Cape Town’s pink luxury hotel, Belmond Mount Nelson, is one of the few establishments globally that really ARE renowned for their afternoon tea – OK, many claim that distinction, but the top three that come to mind, says the gal, are The Ritz in London, Belmond Reid’s Palace in Madeira, and its sibling, here. There are two sittings, but many places to sit, inside, in the conservatory or on the terrace. Wherever, this is buffet style, and the red velvet cake, with lots of buttery icing, is always among the most popular. Eat as much as you like, and listen to a character of a pianist play the pieces that she has obviously tinkled out for at least a couple of decades.
My favourite regular meal, of course, is breakfast, which starts in The Oasis at seven. Again, sit inside or out. Choice is essential at breakfast. Here, with the buffet spreads, you even have oysters on the seafood and fish station. Big bowls of yoghurts are sensibly labelled, and they have decent fruits, including mango, papaya and strawberries, rather than the ghastly characterless melons, albeit in different shades, that far too many chefs think make a fruit selection. Lewellyn, the breakfast chef, is meticulous in arranging good displays, including of breads (some lovely nut- and seed-filled healthy things), and a young chef does eggs or pancakes to order.
One day the hotel invited the ILTM crew and media to breakfast here and it was fascinating to get the editors of China’s and India’s Condé Nast Travellers, plus Annie Fitzsimmons of National Geographic, girl-around-everywhere Michaela Guzy -OhThePeopleYouMeet.com, and two of Australia’s best, Hilary Doling and Lee Tulloch, all around one table, no-one trying to outdo the others. Top media today are a far cry from many of the press gangs that decorated mastheads when times were less lean. These ladies all work (Michaela had been up until three finishing a video, and then arrived for the breakfast at eight).
Yes, there is always something happening at this luxury hotel. All May and June, Tuesday nights will be Alexander McCall Smith dinner theatre, with a three-act The Summer of 1946, showing characters supposedly returning to the hotel after World War II, specially written for the hotel. Next visit, I might even choose to stay in the Helmsley House, just redone in champagne, brown and black by Alexandra Champalimaud. And I guess that next visit, this Everard Read gallery temporary sculpture in the garden, Bloom by Lynette Bester, will have been sold on, or retired.