Fitness & Spas Food & Wine Lifestyle Luxury Hotels Travel

And finally, Cape Town’s central Taj luxury hotel

Roses in suite 217

Roses in suite 217

Going back to a luxury hotel that one loves so well, and finding yet more exciting things happening, is like being in love and having discovering after five, or ten or however many years we are talking about, that life is more fun the whole time. On this visit to Cape Town the gal has already returned to one of her favourites – and been introduced to a couple that were new to her. Now, on her final night in the 2014 World Design Capital, she arrives back at Taj Cape Town, to be greeted with roses that defy description when it comes to colour.

Michael Pownall watches as his Islay 'tea' is flamed

Michael Pownall watches as his Islay ‘tea’ is flamed

This is his favourite place in the world to ‘work’, says the GM of Taj Cape Town, Michael Pownall (he came from Sandy Lane and has one or two other icons in his pedigree too). He was on-site long before the hotel, a conversion of historic centre-city buildings, opened, and although there are hints of India, with a Bombay Brasserie restaurant, they are not overdone. You have constant reminders that you are here in eclectic South Africa. The all-day restaurant is Mint, for the banks around. The separate pub, with great oysters-and-bubbly, is Twankey.

Proteas and lilies

Proteas and lilies

As well as roses, there are proteas galore, South Africa’s national flower, sometimes called sugarbush. I get to my room, 217, one of the Heritage Suites that share an extremely discreet lounge, with concierge, and I have a tray of rooibos tea awaiting. South Africa. In the lobby bar we are offered a rooibus tea cocktail, equal portions of it with orange juice and ten-year old Islay whisky. Accompanying canapés include oysters and Parma ham, blue cheese balls, chicken sate, salmon wrapped in asparagus – and fabulous asparagus cappuccino. Gosh do we need dinner? We do (we head for Luke Dale-Roberts’ Pot Luck Club, get a reservation quick if you too want to try this newest in-place in town – not surprisingly, Conde Nast Traveller India editor Divia Thani was there, too).

Flowers on a Jiva Spa painting

Flowers on a Jiva Spa painting

The Jiva Spa, a Taj speciality, reminds me of the spa at Falaknuma Palace, outside Hyderabad – as the charming and ladylike spa director says, that is where we last met. There are real flowers in the ladies locker room, and painted flowers in art on the walls. Having a perfect and highly professional Indian jasmine facial by the calm and lovely Lalti in this spa is the perfect de-stresser before the long flight in a few hours’ time. I am only going to London but I am travelling with Tiffany Dowd, going on from London to Boston, and with other happy ILTM attendees who have much much further to go (on the way in to Cape Town, Satomi Kurabayashi for some reason took 26 hours to get from Tokyo).

Display in the hotel's bijou wine gallery

Display in the hotel’s bijou wine gallery

Bother, I am missing the regular Wednesday evening wine-tasting, 5-7 pm, in the hotel lobby’s wine gallery, run by local guru Neil Pendock. It is a brilliant idea, so much more suitable as a marketing tool for nearby vineyards than a mere boutique. Now what will that creative genius, Michael Pownall, do with The Reserve? The hotel has leased a five-floor block, a bank dating back to 1894, a few feet from the main hotel. There is a bar space, a ballroom for 300 and, below it, the original bank vaults with safes that are big enough for all the crown jewels, or at least the reserves of The Cape.

Final view of Table Mountain

Final view of Table Mountain

Since Michael Pownall has been such a Design Capital supporter from the start, it is not surprising that the hotel has a fabulous folding map, with a guide to museums and historical monuments, to food markets, restaurants, coffee shops (closest to The Taj is Bread, Milk & Honey, three minutes’ walk), and night life (tapas and jazz at 169 on Long, five minutes’ walk) and so on. But my car is about to arrive and it is time to leave lovely, sunny, friendly Cape Town and this oh-so-central luxury hotel. I look out of my window the last time, across to St George’s Cathedral and, to its left, Government Avenue. A group of kids are stomping and dancing in time to a drummer. Bye bye Cape Town, for now.