They call it “small”, but it has enormous heart. Occupying a quiet, tree-lined residential road, the Robertson Small is the sort of intimate, downsized hotel that’s genetically wired to make you feel like you’ve come home. Starting with the gracious smile that welcomes you from across the counter in the fabulous little lobby, right down to the linens that enfold you as you drift to sleep at night, every detail seems ordained to coax you into a kind of lazy, feel-good stupor.
Centred on a 110-year-old Victorian manor with a broekie-lace fringe around the veranda, its good looks spill over into a stupendous garden, one that’s manicured in parts, slightly jungly in others.
Walking distance to Robertson’s main drag, yet lightyears from anything resembling noise, bustle or a crowd, this little hotel embodies tranquillity, slowing down, finding your feet on the earth. Aside from the shaded veranda, there are plenty of other nooks and crannies into which you can tuck yourself. You can curl up on your private terrace, unfurl on a sunlounger, find cool alcoves in the garden, or sink into one of the statement-making chairs in the little lounge where you’re surrounded by art.
As with the public areas, each of the 10 rooms has been turned into something quite special thanks to a collaborative effort by various designers and artists and crafters tasked with coming up with unique pieces that would pull together an original look and feel for the entire hotel. From Alexis Barrell’s one-off cotton fabrics to a signature scent created by perfumer Agata Karolina’s House of Gozdawa, uniqueness prevails.
Despite all there is to admire, by mid-afternoon I had become fastened to a sunbed, gazing lazily over the tips of my toes across the vastness of the garden. It was still summer in the Robertson Valley and I simply melted into position. I could barely budge, although when I did, I literally just had to climb into the three-metre wide lap pool and float across to my room. Can you imagine anything more delightful than swimming to your room to apply a dab of sunscreen or grab something cold from the minibar?
And, when you’re not floating across the pool to your room, there’s precious little to distract you, aside from the cooing of turtledoves, the cries of hadedahs, and watching the French-speaking couple taking a break from their honeymooning to play petanque on the lawn.
My room neighbours, meanwhile, refused to do anything other than loll idly on their terrace at the pool’s edge. When I asked them if they’d had a busy morning, they just giggled and muttered, “Busy doing nothing!”
It was quite a chore to extricate myself from my horizontal happy place by the pool. While Walter, the gentleman at the front desk, had plied me with information about all there is to see and do in the Valley, I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the premises, save for a brief stroll around the immediate neighbourhood which consists of more lush gardens and several beautiful old houses.
My afternoon of laying low eventually gave way to a lazy dusk as green palm fronds turned to sepia and eventually became inky silhouettes. As the sun dropped from sight, the intimate Michael Chandler-designed porcelain bar beckoned. Here, pre-dinner nibbles and sundowner drinks were served in the presence of a well-curated soundtrack that spilled into the adjacent restaurant which in turn spilled onto an outdoor courtyard where, on that fine summer’s evening, I caught a hint of a breeze and a sliver of star-speckled sky.
Dinner was a bit of an event, with stellar service and all sorts of interesting ingredients featured on a menu that emphasised flavour, freshness and seasonality. A salad of squid, Cape bokkoms, dried apricots and toasted macadamias was followed by a scrumptious cauliflower “steak”, pan-fried and finished with charred beetroot, wood sorrel and almonds.
After an extra helping of homemade ice cream, my bedroom was a marvellous cocoon – somehow perfectly proportioned and impeccably laid out, it was imbued with precisely all the things you might need, want or crave. There were gorgeous lightweight cotton robes (with socks), a Nespresso machine, snacks (healthy ones, too), and barely a scrap of unnecessary plastic. Plus, of course, a super-plush bed that very quickly swallowed me whole, committing me to deep sleep.
The same pattern of nurturing continued at breakfast where a cold buffet was arranged like a work of art, incorporating ingredients sourced from the Breede River Valley’s abundant farms, and piled with breads and muffins straight from the oven. A menu of hot items, however, conjured a conundrum: was it to be eggs Benedict or was I more in the mood for Florentine? Rather than decide for myself, I entreated the waiters for advice…
Less easily resolved, though, was another, more urgent dilemma: how was I going to convince myself to spend the day doing anything more than nothing?