David Bullard

I’d been congratulating myself on getting arrangements spot on for Mrs B when the news arrived that the 10 am Kulula flight to Cape Town had been cancelled and we were now on the 10.40am Comair flight.

Paradoxically this has its advantages. I can get into the superb Kulula SLOW lounge at Olly Tambo with my BA card if I’m on a Comair flight but not if I travel Kulula. Go figure.

The later flight meant a 12.40ish arrival time and we still had to collect luggage and pick up a hire car. So my plans for a surprise leisurely lunch were slightly scuppered and we eventually arrived at the Devon Valley Hotel at around two and asked if they were still serving lunch. They certainly were they said and we took a table with a magnificent  mountain view on the verandah. The menus were delivered and 10 minutes passed. Then 15, then 20, and 25 minutes later with Mrs B getting noticeably irritable I went to reception and mentioned that we hadn’t even been offered a drink let alone had our lunch order taken. This was the rocket that was needed and the staff sprung to life. They couldn’t have been more charming and the lunch was quite adequate but I couldn’t help wondering whether some staff training might come in useful at the Devon Valley Hotel. Simple stuff like associating people in restaurants sitting at empty tables with the need for food and drink.

Since lunch hadn’t been an unqualified success I was a tad apprehensive about our accommodation for the next four days. Suppose it was nothing like what was promised on the website. The only way to find out was to continue another 500 metres or so down the Devon Valley road and find out.

Merlot cottage at MANA. Picture: David Bullard

We “discovered” MANA on a trip to J C le Roux last October and thought it looked a promising place to stay. It’s set back from a very quiet road with little passing traffic and magnificent views. So I booked online and got an immediate confirmation. Couldn’t have been easier.

There’s always an element of expectation when you book into a new hotel or B&B and we have been disappointed on more occasions that I care to remember. There was the B&B that claimed a view of the ocean … but only if you stood on the roof.  We pulled up outside reception and Heather Taylor, the owner, was there to meet us. She had put us in Merlot, one of the three luxury suites at MANA. There are also two very acceptable superior rooms at a slightly lower price and a self catering cottage for up to four people. The rooms are converted farm buildings and they may look a little rustic from the outside but inside they are comfortably but simply furnished.

The interior of Merlot cottage. PIcture: David Bullard

We noticed to our delight that there was no TV in the room, a plus in my book. Merlot is a long room with a sitting area at one end and the bedroom at the other. Downstairs is a large bathroom with open shower, twin vanity units and a heated towel rail. There’s a mini bar and coffee and tea making stuff and a safe plus plenty of wardrobe space. Air con is available but open windows provided enough of a breeze to keep us cool. I turned to Mrs B for the approving nod and we both agreed that we liked what we saw. Very much.

I love good thick towels and crisp bed linen and MANA had all that. I also don’t like to feel cooped up in a room but there’s no chance of that because MANA has the most exquisite gardens and terraces, all set among the vines of J C le Roux. It would be difficult to imagine a more idyllic peaceful setting.

We didn’t bother to go out to dinner on the first night so we sat outside the cottage watching the sun go down. Then, after a terrific night’s sleep in one of the more comfortable beds I have encountered away from home, it was breakfast time. MANA only offers breakfast (although I suspect you could persuade Heather to conjure up a salad if you were too idle to venture out to one of the many local restaurants).

Beautifully presented Eggs and B. Picture: David Bullard

Breakfast is served at a leisurely hour (around 9) outside on the terrace overlooking the mountains and under the shade of palm trees and umbrellas. It’s a simple menu of fresh fruit, juices, cereal, muesli and yoghurt variations followed by a selection of cooked main courses. I thought I’d try the fry up of eggs and bacon, and what turned up looked almost too good to eat. Many hotels manage to bugger up breakfast so when it’s done well then it’s a real pleasure.  I found myself salivating in anticipation around 7.30 every morning.

Now this may sound all very gushing and you’re probably thinking this was a freebie but it wasn’t. We paid for the whole thing and even left a decent tip for the discreet and efficient staff. The big plusses at MANA are very little noise (although the grape harvest might be the exception), stunning location, comfortable rooms, great food and complete privacy. It is exactly the place to stay if you want to go on a gourmet trip to Tokara, Jordan, 96 Winery Road, Delaire and any of the other world class restaurants in the area. Just be warned that, other than enjoying the view and the food, there’s precious little else to do other than sit by the pool and read your iPad or Kindle. Which is precisely why MANA won’t appeal to the bling bunnies. And long may that continue to be the case.