I HAD A FEAST IN AFRICA. No ordinary feast, mind you – I was the luncheon guest of Pat Cavendish O’Neill, heiress and author of A Lion in the Bedroom, an utterly charming and juicy chronicle of the lavish life she led as the daughter of one of Britain’s most famous beauties, Enid Lindeman (of the Australian wine family). Pat’s mother married four times – two titles without money and two billionaires without titles, all of whom died prematurely. When, through one of her marriages, Enid became Lady Kenmare, her popular, novelist friend Somerset Maugham dubbed her “Lady Killmore.”
The event was held on the edge of Africa – at Pat O’Neill’s farm, Broadlands, in Somerset West, one of the wine-growing regions of South Africa’s Western Cape. Some 15 dogs trotted up the long, tree-lined drive to greet us. At that time Pat was 84, still young, still interested in everything, and still a beauty in her own right—no one has such wide-set pale blue eyes.
“I’ve had a wonderful life" she said, ushering us to the shaded pool-side terrace.
Forty years ago Pat and her mother moved from Kenya’s Happy Valley to Broadlands, a stud farm outside of Cape Town, for her mother’s health and at the behest of Beryl Markham, aviatrix, horse trainer, and a reputed lover of Denys Finch Hatton—yes, Karen Blixen’s Finch Hatton (remember the film Out of Africa?). Beryl told Pat: “Broadlands has a wonderful paddock and horses, white fencing, and trees everywhere.” Like Beryl, Pat and her mother raised champion thoroughbreds and, like Beryl, Pat fell in love with South Africa.
After lunch, we toured the grounds of Broadlands to see Pat’s menagerie (and I don’t mean the glass kind)—four baboons, assorted goats, donkeys, hogs, cattle, 14 cats, 60 vervet monkeys, and another 20-odd canines. Pat rescued every last animal except for one magnificent dog, an English mastiff called Cash, so named because it’s the only creature she ever paid for.
The walls of the drawing room are hung to the rafters with oils and watercolors anchored by a portrait of Pat and Tana, her beloved pet lioness who, she said, “taught me the beauty of Africa.” Tables are adorned with photographs of Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
There are paintings of her mother and paintings by her mother, of whom she said, “Men just adored her. Once they fell, they fell for the rest of their lives” (foreshortened though they might be).
Sadly, Pat was swindled out of her $100 million inheritance by a series of crooked accountants and was forced to sell Broadlands, but she did so with the proviso that she could live out the rest of her days there. She’s now 93 and has opened the Pat O’Neill Sanctuary to make sure her beloved pets are and will be cared for.
While you may not get to see Pat’s amazing farm, you will be able to see some other fabulous estates in Somerset West. One of my favorites was the sublime Morgenster Wine & Olive Oil Estate, a half-hour’s drive from Cape Town. It’s an incredibly beautiful vineyard dating to 1711.
Morgenster Wine & Olive Oil Estates
Go, not only for the beauty of the grounds, not only for a tasting of the excellent Bordeaux-style wines but for a formal taste-test of Morgenster’s extraordinary, award-winning olive oils. And, while you’re there, don’t fail to savor Morgenster’s excellent balsamic vinegar. I brought home a bottle for one of my sisters and it was a huge hit. Here’s a tip from the estate:
“Heating Balsamic will intensify the sweetness and reduce the acidity. A teaspoon of Balsamic vinegar will wake up the flavor of any bland soup, stew or sauce. A dash of Balsamic vinegar on freshly sliced fruit (especially strawberries) with or without a sprinkling of sugar will enhance the flavors and have you shouting for more."
Another must-visit wine-growing region to meander through is Stellenbosch. One of its most vaunted venues is the Delaire Graff Estate. British diamond king Lawrence Graff reclaimed a beautifully-sited old vineyard and built a magnificent, art-filled hotel on the grounds.
The picturesque Delaire Graff Estate (Image by Delaire Graff Estate)
If you can’t afford to stay there, at least go for lunch on the terrace – the food is excellent and you will be surrounded by nature at her prettiest. Needless to say, Graff opened a diamond boutique on the premises – in case you need a 40-carat fix while you’re quaffing that good sauvignon blancs.
Portrait of Lawrence Graff beside the Diamond Boutique at Delaire Graff Estate (Image by Delaire Graff Estate)
South Africa’s coastal areas are as phenomenally beautiful as its wine lands. To kill two birds with one stone, I suggest you have lunch at Harbour House on the bustling (and touristy) V&A Waterfront– not so much for the food which is ok – but for the views of the ocean that are a feast for the eyes.