I’d always heard great things about Cape Town and when I visited the city recently it surpassed expectations.
It’s a charming metropolis with clean streets, a buzzing marina, a mouth watering restaurant scene, mind bogglingly low prices and a wealth of nature on the doorstep.
On the accommodation front, one spot that certainly won my heart was the Belmond Mount Nelson.
I’d got a tip off about the hotel from a friend whose impeccable style and taste I firmly trust and with his recommendation, decided to investigate.
This sprawling resort complex boasts 198 rooms and suites spread across seven buildings, with views of Table Mountain stretching beyond.
It is one of South Africa’s oldest luxury hotels (it opened in 1899) and the first to get hot and cold running water in the bathrooms.
Over the years it has attracted dozens of famous faces looking for an oasis of calm, with past visitors including and John Lennon and the Dalai Lama who once addressed guests in the ballroom.
Immediately on arriving at the main door, you’re transported to a world of old school luxury with a smiley man in a top hat greeting you and reception staff wafting glasses of sparkling wine your way.
I checked into the Belmond Mount Nelson after a pretty hardcore sailing expedition from Uruguay to Cape Town and a bit of old school pampering was just what the doctor ordered.
To get in the salubrious swing of things, I started out with a 3pm appointment at the Librisa Spa.
I sauntered through the lobby area with my partner, passing well-heeled holidaymakers tucking into afternoon tea, through the paradisiacal gardens, past the glistening blue swimming pool and to the spa reception area.
We were directed into changing rooms where we could change into robes and slippers.
From there, we were led to a double treatment room by one of the friendly beauticians for an hour-long Signature Rose Petal Blush Poultice massage.
The treatment is designed to enhance deep relaxation, muscle recovery and increased lymphatic flow.
I loved the use of local products, with lotions and potions from the South African TheraNaka range put to work.
The deep relaxation appeared to work a treat on my partner, as he fell into a deep slumber and started to snore.
I was more awake however as I’d asked for hard pressure and it appeared she was strictly obeying orders, with it bordering on pain at times – but good pain!
Some of the poultice balls were also extremely hot to the point where I was worried they were burning my skin, but it was certainly helping to soften up my tight muscles from sailing.
The hour-long treatment didn’t include any work on the front of the body and if you’re looking for this, maybe 90 minutes would be better.
We left the spa feeling like new people and went to check into our room, number 232.
We were upgraded to the most heavenly corner suite, which appeared big enough for a family.
On walking into the apartment-style room, there was a spacious living area to the right complete with sofas, a fireplace, mini bar and dining table.
Moving to the left of the front door, there was a single toilet and walkway through to the master bedroom.
The sleeping space was decked out with an enormous bed, desk and ample wardrobe space.
A further perk was the marble-clad bathroom, with doubles sinks, a deep tub big enough for two and a large wet room with a rain shower.
Again, a local designer had been picked as the amenity kit provider with an array of smart monochrome products from South Africa-based bath and body brand Charlotte Rhys.
The classically styled suite also had a contemporary feel, with pieces of modern art peppered around and crisp spotlights contrasting with the crystal chandeliers.
PLANET BAR AND LORD NELSON
After freshening up, we darted downstairs for some pre-dinner drinks at the hotel’s Planet Bar.
If you’re a fan of cocktails, you will be in your element at this snug drinking hole.
I was delighted to find a section of the menu dedicated to martinis, my drink of choice, and I opted for a 007.
This variation uses Stolichnaya vodka and Martini Dry. Other recommendations include the punchy Vesper and refreshing mojito.
The drinks came served with a delicious mix of olives and nuts, and my martini was shaken into a delicate long-stemmed cocktail glass.
After warming up our appetites, we ventured to the Lord Nelson for a thoroughly decadent dinner.
It felt as though we were stepping back in time as we were shown to a cream clothed table in the cavernous wood panelled dining room.
Palms were dotted around, a man played the piano and smartly dressed waiters busied themselves.
It was fairly quiet, with a few other couples spaced around and one family to our right.
It took me quite a while to pick from the menu, as I struggled to find any lighter dishes.
The Lord Nelson certainly caters to those with a hearty appetite – I wish I hadn’t gobbled up so many nuts and olives!
Saying that, head chef Rudi Liebenberg has drawn up a nice concise selection of classic concoctions, with everything from steak tartare and caviar to woo diners.
The set menu features several delights native to South Africa, with ostrich carpaccio and springbok loin ones to catch my eye.
In the mood for some traditional grub, we finally went for oysters from the west cape to start and a serving for prawn cocktail.
Our waiter then recommended us trying one of the Lord Nelson’s standout stars – the beef wellington for two, carved table side with all the trimmings.
To wash things down, we opted for two different reds (the Lord Nelson wine list is extensive) and debated about the taste.
The oysters were creamy to taste and the prawn cocktail on point.
The beef wellington was certainly a spectacle with a chef wheeling a trolley out and dissecting the juicy pastry wrapped chunk of meat before us.
Adding to the festivities were several copper saucepans secreting an array of sides, including cauliflower cheese, vegetables and potatoes.
We felt amply full, on the verge of bursting, but somehow our waiter coaxed us into dessert.
He revealed that the Opera Cake was a popular choice, so we plumped for that.
The rectangular wedge had a delicate chocolate taste, with dainty layers of sponge and cream.
It came served with a dollop of Grand Marnier ice cream which didn’t last too long on the plate.
After polishing off the cake, we called it a night.
I have to say, I slept like a dream that evening.
I’m not sure if it was the satisfying mix of nibbles and tipples, the soft bed linens or the Charlotte Rhys pillow spray I misted the air with before passing out which made me knock out so fast, but something definitely did the trick.
OASIS BISTRO – BREAKFAST
I woke in a panic at 930am the next day in fear we’d missed breakfast.
Whatever you do if you’re staying at the Belmond Mount Nelson, don’t miss the breakfast buffet.
Luckily it runs until 11am, which allows for plenty of rest before dining.
Some say it is the best hotel breakfast in Cape Town and I have to say it is pretty impressive, with an abundant mix of food on offer.
From fruit to cooked eggs to fresh bread, the options appeared to be endless as I toured the food counters.
There was a smoothie bar with everything from fresh mango to spinach juice on offer or sparkling wine for those feeling more frivolous.
I also stumbled across a waffle and pancake bar which would be any sweet toothed vacationer’s dream.
Marshmallows, Jelly Beans, and chocolate buttons lined the counter top with a smiley chef trying to drum up business the other side.
It was very busy in the breakfast room on the Saturday morning but the following day it was much more pleasant, with more tables free and the service less frenetic.
We left the Belmond Lord Nelson feeling pampered and preened.
This is definitely a spot I would recommend for a few nights of lush.
We reluctantly left the way we came, with the smiley top hat-wearing doorman wishing us a safe journey home.
Til next time Cape Town!
The Belmond Lord Nelson is located at 76 Orange St, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
To book a stay, dining or spa experience visit www.belmond.com