Liz Biden: South Africa’s Famed Hotelier

Enter any Royal Portfolio property and you will be met by a true feast for the eyes: plush textures complement Art Deco antiques; brightly colored furniture offsets vintage touches; evocative modern art hangs below opulent chandeliers. These eclectic, stylish interiors are the work of Liz Biden, the visionary hotelier behind some of South Africa’s—and the world’s—most lauded properties. With a fashion background and gift for hospitality, Liz, together with her husband Phil, founded the Royal Portfolio Collection; now the hotel group includes four stunning retreats in South Africa, ranging from an uber-luxe safari lodge and a chic beachfront resort to an elegant wine country estate and stylish Cape Town hideaway. Indagare spoke with Biden, a Cape Town native, about her go-to restaurants, favorite vacation spots and where she can’t wait to go next.

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a trip to South Africa. Our specialists can book you at the hotel that is right for you and plan guided tours, great meals and activities.

Tell us about your design process. What inspires you? My design process usually starts with a specific color, fabric or piece of furniture, and from there, the room will adapt itself around the chosen inspiration. Much of my inspiration comes from various ornaments and fabrics that I see during my travels; I try to incorporate these ideas, using South African artists or designers wherever possible.

You are a bonafide globetrotter. How have your travels influenced your brand? My great love is to see other hotels, because you can learn something from each one you visit. Incorporating foreign inspirations into local designs and into the Royal Portfolio brand is a passion of mine.

Related: The Top 10: Hotels for Design Lovers

What are some of your favorite items to buy abroad?

I like to collect various artifacts of silver and china. I’ve found that French antique markets often reveal the most exciting ornaments. Wandering around the souks of Marrakech is another favorite pastime.

Name a favorite city and describe a perfect day there. St Tropez. I would start the day with a long walk along the beach, followed by a delicious lunch of crudités and fresh sole at Le Club 55. Then, I would browse the quaint shops in the area and have ice cream at Barbarac.

What’s on your travel wishlist? Machu Picchu, Madagascar and the Galápagos.

What destination surprised you? Antarctica! The sheer beauty and scale of it, and most of all, the stillness—it was so quiet!

Related: First Look: The Silo

Describe your most memorable meal while traveling.

During our stay in Lamu (an island off of Kenya) one holiday, we sailed out for the day on a dhow boat. While snorkeling, our two fishermen guides managed to catch some fish, which they immediately cooked over a small fire on a deserted beach nearby. After rubbing exotic herbs onto the crisp skin, they served the fish on a palm leaf with grated mango and pineapple. It was without a doubt one of my most memorable and delicious meals.

Name two of your go-to shops in a city where you don't live. In New York City, I always go to the Ralph Lauren shop on Madison Avenue to look at their displays (867 Madison Ave). ABC Carpet and Home is another favorite.

Related: Larger than Life: South Africa 

What are some of your favorite hotels?

Villa Feltrinelli

on Lake Garda, Amanpuri in Phuket and Amanbagh in Jaipur.

What is your favorite long weekend getaway? Your favorite escape? For a long weekend, I like getting out of the city and into the African bush by staying at our bush property, Royal Malewane. For a true escape, I’d have to go for a yacht on the Mediterranean.

Which restaurants in Cape Town are you most excited about? The Cape Town food scene has exploded in the last few years. Beau Constantia (1043 Constantia Main Rd) and Foxcroft (Shop 8, High Constantia Centre, Groot Constantia Rd) are all great! What restaurant do you always bring out of towners to? Kloof Street House (30 Kloof St.)

Related: South Africa Destination Report

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a trip to South Africa. Our specialists can book you at the hotel that is right for you and plan guided tours, great meals and activities.

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