soap sat in a large abalone shell, glistening in the light. It was a lovely, relaxing space.
Rest of the Hotel
I felt at home in the boutique hotel; the deep, vintage sofas and armchairs just invited me to curl up with a book and relax. Whilst the outside terrace/courtyard garden and plunge pool deck was the place for refreshing drinks in the shade.
The décor is full of character and style, both decadent and bohemian, with Persian rugs on the floors, books, art, and unusual ornaments collected from the four corners of the world.
Opposite the hotel is a simple wooden sign which reads, ‘2 the Beach’, a short stroll I recommend taking, as the coastline is stunning.
The beach has a wildness to it – natural and undeveloped; beautiful. Leigh and her team will be happy to prepare a gourmet picnic for guests to enjoy on the beach. It is a real luxury to enjoy a bottle of sparkling South African Methôde Cap Classique sparkling wine and tasty treats on the beach and still be just steps away from the hotel. No need to drive or even walk very far. However, if you are feeling adventurous, there is a nature reserve close by as well as hiking routes long the beach.
Healing Earth Spa
Beside the hotel is the Healing Earth Spa – a simple space with four treatment rooms. The one I visited had a floor covered in natural salt and the treatment was offered on a bed of salt upon which towels were placed. The whole space felt serene.
The South African celebrity chef has a restaurant at the Abalone House. Yet it has a distinct atmosphere thanks to the wonderful setting of the hotel. Off-season the main dining room is cosy and warm with crystal chandeliers lit, flickering candles and tables set with starched linens and sparkling glasses.
During the summer season, the courtyard garden becomes a magical dinner setting under the stars.
The menu is of comforting classics such as chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche, and compressed pear & blue cheese salad for starters; whilst main dishes during our off-season stay included slow braised oxtail, an open lasagne, or a crayfish risotto.
The menu changes of course to reflect the seasons. In fact for a small property, the menu was very broad with plenty of options; and our meal, prepared by head chef Victoria Stott, was excellent.
The main, rustic table at the centre of the restaurant, under a large chandelier is laden with appetising items for breakfast. Slate dishes of smoked salmon, cold cuts, cheeses and more can be expected; together with baskets of croissants etc.. The hot menu included my favourite, eggs benedict.
Rooms are from 120 GB Pounds per night – seasonal offers including spa treatments and dinner at Reuben’s are available online.
This was one of the most relaxing and welcoming places I enjoyed whilst in South Africa – I believe it is the perfect, romantic retreat.
A: 3 Kriedoring Street, Paternoster, 7381, South Africa
T: +27 22 752 2044