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A Unique Experience | Review by TweetCritique

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A unique package for TweetCritique followers

The whole experience is available to TweetCritique Twitter followers only and at a cost of R1500 per person sharing, it is unbelievably good value. The package runs for the period between 1st April and 31st July and is of course subject to room availability.

The wonderful Devon Valley hotel, Van Ryn’s Brandy and Le Venue Restaurant at J C le Roux have come up with an exclusive package for TweetCritique Twitter followers. Read on to the end of this review for more details.

I had the opportunity recently to sample the package and I can only describe it as an amazing experience. Arriving early afternoon on a stunningly beautiful day to the Devon Valley Hotel, I was more than a little excited to embark on what I knew would be a memorable and enjoyable couple of days.

Devon Valley Hotel, situated toward the end of Devon Valley Road, is perched on a hill with three hundred and sixty degrees of breath-taking views and beauty. It is of little wonder that Devon Valley Hotel is consistently in the TripAdvisor top five hotels in Stellenbosch and was recently named winner in their bargain category in its 2013 Travellers Choice awards.

For the first part of my adventure, we were whisked off to the nearby Van Ryn’s Brandy Distillery. Steeped in a hundred and seven years of history Van Ryn’s, with its manicured lawns and majestic buildings, filled me with a sense of awe and anticipation. Not only was I looking forward to a guided tour of the distillery and the chance to sample some of their famous brandy, the in-house fromagerie and charcuterie promised to be a culinary adventure well worth exploring.

With brandy distilling methods almost unchanged at Van Ryn’s from its inception, much of the equipment still in use dates back to its establishment.

Watching the cooper skilfully demonstrate his art of barrel building and assembly, I saw reflected in his work the passion, pride and diligence that is put into perfecting each bottle of brandy, distinctive to Van Ryn’s.

Without giving too much away, one of the highlights of the tour was standing in the room where two thousand barrels of Van Ryn’s aging brandy exuded the smoky-sweet aroma of this liquid gold, almost but not quite over-powering; the need to remove from our person cell phones and lighters was immediately obvious.

At the conclusion of the tour we were escorted into the fromagerie and charcuterie for a tasting of the three brandies that Van Ryn’s is so well known for, their twelve year old, their fifteen year old and their twenty year old, all potstill brandies made in the cognac method. Each of the vintages had an unexpected individuality, each one enjoyable but my favourite being the smoky twenty-year old.

The charcuterie and fromagerie at Van Ryn’s offer an appetising selection of platters, sandwiches and salads that have been creatively and cleverly designed to complement both the ambience of the distillery and the brandy it produces.

I personally selected the Van Ryn’s Signature Sandwich that consisted of a toasted ciabatta with tomato chutney, black pepper crusted roast beef, creamed horseradish, mature Healy’s cheddar shavings, cucumber ribbons and chutney flavoured biltong bites. A true melee of delicious flavours and textures that both sated me and excited my taste buds, it is of little wonder that this is so appropriately labelled their signature sandwich. And for a little dessert I decided on the Van Ryn’s chocolate and brandy cake, delicious hardly describes it splendour, it was divine.

The whole experience at Van Ryn’s Distillery was excellent, the guide’s patience when it came to my questions and his obvious knowledge of both Van Ryn’s and the distilling process, made for a most enjoyable afternoon.

Having checked into Devon Valley Hotel prior to leaving for Van Ryn’s, a quick freshen up in my room, which by the way was exquisite, and change of clothes and I was seated outside appreciating the vista and looking forward to what I knew and expected to be a wonderful evening of food and entertainment.

Whilst I sipped on a glass or two of Devon Valley Hotels self-produced wines, and excellent they were too, the solo singer/guitarist entertained guests with a variety of songs that were well received and appreciated by all who sat outside to enjoy the coolness of the evening after such a hot day.

Dinner was in the Flavours Restaurant, a favourite of locals and hotel guests alike. I am not usually the hugest of fans when it comes to hotel restaurants, but Flavours is certainly an exception.

The menu, which should be noted, changes on a monthly basis, is a wonderful combination of dishes, succinctly but accurately described. I however wanted to be guided with my choices and the wonderfully effervescent and charming Dinner Manager, Stephanie, was more than happy to oblige. Stephanie’s suggestion of the starter buffet was perfect and I self-selected some mussels, aubergines and red and yellow pepper salad, ever conscious that room needed to be left for the main course and dessert, naturally. The starter was delicious, refreshingly fresh and a blend of flavours that was exciting and scrumptious.

The main course was choice was a little more difficult for me, I was really unsure as to what I wanted. Once again the indefatigable Stephanie was by my side and assisting with explanations and suggestions. Her advice was to go for the linefish and two tiger prawns, topped with red pepper pesto, garlic butter and fondant potatoes. The linefish of the day was kabeljou. A fish that I have to say, I have rarely tasted. Well it was a triumph, what an outstanding dish, the fish was amazing, meaty and succulent and so full of flavour. I would definitely choose that dish again.

I felt like something a little different for dessert and though one of my favourites, Crème brûlée was on the menu, with Amarula no less, I opted for the coffee and vanilla layered frozen parfait. And what an excellent choice that proved to be, I absolutely loved it.

And so it was off to bed for me, totally satisfied with every detail of my experience so far.

Breakfast at Devon Valley Hotel is a very special offering. And though it is what has become the expected buffet breakfast, it is the Devon Valley Hotel signature that makes this a breakfast you will long remember. I had smoked salmon and watermelon from the cold buffet, it was simply delicious. A variety of other dishes are on offer including cereals and juices and other fruits and yoghourts. I was however saving myself for the hot buffet. The hot breakfast buffet at Devon Valley Hotel is a joy to behold. It is rare that such a huge variety of dishes are available and in such volume. It is in fact a little daunting, for me anyway, meat-lover that I am, even early in the morning. So bacon, sausages, lambs liver, mushrooms and hash browns were my choice, but there was so much more. I lingered a little at my table savouring each and every morsel of my chosen breakfast, it was fantastic.

After enjoying my hearty breakfast, I made my way back to my room to ready myself for departure and the final part of my experience, Lunch at Le Venue at J C le Roux. I have been lucky enough to lunch there on one previous occasion and I was more than looking forward to this return visit.

Devon Valley Hotel is an extraordinary hotel, the staff, every single one of them, is a dedicated member of a team that excels in creating a customer experience that rivals any other. The friendliness, and I mean genuine friendliness, attention to detail and professionalism are what sets this hotel above and beyond the majority of hotels I have visited over the years, both in South Africa and internationally.

And so with a promise to return soon, I made my way to Le Venue at J C le Roux, a mere five minutes further down Devon Valley Road. Having recently visited Le Venue in October last year, I knew that my lunch was going to be wonderful. The elegance of the venue, the beauty of the surrounding vista, made this restaurant, together with food, one of my favourites. Somewhat hotter than my last visit to Le Venue, I was seated inside away from the heat that was bearing down.

Unusually for me, I quickly decided on my starter, probably because it was the identical starter I had during my last visit. I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to have the bloody mary oysters again. And they were as I remembered, fat and succulent and absolutely stunningly delicious. Just perfect.

Busy as it was on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, the service was efficient and friendly and soon it was time for me to choose my main course. Unsurprisingly, I was still a little full my breakfast, so I decided on something a little light. The Chermoula tiger prawn salad set on garden greens with tomatoes, orange segments and fresh mango, drizzled with a balsamic dressing sounded good and not too ambitious for my faltering appetite.

And yes it was the perfect choice. The colourful salad with its variety of textures and flavours was both refreshing and tasty to the extreme, a triumph.

And just when I thought I could eat no more I was faced with the choice for dessert. An old favourite of mine, Eton mess, just could not be ignored. The Le Venue interpretation of this dish is one of my favourites, the fresh fruit, the meringue, the white chocolate and the cream, make this dish, indulgent as is, a creation that looks as good as it tastes.

It was now time for me to depart with memories of an experience that was both infinitely enjoyable and totally repeatable.

 Read the review here.

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