Unless you’re well-versed in luxury African travel, you may never have heard of Ellerman House. And yet it is the flagship boutique hotel in Cape Town. Put it this way: while the people at Ellerman House would abhor me telling you this (they’re far too classy), it’s the place where Oprah, Bill (the computer one), and most of Hollywood stay when they deign to grace our shores.
The thing is, Ellerman House doesn’t feel like a hotel. It feels like an ultra luxurious private home. A home that just happens to have one of the best private collections of South African art in the world. (Again, the Ellerman people would really prefer me not to say something so ostentatious. Sorry.)
The mansion and villas are bursting with two centuries worth of fine art. An Irma Stern stares moodily out from the stairs, Kentridge dominates a corner of the lounge, a clump of Battises dazzle between doors, and an entire corridor is lined with Thomas Bowler’s Cape landscapes.
The art overflows into the gardens, which is sprinkled with sculptures by Dylan Lewis, Kevin Roberts and Angus Taylor. Taylor’s impressive ‘Head’ guards the entrance to the contemporary art gallery, which is crammed with paintings by the likes of Anton Kannemeyer, Norman Catherine, Simon Stone and Lionel Smit.
Then there’s the wine gallery, which is an art installation itself. There’s a terroir wall by Angus Taylor, which documents the distinctive terroir of 100 Cape winefarms, a mollusc-shaped steel spiral staircase by Conrad Hicks, and a Pinotage vine rendered in brass by Nic Bladen, which is so realistic that everyone has to touch it to make certain it’s not real.
A giant carbon fibre corkscrew wine rack by Brian Steinhobel holds 1,500 bottles of South Africa’s best wines in the glass-walled cooler. Below it, the wine cellar holds several thousand more bottles in lasercut American oak, along with a separate cellarful of vintage Dom Perignon, and two tonnes of chalk imported specially from Épernay to clad the walls.
These are just a few of the ingenious and beautiful touches owner Paul Harris has had built into the space. However, you don’t get to see or experience any of this unless you’re a guest at Ellerman House. You actually have to spend a night there. But, staying just one night could prove difficult. After all, there’s a reason Ellerman House has adopted the hashtag #neverleave.