I believe in love at first sight. That is when it comes to hotels. When I first set eyes on that tiny thumbnail of Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in South Africa on Booking.com, my pulse was racing, my pupils dilated… I had found The One. Until then, I had never seen better proof that a Malibu Barbie mansion exists in real life, which is admittedly also the aesthetic of my dream future home. Think pastel facades that was pink before millennial cafes existed, an avenue lined with palm trees that was created for Her Majesty’s jubilee, and astonishing views of Table Mountain. As beautiful as it was, I still didn’t expect to feel so at home in a country I’d never been to before – to the point I felt emotional checking out of my room. If you’re looking for where to stay in Cape Town, there are countless Airnbnb options, beachfront villas to rent and if course, other luxury hotels in the Western Cape. But none have the inspiration and history like this monumental pink hotel. Dare I say, the pink hotel – sorry Beverly Hills.
It was my first visit to the beautiful city and no amount of penguins, videos of hundreds of ducks running to the lunch bell or lion cub images on social media could prepare me for the wonders of this destination. The six days I spent in the Western Cape (one night in Stellenbosch, which was way too short but gave me a taste for another adventure) was one of the best trips of my life. If you know me at all, you’ll know that that statement doesn’t come easy.
November is the start of the African summer and signals the beginning of tourist peak season. Even still, the hotel felt personal and homely. My favourite places to languidly lounge away hours ruled by the blinding sun was poolside in the late morning, following an impressive breakfast buffet spread. Oysters on ice every morning, just imagine! Toasting on the pink and white striped sun beds poolside in the afternoon, with jugs of freshly made iced tea and fruit infused water. Then in the evenings, an aperitif at the stunning Planet Bar, inspired by astronomy.
Until the end of 2018, the bar famously boasted the Most Unusual Cocktail – possibly one of the most expensive in the world, costing a grand 40,000 ZAR (approximately £2,500). And there’s no opting for the cheaper house spirit here, it’s exclusively in partnership with Hendrick’s. Other notable cocktails are inspired by iconic Belmond hotels around the world, to celebrate 100 year birthday of the Cape Town hotel.
On my last night, I dined at the Lord Nelson restaurant, a classical venue serving traditional British and South African cuisine (two courses for 345 ZAR, approx. £19 or three courses for 420 ZAR, approx. £23). The crowd may not be as lively or fashionable as the diners filling the rest of Kloof Street or Camps Bay but there’s something to be said about being the youngest diners in a restaurant. You’re almost bound to have a good meal. Sweetbreads have regularly featured at the restaurants I’ve frequented in Cape Town and the dish is done brilliantly as a starter at the Belmond, accompanied by sweet plump scallops. Prawn and mussel saffron velouté was rich, silky and so filling I could’ve left the meal at that. But then I wouldn’t be able to face myself the next day having turned down more good food. Capetonians really know how to do meat, take the opportunity to try springbok here.
76 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001