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BELMOND MOUNT NELSON THE GRANDE DAME’S WARM WELCOME

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Mount Nelson Hotel, 76 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa.

A jazz pianist plays soothing background tunes. A tinkling fountain in the sprawling garden sings along. We’re comfortably ensconced in our velvetine chairs – poised to experience the legendary Belmond Mount Nelson hotel’s high tea in Cape Town.

“Like wine – you start with the most robust tea and work your way to the milder ones,” advises Darrel, our tea sommelier. Sipping exotic red, white, green and black tea varieties from around the world, the Nine Life Spices is our undisputed favourite. Containing cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, it also proves to be a great digestive aid.

Mini delectable savoury morsels on our silver-tiered platter included the moreish mushroom empanada, carrot and sweet potato muffin, mini chicken pie and mini quiches. The ubiquitous salmon and cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches are there too. No self-respecting high tea would be without them.

On the sweet buffet, all my favourites of Millionaire’s shortbread, baked cheese cake and macadamia nut cake are there. But self-imposed discomfort means I must settle on just half a scone with jam and my favourite: clotted cream.

Old English traditions and colonial-style comforts are the order of the day here – and a serious drawcard for guests to the five star hotel. Painted pink and known to locals as the Pink Lady or the Grande Dame, the hotel’s accommodated some renowned guests, including author Agatha Christie, the Dalai Llama and singer Alicia Keys.

Expect superlative service throughout your stay. Personalised touches are no mean feat in a full-ish hotel with 200 rooms. I was called by my name after just one night. And when I enquired about biscuits but didn’t order any, staff knocked on my door a few minutes later with a plate of complimentary ones.

Beautiful manicured gardens, a fully-equipped gym and a massive swimming pool are ideal to work off some of the accumulated baked goodies. Either that or roll on to your room with its very addictive kingsize bed.

Your large, thick-walled room will echo nothing but tasteful décor in blues and greys. But it was the black and grey marbled bathroom that intrigued me. Big enough for a family and with a marble seat, the walk-in shower was so powerful I felt like I was standing under a hot spring waterfall in a rainforest.

Our breakfast at the Oasis the following morning was no less than a banquet. My companion raved about her spinach and papaya juice. As a vegetarian, I had eggs Florentine from the a la carte menu and added mushrooms, grilled tomato and roast potatoes to it from the hot foods. Carnivores have ‘perfectly cooked bacon’ according to my companion, sausages and kippers, amongst others. Healthy types can opt for fresh or stewed fruit and home-made muesli, while the decadent can start their day with oysters, along with smoked salmon and Danish herring.

Children are also made to feel special. I watched one delight in his freshly-pressed waffle being made, while he sweetly anticipated the numerous confectionary and syrup toppings.

Even the gluten-intolerant are covered at the mini-store styled bakery with breads, rolls and muffins. Whatever your needs, leave it to the Grande Dame to make a plan – in style.

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