Heavenly- Sheppard Boutique Hotel in Mbombela is ‘exceptional’

Originally the private dwelling of the German Mennen family, the home was subsequently converted into a guest house with additional rooms.

At the entrance to the four-star Sheppard Boutique Hotel in Mbombela, an imposing rock fig tree, with its roots wrapped firmly around a giant rock, immediately catch- es the eye and strikes the right chord: of nature at its wholesome, unspoilt best.

This is but a taste of what lurks behind the perimeter wall of this sought-after boutique manor. A lush garden with a colourful range of fragrant roses and other plants; a variety of huge indigenous trees; more giant boulders around the sparkling swimming pool; and a deck that offers an unparalleled view over the town; the Crocodile River Valley and adjacent mountains; all combine to provide a unique ambience and ideal setting for a tranquil sojourn.

The hotel is the perfect base to explore the area, which includes the nearby Kruger National Park, the historic Barberton mining town, or the quaint settlement of Kaapsehoop, about 25km from Mbombela and famous for its wild horses.

Add to this the excellent accommodation (fully equipped rooms with understated elegance); the friendly service (from the welcoming guard at the gate to the receptionist and manor staff ); a scrumptious breakfast (from a compact menu) and the five-star dinner offering at its Grill Room at night; and you are assured of an exceptional stay, from beginning to end.

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Originally the private dwelling of the German Mennen family, the home was subsequently converted into a guest house with additional rooms. Following the Soccer World Cup in 2010, when it hosted an array of local and foreign visitors, the place gradually lost its sparkle and allure…until the current owners took it over and completely overhauled Shep- pard to its current sterling four-star status.

Sheppard Boutique Hotel: Picture: Sheppard Boutique Hotel, website

“Given the fact that there are more than a hundred guest houses in the vicinity of Mbombela, we realised from the outset that attention to detail was paramount; that we had to be completely hands-on in the daily running of the operation to ensure that visitors’ every need is catered for and service excellence is sustained,” says General Manager Anton Alberts. Alberts, who also revels in his role as “master chef ” in The Grill Room restaurant, believes service excellence and quality food, as well as The Grill Room’s unique setting, has from the outset, contributed to its popularity.

“Our guests appreciate the fact that it is not just another franchise with the same old generic dishes. They experience a special occasion that will remain a fond memory.” Our recent Saturday evening (birthday) dinner at The Grill Room proved him spot on.

The Grill Restaurant at Sheppard Boutique Hotel. Picture: Sheppard Boutique Hotel, website

Besides the stylish setting comprising impressive black wood tables and chairs and apt culinary quotes high on the walls around the room, our sumptuous dishes (named very innovatively!) set the tone for a memorable evening.

Sheppard’s 21 rooms – ranging from an elegant and private garden cottage with its own private garden; a family room consisting of two separate rooms; two exclusive rooms, nine luxury rooms and eight classic rooms, each with a small lounge area – should please even the most fastidious visitor.

All the rooms come complete with all the necessary amenities: en-suite with a separate bath and shower (except for the classic rooms which only have showers); bathrobes; toiletries, king-size bed; air conditioning, bar fridge with complimentary water; flat-screen satellite TV, free Wi-Fi; mini-safe and complimentary tea; and coffee facilities – you name it.

Besides boasting several spots of beautiful fragrant roses, for me, the variety of sturdy trees and abundance of birdlife in the garden were a personal highlight. As Sheppard is situated next to a natural forested municipal area that will never be commercially or privately developed, the trees lure myriad birds. On my walkabout in the garden, I spotted, among others, chestnut, more rock fig, giant fig leaf, marula, silk cotton, white bauhinia and sausage trees.

“Particularly on Sundays, when the venue is notably quieter after the week’s hustle and bustle, visitors can enjoy watching a wide variety of birds bathing in the birdbaths scattered around the premises: Cape robin, hoopoe, Red-chested Cuckoo, kingfisher, a variety of louries, woodpeckers, to name but a few,” Alberts points out.

Picture: Sheppard Boutique Hotel, website

Adding to the garden’s at- traction are the special ceramic “touches” in nooks and crannies, for example, two stately whippets with chic bow ties welcoming guests at the entrance to the manor house, a pair of legs dangling in the air, tiny ‘rock climbers’ mounting a boulder (in the garden suite), a ceramic “head” filled with plants, etc. Adding to Sheppard’s special ambience is the friendly staff.

“All the staff are local, mostly Swazi, and come a long way with Sheppard – 10 years or longer – so they are quite experienced. “Their friendliness can be at- tributed to the accessible personalities, the enjoyable working conditions and simply because everybody at Sheppard is treated with respect, equally and just,” Alberts stresses.

“Every employee knows exactly what is expected of him or her. We are a close-knit, enthusiastic team that strives tirelessly for excellence – and I believe this sets us apart,” says Alberts.