THE BOHEMIAN GUESTHOUSE & EATERY IN TANTALISING TZANEEN
Updated: Feb 17
Down a quiet road off the busy Circle Drive in Tzaneen, the charcoal exterior belies what you find inside the unconventional, artistic and eclectic Bohemian Guesthouse and Restaurant.
Rachel Sonntag, owner of The Bohemian, grew up in the small town of Letsitele, and this area has always been home for her. She spent some years in between studying, working and exploring but she always knew that Tzaneen was where she wanted to raise her kids. She is of the opinion that ‘nothing beats the quality of life you have in Limpopo. Where else could you say that you have the option of a quick mountain or bushveld getaway within a 50 kilometre radius?’
The Bohemian opened in 2019, just before the Covid pandemic, with a focus on doing everything possible to make the guest experience as memorable and comfortable as possible. Rachel says that they like to think of The Bohemian as being ‘a wonderful surprise in the heart of Tzaneen, and as the name suggests, something unconventional…an escape from the ordinary without forgetting the fundamentals of good old fashioned South African hospitality.’ To say this has been successfully achieved would be an understatement. The Bohemian has a unique style that is quite unlike any other. Everything feels that little bit bolder from the height of the beds to the gold-framed mirrors and the chandeliers in the bathroom.
Terms like Boho-chic and art nouveau fall short in describing the lavish restaurant decor and luxurious bedrooms. Each of the individually-styled en-suite rooms has opulent furnishings, stylish decor, dramatic wallpaper and king-size beds made by Rachel’s Interior Architect son, Carl Sonntag of KallieMamba Studios. The personality of each room is determined by the pre-loved furniture sourced from vintage stores but each feels like a fabulous spoil. If you are celebrating a romantic milestone, book into Room 4 with its dramatic floral wallpaper, tucked away from the rest of the lodge, up a set of stairs leading to private gardens.
The restaurant has much the same Wow-factor as the guesthouse with that flair in using dramatic pieces to create specific ‘personalities’ within one space. There is a long narrow table for a group of friends celebrating together or the space where a leather couch is matched with a canary-yellow velvet armchair for a relaxed cappuccino, cake and chat with someone you love. The bold colours and striking wallpaper are a feast for the eyes and there is a rich, velvety texture to everything you see. Several smaller tables congregate close to the ceiling-to-floor windows where the light streams in, highlighting the distinctive antique sideboard, Nguni cow horns and a dramatic chandelier against a teal-coloured wall.
These bespoke and unusual items are also to be found in the small, glass-fronted gift shop where Rachel has curated some ‘statement items’ like the unique, framed art piece by South Africa artist Alma Thomas. You will also find smaller items like a classy leather duffel bag for a weekend away, caramelized nuts for a sweet and salty snack or a diffuser - who doesn’t want their home to smell like heaven. The minute you walk into the Boh Bar, it feels like the lobby of a 5-star hotel in the 1950’s with the kind of old world opulence that makes you feel like a movie star. It is small and intimate but really packs a punch for a first impression of lux. In contrast, the sunny deck outside has a spacious feeling enhanced by the views out onto an evergreen park with flaming coral trees giving the same dramatic colour pop as the indoor decor.
And then there is the food…The restaurant used to be for the Guesthouse patrons only but luckily for us, it has recently opened to all and chef Lizell Joubert puts her heart and soul into creating the items on the small but special dinner menu using quality ingredients. From the Slow Roasted Lamb Shank to the Chicken Kiev or the slowly braised Oxtail to the Veggie and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, the flavours are rich and tantalising while the presentation is superb. Although attention is given to texture and the alchemy of the colours on the plate, nothing is over-the-top pretentious - the glory is left to the delicious meal itself. You can stop in for an Eggs Benedict or Bohemian Sunrise Breakfast on the tranquil verandah or meet friends for a lazy lunch of home-made fish-cakes, korma chicken curry or a steak, caramelized onion & brie toasted sandwich.
It is difficult to reign in the superlatives when it comes to The Bohemian experience whether it is the food, the rooms or the decor but what also makes it memorable are the people from the inspiring owner, Rachel and her super-efficient right-hand woman, Chandre Fourie or Chef Lizell Joubert and the front-of-house team of Kedibone Hlungwani and Lorraine Mashatole, the impression you are left with is one of tranquil, tasteful spaces, bold and beautiful decor and a visitor experience which will keep you coming back for more of this bohemian lifestyle.
3 Bohemia Street Tzaneen. Connect with them on 083 782 8855 / www.thebohemian.co.za