A special guest post by Lezaan Roos.
Don’t ask me to compare Babylonstoren with other Cape Dutch farms. That would be tricky. For starters, it produces wine – a feature typical of estates. It offers a variety of unique food experiences, which could put it firmly in the restaurant category. It has a hotel, it’s a working farm – and at that farm’s heart, one of the most spectacular gardens the region has ever seen. Want even more? It has one of the best preserved farm yards (200 hectares) in the Cape Dutch tradition, dating back to the founding of the farm in 1690…
I could go on.
What is Babylonstoren?
So, enough with the comparing – but what is Babylonstoren? My answer would be: it’s one of those rare examples where “they got everything right”. In my opinion, it goes beyond a standard customer experience to become a winning example of excellent Service Design, from planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication (the interaction between Babylonstoren and its customers), and all the material components of a service striving to improve its effectiveness – the very definition of quality Service Design.
Every touch-point of the Babylonstoren experience has been geared to create “small moments of wonder” to fill your day with a magical, multifaceted experience, whether you’re lying in your hammock overlooking the vineyards, sitting in the Garden, making your own salad (with fruit & vegetables picked in said garden), sipping a cup of tea in the Green House after swimming in the old farm dam…it’s all been thought through, end to end, with an impressive thematic continuity.
Innovation is said to be “old ideas that have been made relevant”. This site’s user experience qualifies – uniquely offering modern design and a contemporary ethos, yet steeped in local cultural history and remaining entirely in keeping with its authentic farmyard roots and features. Babylonstoren elegantly reflects the lifestyle element of the South African Wine Destination experience, whilst offering so much more than wine.
My favourite Babylonstoren moments
1. My Cottage – A Cape Dutch farm building in a style dating back to the 17th / 18th Century – but only on the outside. Head indoors and you’re surrounded by modern design-work, which somehow doesn’t detract from the general feeling of coziness. You have the privacy to doze off in your hammock while watching the sun set over the vineyards – thanks to the roaring fire and my beyond-comfy hammock, it never took me long to do just that. The bathroom brings the modern design and natural surroundings into play with a glass strip that lets natural light in and gives you a view of the surrounding trees. For the technologically minded, it’s also worth mentioning the broadband – a feature of all the cottages, consistently fast, and totally free. I couldn’t have been more delighted.
2. The Food – Meals are served in either Babel (the restaurant), the Tasting room (or ‘old blacksmith’s building’) or the greenhouse-cum-tearoom. The menu is inspired by the seasonal availability of ingredients, and served by the garden’s fresh produce. My own hearty dinner included a seared beef Carpaccio with parmisan watercress & a satsuma mustard dressing starter, and a homemade pizza with beetroot cured trout, creme fraiche and chives – all served in a rustic, moody (soft candle light) atmosphere.
Babylonstoren is a working farm, and the food produced (fruit and vegetables, homemade bread, varieties of sausage and meat products, loaves etc.) is served in the restaurants and sold in the farm shop. The restaurants are open to day-trippers (as are the garden and wine tasting facilities), and, obviously, to staying guests.
3. The Garden – There’s a lot of different activity centered around the Garden, and it’s difficult to summarise what it’s used for and what makes it so special. Perhaps it’s the setting – the backdrop of dramatic mountains and beautiful vineyards surrounding the farm, along with the beautiful onsite aesthetics. And of course there’s the nourishment factor – inspired by the Company Gardens of the Cape, where for centuries ships would replenish with sweet water and vegetables on their halfway station between Europe and Asia. The whole experience is enhanced by its proximity to the farm and its facilities.
4. The Website – It’s not often I’d include a website review in a travel experience, but in this instance the farm’s web presence is a joy and really adds to the experience before, during and after your stay. It reflects not only the simplicity of the Babylonstoren ethos through its design, but also the rich history that surrounds it (with a complete historical timeline, reflecting Bablyonstoren stories) through interesting supporting content. The associated blog continues the “farmyard feel” with regular updates on on-site events and is written in an engagingly inclusive way, as if you’re part of the family – which in a way you are, after your stay is over.
In summary: let me put my heart on my sleeve here.
Babylonstoren is the family you’ve always wanted, the farm house experience you’ve always dreamed of (that one with the ducks, donkeys, guinea-fowl walking around – the lot). The Garden will inspire you to create new culinary masterpieces. And last but far from least, it’s about hearty food, cooked to perfection and prepared with honesty and skill, that you just can’t stop eating. In a word – heavenly.