Under the Influence of Gardens at The Cellars-Hohenort

Spend enough time in a garden with a friend and you will witness something rather peculiar take place. A sort of transformation… Because it’s not possible to enter the space of enchanted forests and blossoming rose orchards and not feel a change take place inside you. I noticed this in my own nearest and dearest on a stroll through the gardens at The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town.

While my camera and I immersed ourselves in the estate’s rose, herb, vegetable and citrus tree gardens, I couldn’t help but notice something a little less expected.

I saw friends, usually quiet and composed, frolicking like fairies. I saw the talkative turn silent. I saw city folk soften with the touch of nature. I saw the tired come to life. I saw followers become leaders, racing along the winding paths and encouraging others along. I saw children where adults once stood.

Quite simply, I’ve noticed, you never leave a garden the same person you enter as. Of course, it isn’t just any garden that creates such an effect. It takes one like The Cellars-Hohenort’s – with its bougainvillea, agapanthus, plectranthus, hydrangeas, clivia, camphor trees and daffodils; its resident porcupine and duck family, Cape Dwarf Chameleon colonies, squirrels and Cinnamon Dove, Cape White-eye, Lemon Dove, African Paradise-Flycatcher, and Forest Canary; and its 950 wine-producing vines.

While initially birthed under the curation of Liz McGrath and with the caring hand of co-creator Jean Almon, today the gardens are maintained by Head Gardner Leigh-Ann Louw and her team.

We’ve caught up with a few of the greenfingers that have contributed to the making of The Cellars-Hohenort gardens over the years – namely Jean Almon and Niall Mckrill – and today we share insight into Leigh-Ann, the woman helping to transform all who walk through one of South Africa’s most beautiful gardens.

Q&A with Leigh-Ann Louw

What’s your favourite part of The Cellars-Hohenort garden?
There are so many… but I have to say the herb garden because as soon as you step into it, the scent of all the different fragrances is so amazing. I also enjoy having the chefs of The Conservatory and Greenhouse invading the garden too.

What are some of the summer highlights in the garden?
It’s the flowering time of many of the plants, and I love the sound of the bees buzzing around the blooms.

What’s popping up in the veggie garden at the moment?
Lovely fresh spinach, cabbages and green peppers.

Do you have a favourite gardening quote to share with us?
‘Gardening always has been an art, essentially.’ – Robert Irwin

Your perfect day looks like…
Coming in early in the morning and walking around the property to think about the week ahead. I have a wonderful team where I set out the work for each gardener as well as for myself. Just working in the gardens makes my day more than perfect.

Your top three Cape Town gardens are…
The Cellars-Hohenort
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Green Point Urban Park

Any advice for novice gardeners wanting to improve on their gardens?
When you pick your plants choose ones that are adapted to your climate, the soil type and the amount of sunlight that enters your garden. It’s always best to do the research first. And… never forget to take a moment to look and smell at whatever you’re growing in your garden.

Describe yourself in three words
Honest, trustworthy and a hard-worker

The Seven Wonders of the World. The Culinary World.

There were seven tastes that stood out, seven flavours of Africa that took me right back to the banks of the Zambezi River and the shores of the Cape’s seas, to safaris in the South African wilderness and dinners surrounded by the silhouette of the Cederberg. Distinct, yet magically complemented by the other ingredients in the seven dishes.

This is what the chefs of Relais & Châteaux do. What any good chef does. They take you on a journey. And they make you feel ok with the fact that you’re eating a day’s worth of food in one sitting.

Last week, the chefs of Relais & Châteaux Africa came together to create a multi-hands dinner for a few special guests at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg.

Together under one roof, for the first time, were Peter Tempelhoff – Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort, Anna Ridgewell – Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Virgil Kahn – Indochine, Delaire Graff Estate, Willie Malherbe – AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Sungani Phiri – Royal Chundu in Zambia, Alex Van As – Camp Jabulani, and Charles Hayward – Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

Each chef created a dish for the evening. On serving, the tale behind the dish was revealed… its connection to the land, or terroir, its significance to the chef, and its knitting together of experiences and influences, far and wide.

I’ll remember the incredible company I found myself sharing the night with for some time to come, but what has my attention right now are those seven tastes of Africa that so beautifully told the stories of the continent:

  1. Biltong
  2. Wild lemongrass
  3. Atlantic tuna
  4. Morogo
  5. Springbok
  6. Amarula
  7. Rooibos

Discover how these flavours fit in to the menu as a whole below, starting with the evening’s canapés and ending with the final dessert.

East Meets South – Canapés from Delaire Graff Estate

You could call this Asian food through the eyes of a Cape Malay. Indochine Head Chef, Virgil Kahn favours the Cape Malay influences and ingredients in his cooking – it is in his blood, being from the Cape himself. In the three appetisers he prepared, he combined this touch of South Africa with a Thai influence and a hint to Japan (the robust Asian flavours being typical of Indochine), and all of this prepared with French precision…. And of course, a South African favourite, biltong.

  • Tart with smoked eggplant, green curry, green pepper
  • Cookies and cream-shrimp, red curry prawn, biltong
  • Choux craquelin-cauliflower and miso, bonito

Paired with Delaire Graff Sunrise MCC

From the Zambezi

From the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia, Royal Chundu’s Head Chef Sungani Phiri created a sweetcorn brioche, with lemon grass butter and olive oil powder, as captured below by our guest @LaurasWorldza.

The dish combined lemongrass forested from around the lodge at Royal Chundu where it grows naturally and corn from the banks of the Zambezi, a staple in the local diet. This was served with an egg-based brioche wrapped in the traditional Zambian cloth known as the chitenge, creating a true cultural culinary experience. 

Memories of Japan from Peter Tempelhoff, Executive Chef at The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse, combined influences from the East and ingredients from the South: Atlantic tuna tataki, home-fermented kimchi, Elgin apple, beet kombucha radish, sesame dressing

Paired with Delaire Graff Coastal Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2017

For Peter, this dish goes as far back as 2009, when he spent time walking through the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan with chef, Kiyomi Mikuni of Hotel de Mikuni. Peter was so taken aback by the unusual tools used in their cooking that Kiyomi took him to Masamoto where they came across a knife that was particularly special, because of its unique colour bone, among other aspects. Peter now uses the knife every time he cooks with tuna, as he did in the preparation of this meal. Each time he does so, he is reminded of this special time in Japan.

The tuna for the evening was caught off the shores of Cape Town. This dish also featured apples from a local farmer in Elgin in the Cape and kimchi – a favourite of Peter’s as he believes fermented foods add an important flavour to cooking. In this way the dish unites Japan and the Cape and Peter’s experiences in both locales, making it a true traveller’s dish.

Home, sweet home… a taste of South African safari life from Camp Jabulani Head Chef, Alex Van As: Springbok shank ravioli with spicy Asian broth, brunoise vegetables, panko crusted shimiji mushrooms, Parmesan foam, Thai lemon-dressed morogo and micro coriander.

Paired with Delaire Graff Shiraz 2017

Alex is passionate about pasta and wanted to introduce to this Italian element a few South African flavours – such as springbok (also the name of his much cherished South African rugby team) and morogo (spinach, being a symbol of strength) – two ingredients that evoke a sense of home for him and that in turn help to connect the diner and the chef in a more intimate way.

The Art of Sharing (AtholPlace Hotel & Villa)

Lamb Rogan Josh – Crème fraiche pastry, rainbow carrots, spiced yoghurt, and curry leaf jus.

Paired with Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2015

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa Chef, Willie Malherbe is passionate about curries – because of the numerous rich flavours you can get from one curry dish. Also important to him is family and family meals, something that he grew up with and that he wanted to recreate in a new way. His family meals always included a single large pie for the family to share, and so here he created smaller pieces of the same pie for each of us to enjoy – separately and together. Inside his love for curries shows, with the Indian flavours shining through.

An African Sunset

Londolozi’s Executive Chef Anna Ridgewell served a taste of the winter African sunset after a drought – an Amarula and white chocolate cremeux, inspired by safari life at Londolozi.

Londolozi lies in the Lowveld, a macadamia growing area. Inspired by this nut and the terroir, Executive Chef Anna Ridgewell put together a dessert that combines macadamia with another South African favourite – Amarula, to evoke what she calls a winter African sunset after the drought.

It’s simple. It’s the Cederberg

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat’s Executive Chef, Charles Hayward rounded off the evening with a taste of the Cederberg… a rooibos panna cotta, spiced cake, caramelised banana, toasted coconut, paired with Delaire Graff Sunburst Noble Late Harvest 2015.

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat  is set in the rooibos-rich region of the Cederberg Mountains in South Africa and so Charles really had no choice but to celebrate this one, simple ingredient that is so much a part of the South African national identity. He combined rooibos in a panna cotta and added the flavours of the Cape Malay spices to a delicate cake to create a memorable end to a special dinner.

All together in one place… our chefs from Camp Jabulani, Delaire Graff Estate’s Indochine, The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse, Royal Chundu, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, AtholPlace Hotel & Villa and Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat…

What an extraordinary night! Thank you to our guests for sharing in our celebration of cuisine and hospitality, to our chefs from around Africa, to AtholPlace Hotel & Villa for hosting us and to Delaire Graff Estate for the beautiful wines.

A Tale of Two Cities | Cape Town & Johannesburg

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

There is something sublime about being anonymous in a foreign city, about being a stranger to the streets, smells and sounds at each turn. But I have also seen a look of something a little less like awe, and a little more like terror, in the eyes of out-of-towners. When they find themselves on an unfamiliar street corner as the sun begins to set, for instance, and as rain starts to fall and their maps make less and less sense. I have looked upon my own crumpled map and uncharged cellphone with a similar gaze.

Fear and uncertainty can do wonderful things to us, though. Perhaps it is even them to credit for the love-struck look of city-travellers dizzily gazing skyward at all the sights (when the light of day still shines over them and rain has yet to taunt). A little nervousness fizzles the mind and lets us see more, take in more and feel more. (A lot of it though… well, it should make for a good tale.)

“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open.” ― Charles Baudelaire

For the health of the nervous among us, I’ve deleted the last line of this quote. And even though I know they might quickly peruse the internet’s all-knowing matrix for it, why not throw caution to the wind? Why not surrender to that feeling of uncertainty and surprise, that feeling that strikes like young love?

Cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg never lose the element of surprise. The seasons change their appearance and habits, with summer in Jozi boasting scenes of fierce lightning while down south in Cape Town the sun bakes the city into a sweet souffle; winter in Joburg is the sunniest time of the year while Cape Town awaits the soft touch of snow fall on its mountain peaks.

New generations add their own changes to the character of their cities. They alter the faces you meet, the fashion on the street, the tastes and trends in bar and restaurant. Even return travellers find themselves seeing it all as though for the first time.

The beauty of cities also lies in their inability to hide the truth. Stroll the alleyways and drive the highways of the Mother City and the City of Gold and you find not merely the finery, the dazzle and the cool, but also the commonplace, the gritty and not so pretty.

But as Nelson Algren wrote of Chicago…

“Once you’ve come to be part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.”

It is in seeing the whole picture, that you fall in love with the real thing, that the tales of the cities and the cities themselves become part of you, part of your own tale.

“By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by travelling; namely, the strange.” ― Jane Jacobs

And all you need do is step outside… of your comfort zone and your hotel, such as Johannesburg’s AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, and Cape Town’s Ellerman House and The Cellars-Hohenort. Here are a few of the sights that await.

You never know where you might come across art in the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg. Here we found some beautiful local art canvassed on a building across from Agog Rooftop Bar in Maboneng. #Johannesburg #LocalArt


Meet the friendly locals when exploring Maboneng and Newton in Johannesburg. Explore SA’s World of Beer or sip on locally brewed coffee while taking in the sights. This all while being shown around by a true local, who has grown up in these vibrant neighborhoods. #Johannesburg #Sightseeing #CityLife #JoburgCulture

The beautiful stained glass at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto. Just another good reason to visit Joburg and explore this diverse and cultural city. #Johannesburg #Soweto #Culture

Get to know Johannesburg. This bustling city is full of exciting activities and has a rich history. A guided city tour is a must when staying at AtholPlace. #AtholPlace #Johannesburg

Experience Museum Night in Cape Town, where you can explore museums in the city centre in a new light, after dark. Free admission.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir.

The views from Wally’s Cave on Lion’s Head are worth waking up early for – what a wonderful start to a day in Cape Town!

On our way back from an inspiring visit to Robben Island.
#humanrightsday #inspirational #robbenislandmuseum

Explore the gardens of #TheCellarsHohenort and discover the second oldest camphor trees in South Africa.