With true and excellent Afternoon Tea, spontaneity was never on the cards. This social affair is deserving of planned fair – to design your life around daytime culinary artistry meant to be a treat and an afternoon retreat, between other more regular meals.
An Afternoon Tea which is unmarred by the assumption that its one and the same with High Tea, is rather hard to find in the Cape. People tend to use the terms interchangeably here, and as a result, know not the true delight and grandeur of a proper Afternoon Tea.
However, Afternoon Tea is defined, singular, and unambiguous at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.
‘Genteel‘ is a decent word to encompass the atmosphere and design, of the Belmond Mount Nelson. While abundant in historic structures, the Cape’s range of hospitality establishments truly refined and respectable in equal measure, is limited. At this legendary pink retreat, the genteel airs are proudly adorned, from the establishments’ history to its powdered walls, to its manicured lush gardens, tasteful interior gilding, the comfortingly traditional hospitality, as well as in the divine Afternoon Tea.
I’m adaptable when dining; equally loving contemporary innovative taste journeys, fusion fare, and long-standing flavour experiences. When choosing to head to the Belmond Mount Nelson for their open-air Afternoon Tea though, there is no subterfuge about the tempered pomp I’m bound for. There is tasteful splendour in the tiered cuisine and indulgent service – the waitrons commendably servicing guests in a way that is both diligent, yet unobtrusive.
The Literal Tea…
The Afternoon Tea here, begins as tradition demands: with quintessential and prestige blend tea choices that range from Oolong Teas teasing senses with robust aromas, to Herbal Infusions and the likes of even White Tea choices from China.
Should you be like me, and enjoy a strong flavoured black tea as your essential choice, double-check with your attendant that the Earl Grey to be steeped from their stock, is not too aromatically light, as I found mine to be on this day.
The Red Teas, complete with personal favourites like the tart and fruity Hibiscus Tea, are likely a favourite of local visitors, while I highly recommend trying the rather memorable (and incredible) Mount Nelson tea – expertly blended with the likes of Darjeeling, Kenya, Assam, Keemun, Yunnan, Ceylon and rose petals from the Mount Nelson garden. Without hyperbole, the house-blend delights and is very well-matched with the food selection available.
The steadily replenishing range of finger foods accompanying the afternoons’ teas, are filling and fulfilling – able to satiate the body from the first bite, and feed the soul and spirit of a good afternoon. By the pastry chef’s direction, sample crustless sandwiches with cucumber and cream cheese, or curried chicken with coriander too. I thoroughly enjoyed the smoked Franschhoek Trout sandwich, while the pasture-reared egg mayonnaise sandwich, unfortunately, made no lasting impression. Noteworthy is the Spinach and feta quiche for sure, along with the Cauliflower and onion pakora which sits upon the tiered stand too.
Treat your taste buds to Chef Rudi’s imaginative plant-based menus.”Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel (2021)
A Sweet Delight…
Dessert trolleys may be out amid the pandemic, but that does not mean Belmond Mount Nelson would ever skimp on the full Afternoon Tea experience – even though I did miss the adage of a crisp white tablecloth, for ceremony. Once you have worked your way through their medley of quintessential tea choices, such as the necessary Scones and preserves combination, and the savouries like Cheese gougeres and Mushroom empanadas – which can be substituted for vegetarian options, and other dietary requirements – then lick off the remnant of clotted or chantilly cream from your lips, and proceed to gorge yourself on the decadent dessert options.
The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel Afternoon Tea offers up a taste of the local, with the South African milk tart (melktert), made with Cape Malay cinnamon and cardamom included. The milk tart is good, but everything else (sweeter, seasonal, and far more temptingly designed) is even better. Everything from the cheesecake with white chocolate, to the classic opera cake, made an impression. I enjoyed the richness of the vanilla chocolate eclairs, and the tangy berry tartlets, so much so that I took some home; And the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is unequivocally beyond reproach.
Truly, this Afternoon Tea could be worth it on the simple merit of the fresh and flavoursome cuisine, that balances a wonderful dining experience in tandem with teas so rich in aroma and provenance, alone! Luckily, the Afternoon Tea is worth it on so many levels:
At a price of R395 per adult and R215 per child, the refillable Afternoon Tea at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, may just be one of the Cape’s most classy and scrumptious all-you-can-eat dining affairs.
Afternoon Tea at this hotel (there are, of course, coffee options here too), is served in two different sittings: From 12h00 and 15h00. And, for every tea sold, the Belmond Mount Nelson donates R10 to a local soup kitchen.
“Afternoon Tea will be served in the sunny conservatory, or on the outdoor terrace Wednesdays to Sundays…Please note that bookings are essential.”Belmond Mount Nelson (2021)
Additionally, the Belmond Mount Nelson is a firm favourite for special occasions in the Cape, and all you need to do to secure a fantastic and singular event experience is to contact the hotel.
I wanted to ensure my friend received a small but memorable birthday moment for tea, and the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel team went above and beyond – resulting in happiness, contentment, and heaps of content creation…as is typical anytime my friend and I end up enjoying ourselves (see: Paris Fashion Week escapades).
Mount Nelson has a substantial glamorous estate with mountain views, fit for photoshoots and quiet escape, depending on your needs. You could be reticent in engaging people, or keen to be among the throng, and the hotels’ property will welcome you to a number of ideal picturesque settings.
Those around me may have been dressed in styles ranging from beachside to high life, and treating Afternoon Tea service sometimes grandly while others were languid in sprawling comfort, but I made a production of it all.
For me, Afternoon Tea is an occasional treat barely secured more than thrice yearly. I covet it, and yet refrain from making it a regular thing despite affording the privilege…my restraint somehow validating that there will always be atleast one thing I maintain pure awe for, during my culinary escapades.
Remember: Hygiene Protocols
Amid all the glittering chandeliers, the clink of silverware, and demure uniformed attendants, is pristine hygiene and safety protocols at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. One would be unable to sneak past the very gates, to enter the property, without being scanned for temperatures and vetted for a reservation. Once approved visitors make it past the gatekeeper, the face-masked bellhop and reception team welcome all and sundry, with customary hand sanitisation, temperature checks once again, and efficient guiding directly to one’s table – though roaming is permitted, as long as social distancing is observed.
The feeling of simultaneous relaxation and safety from the hotels’ protocols, makes having Afternoon Tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson an experience to book as soon as possible this year!
By my recommendation: Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel