Somerset House was built as a school in the Colonial style in 1905 in Paulet Street which was the first street to be built in Somerset East in South Africa's Eastern Cape.
Many of Paulet Street's original houses survive and are to-day National Monuments, conveying a good idea of what the village would have looked like almost two centuries ago. Somerset House to-day is a guest house, both spacious and elegant. Those who enjoy gracious living, silver service breakfasts and the like will appreciate staying here.
Situated in the quietest part of a quiet town and backing on to the Bosberg, the ambience of Somerset House is tranquil, scenic and restful.
There are four spacious and airy en-suite bedrooms. All have under-floor heating, air-conditioning, Percale linen and all the extras one would expect to find.
The living and dining room is large, comfortable and in excellent taste.
Outside is a large, furnished stoep which looks out over the garden to the slopes of the Bosberg.
Somerset House provides a full breakfast.
The town itself has several places to eat.
For a gourmet experience simply walk a few doors along Paulet Street to Rosehope where you will be welcomed by one of South Africa's premier chefs, Janet Telian, well-known as a regular contributor of articles to the Lifestyle supplement of the Sunday Times.
Rare Find by Lyndall Popper (Food & Home Entertaining, August 2005)
Somerset House is a must-visit B&B in the Eastern Cape town of Somerset East. An elegant, immaculately maintained , colonial, green-gabled single-storeyed building, it was once a schoolhouse. Vega and Stephen van NIekerk rescued it from dereliction, adding their own special touches within the spirit of its architecture. They own and run it and can advise on the best sights and activities in the town to give you an understanding of its beauty. Among them is a museum housed in an old Georgian parsonage, which opens onto a Victorian herb garden and the Walter Battiss Art Gallery, dedicated to one of our most significant artists, a son of Somerset East. This is a national monument - simple, white and beautiful - and was once a temperance hotel run by the Battiss family. It has been renovated with a grant from the Lotto. Bird watching, walking, golfing and trout fishing are other options.
Vega started life here. The daughter of a well-known doctor, she has a passion for this corner of the country and is enthusiastic about awakened interest in the area saying, "I want to be involved in Somerset East - I want it to work."
Vega's B&B is comfortable, luxurious and serene, and each room has soft carpets and lavish bathrooms. Breakfast is abundant with crisp fresh fruit, whisky porridge on icy winter days, waffles - you name it. Shades of pale yellow, wheat and cream, and perfect air conditioning make for delicious coolth and calm in the heat.
Sitting out on the wide stoep, gazing out over the greenest lawn towards the lush bush clothing the Bosberg rising steeply beyond, is to experience that quiet so elusive to the city dweller. A pre-dinner drink here and then a short walk down Paulet Street to Janet Teilan's new restaurant Rosehope makes for an evening to remember.
Janet is now living in Somerset East where she's cooking as beautifully as ever - good news for all those who love her food and wondered what had become of her.