Midnight in Johannesburg

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“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” ― Ernest Hemingway

In the rush of wild mushroom fricassée, espresso martinis and winter moonlight, each second feels like a feast. A Moveable Feast. Champagne and cigars, a fire sizzling in the bar. I have to pace myself, remind myself of the limits. Is there ever any middle ground in a feast? It is midnight in Johannesburg, at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, in the eddy of the City of Gold, a retreat that merges the higher and lower frequencies of the city, leaving it up to you which to choose. The initial frenzy settles as morning comes, as the hadeda take to breakfast on the lawn and the sun shimmers through the oak trees. Morning is part of life’s natural feedback system to keep you from the edge. Slowly faces start to stand out, you learn everyone’s names and histories and love affairs and it becomes less like the last day on earth and more like the first… You connect, you come down, and you realise that you’ll never quite manage to leave this place. AtholPlace.

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The people of AtholPlace are hard to shake; my moments with them and their tales from other lives now form my view of Johannesburg… Tau, the chauffeur, with his philosophy on the power of cartoons, his fiancée, head of housekeeping, Melinda, with her hopes for a Victoria Falls wedding, assistant Brandon and his tales of wild trapeze artistry in Mauritius, Chef Wynand’s wontons and pan roasted line fish and the love story that led him to AtholPlace – the tale of how he followed his girlfriend, General Manager, Heidi, to the hotel. Heidi, the beautiful British girl who left sister lodge, Morukuru, in the bush of Madikwe for a new era in the city.

Moveable, memorable, and forever captured in our photographs below, this is AtholPlace.

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Image Above: Chef Wynand | Below: Heidi

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Above right: Tau, and The Waiting Man

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Above: Joanna | Below: Melinda

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“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


Meet Quintin Janssen van Vuuren, Maître de Maison of AtholPlace Hotel & Villa


We Are Not One Story. We Are Africa.

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“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James A. Michener

Imagine the world as one film.

In my imagining, Woody Allen is directing. Perhaps your version is more Spielberg or Coppola, but for most of us, Africa’s role in this film is the same. And it is played by the same actors: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, David Livingstone and Simba. Four characters to represent more than 50 countries and over a thousand languages. Hotel Rwanda, Out of Africa, The Lion King: those are the films the audience sees.

This year’s We Are Africa event in Cape Town gathered people from all over the world – the directors, the viewers and the actors themselves, so to speak – and called for a rewrite. A reimagining of the story told of Africa. It called for a story told not of but by those from Africa, of Africa, in Africa. For a broadening of our script, for the inclusion of the infinite tales, the truths, that span the continent – tales, truths, that can be told no better than by the people born on African soil. It demanded that we go beyond the single story, beyond the safari, to the humanity.

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Africa. Not the film of… That is what we hope to share with you. In our space online and off. Here in our dispatches from the field and in the field itself – on Routes du Bonheur that tie some of the many destinations and experiences of Africa together with one golden thread.

The stories that arose from We Are Africa this month inspired with their courage – such as Levison Wood’s Walking the Nile – and excited with their flavour and diversity – at our pop-up Gastronomic Bar, for instance. Perched at the entrance to the event, our bar united chefs from all over Africa, from the coast of Hermanus to the banks of the Zambezi, allowing for that mixing of old tales and creation of new to emerge as they do on travels through Africa.

Below are some snapshots from the event. But remember, this is only one tale.


“We Are Africa. We Are Not One Story.”

The Collection

Laurent-Perrier

Waterford Wines

The Gastronomic Bar


Virgil Kahn
Head Chef at Delaire Graff‘s Indochine Restaurant

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Ashley Moss
Head Chef at The Cellars-Hohenort

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Veronica Canha-Hibbert
Head Chef at Ellerman House

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Sungani Phiri
Head Chef at Royal Chundu

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Delia HarbottleThe Cellars-Hohenort
Chad Blows – Head Chef at The Marine

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Thank you to We Are Africa for hosting us, to the incredible Relais & Châteaux chefs from our hotels and lodges and to our partners – Waterford Wine Estate, Valrhona chocolate and Nespresso.

The Wine Rorschach Test – Delaire Graff Estate

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Wine relieves us from our minds. This is my favourite of its attributes. Which probably says more about me than the wine itself. Such is the nature of this particular poison.

In the way that a Lionel Smit or Dylan Lewis speaks to its audience in a myriad of ways, so wine shows itself differently to different people. Whether looking at a sculpture on the lawns of Delaire Graff in the Cape Winelands or sipping Chardonnay on its verandah, what we read into the work gives us a little glimpse into ourselves. Wine is the window to the soul, you could say… Our preferred style of Rorschach test.

For Rylan Gentles, Head Sommelier of Delaire Graff Restaurant, it’s about the art and the pleasure of it all.

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Rylan pours us a glass of his white reserve over a lunch of pan-seared cob, squid with hake and lemon mousse, tamarind gel, cauliflower puree, pumpkin and ginger gnocchi, at Delaire Graff one Autumn afternoon, and explains his art to us:

“To me wine is an art, it is special and I look at it as bottled poetry. Every bottle of wine tells its own story. It gives a sense of place and it is giving thought to the time, dedication and hard work that went into creating it which enhance the joy of each sip.

Each wine is different in its own way. There are so many wine styles and grape varieties which have their own distinct smell and taste. My favourite grape is chardonnay because of its versatility. It can be enjoyed with or without food, at lunch or dinner, with friends and family. From the delicate lighter styles to the more full and textured with luscious fruit and aromas, chardonnay is a wonderful cultivar to explore.

Wine is my passion and it’s made for pure enjoyment, bringing people together. Wine is a lifestyle and my favourite thing about is that you can never get bored. There is so much to learn and the wine world is evolving every day with new techniques, vintages and creativity of winemakers.”

Tell us in the comments section what your favourite thing about wine is, what it is that compels you in the search for the perfect bottle, and take a look at some images from our visit below.

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