BLOW THE BUDGET: Still glorious, old chap

25 January 2012 - 02:25 By Shanthini Naidoo

Bad weather, colonial tendencies, poor dentistry and yob culture aside, there is a great attraction to the English.

Think Colin Firth, cucumber sandwiches, the royal factor and the general poshness of their decorum. Truth is, the English once showed the world how to be proper.

For me, Cape Town's Mount Nelson Hotel takes the best of the Brits and adds a warm South African twist, making it a real destination for the summer - or, in fact, for any time you like.

And there is no better high tea to be found, with cucumber sandwiches included.

It is the reason you will find people scheduling meetings around 3pm.

The spread. Oh, the spread.

Lamingtons, teeny and lovely, pastries with fresh berries, finger sandwiches with not a hint of crust, scones and cream, eclairs like air, apple crumble and petit fours.

For tweens, an electric guitar, Wii and other electronic devices should suffice.

Then there's Librisa Spa, sun lounges, fun dining and fine dining.

There are conference rooms with chairs from the original Union-Castle Line steamers that brought the colonialists to the Cape.

Planet Restaurant, under the guidance of Chef Rudi Liebenberg, is well-known for its gourmet Cape menu and gastronomic vegan menu. The renowned chef hosts wine tastings in the ballroom and waits on tables right inside his kitchen.

Despite the excess and extravagance, the Nelly, as it is fondly called, defies its pink facade by being quite green.

You will find a fleet of eco-friendly Prii (the plural of Toyota's Prius) to shuttle guests, earthworm farms and organic gardens.

The hotel seems very busy because many of the facilities can be used by day visitors, including those who attend the high teas, dinner parties or spas.

Whether you find yourself in a standard room or the sprawling Lord Nelson presidential suite, in which I was holed up, there is a dressing table in each room for your titivating and king-sized beds, decorated in pastels and heavy, embossed fabrics, with light, cool cotton sheets.

The presidential suite is made up of several rooms, including a lounge with balcony and dining area. It is big enough to entertain 20 guests comfortably or to run laps, my two colleagues and I found.

The room certainly echoed our gasps, especially at the remote, retractable television set, the fine art decorating the walls of the loo, padded satin hangers and enough wardrobe space for tuxedos and ballgowns for a few nights.

The expansive menu's signature dishes at Planet are Namibian red crab, smoked crocodile, rooibos cured ostrich and springbok. Out of this world.

Carl Habel, our sommelier, had us wine- tasting and laughing at the same time for most of our meal.

They should bottle him as a mood-lifter. After finishing our mains we thought we'd be unable to manage dessert - until we saw the menu line-up on offer, whiter-shade-of-pale baked meringue, pot au creme and choc sorbet.

The menu changes often, and a recent item I spotted was "Oops I fell over...", which is pretty much all you can do after one of the journey-tasting menus.

Breakfast the next morning overlooked the oasis of azure swimming pools. Tourists lounged in the sun with Table Mountain providing shade.

On reflection, I would say, old chap, perhaps it is time for South Africans to taste the best of the Brits too.

  • Naidoo was a guest of the Mount Nelson Hotel

FACT FILE:

GETTING THERE

Mount Nelson Hotel is in Cape Town, situated at 76 Orange Street. For reservations call 021-483-1000 or e-mail reservations@mountnelson.co.za

BEING THERE

Rates start from R3500 a night. Children under the age of 17 travelling with parents stay for a 50% discount. For special packages see the website www.mountnelson.co.za

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