Cape Town is a large sprawling city, with the Independent Republic of Hout Bay its far flung easternmost suburb on the way to Cape Point. With the Seven Sister mountain chain the backbone of the area Hout Bay is separated from the rest of Cape Town by mountains (containing the suburb of Constantia) and a National Park. I stay in a housing development on the shoulder of the mountain range, and one of my first pleasures every visit is to dine on the terrace of ‘Chappies’. The hotel sits at the base of the drive to Cape Point, with spectacular views across the bay and reputedly the best deep-fried calamari to be eaten in Cape Town, although my favourite is their Portuguese beef.
Whilst football is often said to be a game of two halves, Chapmans Peak hotel, known popularly locally simply as ‘Chappies’, is a hotel of two halves. On the left is the original pub much changed since it was built in 1903, whilst on the right is the four-star bedroom extension complete with suites, balconied bedrooms and the most amazing views across Hout Bay. I was taken to Chappies by the family over ten years ago and the foodie delights have remained constant through all that time.
On one visit my companions were being guided to their table on the large and busy outdoor terrace dining area when I spied a bright red spot of colour inside the hotel. “Aha!” I thought, “someone with a sense of style” and wandered off to look. A single flower on a table in the centre of a space reminded me in a way of the entrance to the old stylish but impractical Hempel hotel in London where the same flower was used in serried ranks to create impact. Here simplicity won the eye.
I was not popular when eventually I arrived at the table, having delayed the drinks – something of a cardinal sin in South Africa. Later the owner turned up with some plans and we discussed his extension, lucky boy! I found it difficult to understand how any architect can size bedrooms by the width of carparking spaces – seems the wrong priority to me, and it was changed to give a sensible size to the bedrooms. I tracked the development of the hotel over the following couple of years. Chappies has been in the same family for years, along with a neighbouring wine distribution service.
Originally built in 1903, some of the original hotel building remains evident in fireplaces and lounges – fireplaces that are necessary in the South African winter months when rain clouds can hug the coast – apparently Cape Town only has 60 days a year without a sea mist or cloud cover. Hout Bay is a corruption of Houtbaaii, meaning ‘bay of wood’ as in the 18th century this is where much shipbuilding took place using local timber.
A new entrance and underground secure car parking were created as a part of the new construction, organised and overseen by the owner, although for diners there is plenty of parking in the seafront car park on the other side of the road, by Hout Bay’s golden sandy beach. The rock face against which the hotel sits was incorporated into the new entrance lobby with the front wall a simple glass screen cut into the rock itself. With two levels coming into the lobby from the garage and the street entrance along with the linking to the previously existing building this is a complex space well handled by the architects. Lit with locally manufactured chandeliers it is contemporary but not in conflict with the previous reception lobby.
The transition from modern to antique is accomplished smoothly, in part eased by the different dates of the various parts of the previously existing 10 bedrooms and meeting rooms. The addition of the two suites and 22 new luxurious and spacious new bedrooms, all with balconies, has transformed the pub into an hotel.
The style of the restaurant and bars is traditional with white linen and china providing a sparkling contrast to timber. The food is always good, with plenty of variety although from a less discerning Brit there is always fish and chips to fall back on. If you must!! As the visiting critic from the London ‘Times’ did recently – who do they employ these days?
The old rooms have a character and charm that comes with age, but all have en suite bath or shower rooms. the new rooms are larger. The have the classic arrangement with the bathroom helping to insulate the room from the corridor. The lobby has the wardrobe in and in this sense the rooms are completely conventional. However, they are longer than usual, giving room for the bathrooms to be large, with separate toilet, walk-in shower and bathtubs. In some rooms, the tubs are enclosed by shutters that can be opened so that it is possible to lounge in a bath whilst watching the sunset over the bay. Lounge areas are generous and expanded by the practical balconies which also have their own table and chairs from which to enjoy a view that can encompass seals, a pod of porpoises and the boat traffic into the fishing harbour and marina on the other side of the bay.
Hout Bay has been a favourite destination of mine for the last ten years, partly because of the hospitality of the rellies, but also because, I admit. I have fallen in love with Africa. Whether it is the foodie delights of Cape Town, the wines of the fabulous vineyards, the tranquillity of the West Coast or the wildlife attractions, the Namibian Deserts or the astonishing beauty of the birdlife I have never ceased to be delighted and amazed.
Wonderful trips give wonderful memories and I look forward to returning, and to Portuguese beef on Chappies balcony.