Settled on the shores of Verlorenvlei, just inland from the small town of Elands Bay, Vensterklip Guest Farm caters to travellers searching for more than just surf, sand and sunshine.
Presided over by the sandstone hills that herald the beginning of the Cederberg, Vensterklip offers guests a selection of self-catering accommodation and camping. Getting its unique name from a rock formation further up the valley that resembles a window cut into the living rock, the guest farm has been a popular family and wedding destination for the past few decades. Newly taken over by hospitality maven Jane Louw and her husband Kobus, Vensterklip still offers the same West Coast hospitality but now with a greater emphasis on locally sourced food, eclectic décor and excellent service.
Having run two guesthouses in nearby Redelinghuys and Saldanha Bay since the mid Nineties, Jane has expertly uplifted the accommodation, restaurant and function venue to a level that ensures repeat visits by guests from all over the world.
Accommodation is offered in the form of Scott House, Pelican Cottage, Fish Eagle Cottage, Louw’s Manor and Klein Bonteheuwel Cottage. The latter two are renovated farmhouses, their solid whitewashed walls, heavy wooden floorboards and wide verandahs lending a sense of nostalgia to Vensterklip. Sliding sash windows are sheltered by cheerful red shutters and offer sills wide enough to sit on, and the surrounding gardens contain a mix of indigenous succulents, geraniums, wild garlic and aloes.
Indoors the décor is a charming mix of riempie benches, mid century coffee tables and antique chests. Brass beds are made up with soft eiderdowns to keep the winter cold at bay, while mosquito nets ensure a peaceful sleep come summer. Fully stocked kitchens in both of the larger houses give a nod to the past with a wood-burning stove, cavernous hearth and vintage cooking utensils – a Julia Child tome or two encouraging even the most urban of visitors to don an apron and begin kneading out pastry on the scrubbed kitchen table.
For guests who would rather keep their fingers devoid of flour, there’s the Tin Kitchen – Vensterklip’s restaurant, found a few steps from the cottages. Housed in a 300 year-old barn, the restaurant has been tastefully decorated to mirror its historical location. Sliding glass doors have been installed to provide light, while the original stone hearth is filled with twinkling fairy lights and an arrangement of indigenous plants. Trailing aloes and air plants intertwine through a wrought-iron chandelier and in the evenings the barn is lit up with candlelight. Alluringly authentic, from the corrugated iron roof to the scrawled section of graffiti dating back to the 1800s, the Tin Kitchen has been successful in bringing modern comfort to an antique setting.
While the barn is a draw card all its own, the food served within the stone walls is the reason why the farm is so well frequented by locals and visitors alike. Combining simple dishes with expert execution, Head Chef Linda and Jane have kept popular items on the menu but are slowly introducing a new selection of fare that promises to encapsulate the ingredients, recipes and flavour endemic to the Cape West Coast. While the heavily endangered crayfish is off the menu, diners can still enjoy fresh mussels, linefish, crispy calamari and prawns basted liberally in garlic butter. Prime Angus steak, lamb loin chops direct from the farmer or a juicy beef burger made from scratch are served with a generous portion of golden twice-fried chips.
As Venstersklip falls into the Sandveld area, it is to be expected that any potato dish is certain to make a good choice – the spuds in question arriving from neighbouring farms and peeled, sliced or mashed to order. Friday nights at Venstersklip are festive occasions, with Linda firing up the pizza oven and Jane getting hands-on with making the farm’s famous thin-based pizzas. Patrons can often by found in the pub next door – cheekily named The International Bar – or enjoying the evening air and the glow of a fire in the thatched lapa outdoors. Kids are kept occupied with a large play area, making Vensterklip an option for the entire family.
Although one might be tempted to do nothing but, there is more to Vensterklip than eating and drinking. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of the surrounding landscape and explore the famous San cave paintings, spend the morning hiking or horse riding around the Vlei or set off on a fishing trip from the old harbour at the crayfish factory in Elands Bay. Vensterklip is also the base for the popular Crayfish Trail – a slackpacking route that winds its way along the West Coast, treating walkers to a truly authentic experience in the local food, culture, history and hospitality of the area.
Acknowledged by birdwatchers as being a prime spot, Verlorenvlei is home to myriad species of bird including the Great White Pelican, and fish like the endangered Verlorenvlei redfin. Armed with a hamper of sandwiches and a pair of binoculars, one can while away an afternoon, the sound of the ubiquitous Berg wind through the reeds and the call of an African fish eagle across the water the only sounds breaking the silence.
Whether looking to host a wedding, birthday party, corporate function or simply get away from the city for a weekend, Vensterklip Guest Farm is unique in the fact that it offers all the above and yet retains its sense of space and tranquility.
Find Vensterklip 220km out of Cape Town, on the R366 past Elands Bay.