An Afro-Zen hideaway in the Crags
Is it awful to kick off a travel piece talking not about the lodge (Afro-Zen styled luxury), the location (on the edge of an indigenous forest in the Crags near Plett), the ambience (tranquil and relaxing) … but instead about the food? Probably. But to talk about Lily Pond Country Lodge is to talk about the dinners. Five-course dinners. And every bite of every course a taste. of. sheer. heaven. Be it in the dining room, when the lodge’s full, or in the tiny fire-warm breakfast nook when things are quiet out of season, chef Randall Figeland dishes up course after course of beautifully presented food that’s as tasty on the eye it is on the palate.
We arrived unfashionably early, and had stopped at the Nature’s Way Farmstall and Dairy for tea and scones (tip: do not do this … you want to arrive hungry) and had a prosecco with limoncello (never tried before, will try again) before tucking into an amuse-bouche – a single bite of roasted aubergine with dressing, then a starter of creamy garlic mussels with confit cherry tomatoes and ciabatta. The intermezzo – French onion soup served in an espresso cup and topped with a Parmesan crisp (swoon), was followed by a choice of beef fillet with red wine jus, fondant potatoes, shimeji mushrooms (exceptional), or wild exotic mushroom risotto (which was the dish, I fear, that finished me off). Not in living memory have I turned down a pud … and never a panna cotta, which in this case was topped with a berry compote. I’m told it was superb.
But we’re here for the travel. The four-star Lily Pond Country Lodge – part of the Cape Country Routes collection – is massively popular with international tourists, travelling down to the Cape from the Eastern Cape game reserves. The Dutch and Germans, particularly, are fond of this lodge (with Dutch owners, so not surprising). But for those of us locals travelling down to the Cape along the Garden Route, it is an attractive option, particularly if you want to be close to, but not in, the bustle of Plett for a few days.
Tucked away close to Nature’s Valley, with Plett on one side and the Tsitsikamma National Park on the other, and the beach and lagoon just a five or so minute drive away, the lodge is set on the banks of the most beautiful lily ponds … all green and yellow during our winter visit, but bursting into bright pink, blue and white during the hotter months.
Surrounded by 12 hectares of indigenous forest, the owners call the style contemporary Afro-Zen … all clean, square lines softened by the curvaceous ponds and soft decor, with zebra skins and ostrich eggs brushing up against meditation statues.
It’s designed to be quiet, tranquil and relaxing … all open spaces and fresh air, with little nooks and crannies, inside and out, where you can hide away with a book or a glass of that limoncello-laced prosecco or simply just be.
Nine really spacious suites and rooms are dotted around the gardens, all overlooking the ponds and gardens, as well as a superior honeymoon suite, with a spa bath, overlooking the forest. They’re fitted with what you’d expect … from coffee machines and free Wi-Fi to small living areas and outdoor private patios.
There’s a wonderful infinity pool, with wooden decks, where you can while away the day watching the myriad – and rather vocal! – bird species come and go, and a short but enjoyable walk around the ponds and through the forest.
Plett is just a 15-minute drive away, easy and close enough to spend the day shopping or exploring some of the many activities available … from wine tasting to horse trail riding, bungee jumping to visiting the wildlife or elephant sanctuaries, or swimming with seals.
The rates, from R2200, include breakfasts – full English and continental – or, if you’re lucky, the yoghurt-based, berry compote topped panna cotta pud not eaten the night before!
Details: Children over 10 welcome. Lily Pond Country Lodge is part of the Cape Country Routes collection. 021-023-3611, [email protected], or capecountryroutes.com. Or directly via [email protected], lilypond.co.za. Instagram