As the winter weeks’ roll-on, getting out of Sandton for a weekend to switch-off, warm-up and take in some colder-weather flavours, is an annual indulgence not to be forgone.
Over the past few months, Pretoria’s African Pride Irene Country Lodge Autograph Collection has enhanced its distinctive farm-like nature with a number of new developments, highlighting its unique ‘farm in the city’ atmosphere.
Recently brought into Marriott International’s Autograph Collection Hotels, the Irene Country Lodge joins a select community of iconic hotels in destinations like Dubai, Rome, Kuala Lumpur and London, each of which exemplifies a distinctive personality – exactly like nothing else. The Sandton Times recently reported that the hotel joined the Autograph Collection: FIVE AFRICAN PRIDE HOTELS REBRAND TO AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION HOTELS.
With its location adjacent to the much-loved Irene Farm that dates from 1895, historical nuances are recorded throughout the property –in the farm buildings, the barn and the old dairy. This is the ‘slow movement’ at its best: tried and trusted farming techniques from a previous era coupled with the stillness of nature. With its characteristic roses –over 1200 of them –and beautiful planted trees, coupled with the quietly gurgling Hennops River running through the property, this is a destination attractive to travelers from many an era, including high profile politicians and historical figures known for their contribution to the development of South Africa.
Celebrating its historical roots and links to the surrounding natural environment, African Pride Irene Country Lodge Autograph Collection and the Irene Farm have joined forces to provide a unique countrified experience in the quiet rural Irene Village atmosphere, just a short distance away from the Pretoria city centre and its urban sprawl.
“Today the hotel is part of the Farm, and the Farm is part of the hotel.”
– General Manager of the Hotel, Joe Segers
Shortly after arrival, lunch is at leisure at the Irene Farm deli, which has seen a refresh over the past months. Delicious, fresh food and dairy products from the deli are just some of the attractions for day visitors to the farm, along with plenty of activities for children, who can feed the swans and get to know the cows in the meadows. Alternatively, the relocated fountain with mother and calf, which stands at the foot of the entrance to the farm, makes for a great wishing-well or a chance to get some feet wet.
The menu is made up of some all-time favourites, starting from breakfast in the morning to burgers, gourmet sandwiches and salads. Some items not to miss out on include the pot pie or roasted pork belly. Set out on a now larger deck overlooking the farm and its various fountains, even just a weekend lunch or breakfast is worth the trip. And let’s not forget rounding off a savory bite with the not to be missed sweet temptations, best enjoyed with Irene Farms home-produced thick cream.
One of the other welcome developments is the underground walkway to link African Pride Irene Country Lodge Autograph Collection and Irene Farm. In the past, hotel guests had to cross the not-too-busy road between the two properties to access the farm through an access controlled gate. Now, they can enjoy a leisurely stroll from the hotel through the walkway, under the street, to take pleasure in the farm’s many offerings. Through the underground walkway, further refurbishment and expansion also brings to the property a new restaurant and three multi-purpose function venues.
After lunch, it’s time to retire to the ever spacious suite at the far end of the lodge, overlooking the rolling lawns and lake at the heart of the property. With a welcome area, dining and living room, along with the master bedroom and bathroom, the stay is almost too short to take in all there is to enjoy both in the room and around the acreage.
Capacity at the hotel has also been taken a step further with the addition of 48 superior rooms, taking the total number of rooms to 123, offering the comfort of a country manor experience within the unique farm environment of Irene.
Long popular among the business community the hotel has also expanded its conferencing facilities with the addition of the 200-seater Lakeside Conference Venue. Situated alongside the placid, soothing lake, this is a venue bound to appeal – beautiful views of the countryside from the first-rate conference venue situated adjacent to the expanded River Bar and Meadow Green Restaurant, the setting for dinner. Now able to accommodate 300 guests, the restaurant is geared to serve hotels guests, outside day visitors, and large numbers of conference delegates.
After a swish cocktail at the beautifully refurbished River Bar, it’s time to take in the Saturday Night Live buffet at the Meadow Green Restaurant, which sees the chef plate the main course from buffet to plate, live in front of diners – a fun and different experience to a Saturday night dinner.
Mains are generously plated.
Only to be outdone by the beautifully presented dessert.
One last treat before departure and it’s a Sunday late-afternoon high-tea with all the classic trimmings done to perfection. The Irene Farm thick cream makes a most-welcome return during this late afternoon indulgence!
All too soon it is time to pack up and head home. Irene Country Lodge is close enough for a weekend away, yet far enough from Sandton to give it that out of town feeling. Having rested all too well, it’s a weekend just right to recharge those mortal batteries. Irene Country Lodge can quickly become an all-time favourite weekend retreat with the staff and managements friendly approach being just one of the ingredients that linger.
Don’t miss more of our travel posts, as The Sandton Times makes the best of the chillier weather by exploring some of the most desirable winter weekend getaways.
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