Everyone makes an entrance at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, thanks to the dramatic gate that leads to its long palm tree-lined drive. In fact, arriving here feels less like entering a hotel than entering a private estate; which is precisely what the property once was. While the city has crept up to its edges, the hotel has managed to retain three hectares of heritage gardens, which gives it a resort-like feel that is unexpected given its central location.
The Mount Nelson is a hotel where it pays to explore. While the main house functions as the hub and is home to several floors of guest rooms, more rooms and suites are scattered across several buildings, including some pretty-as-a-picture cottages. There are two outdoor pools, including a secluded pool dedicated to adults, a children's club, and the glamorous Librisa Spa that is a destination in its own right, with striking interiors – think hand-painted silk wallpaper – and sauna and steam rooms. (For the ultimate pampering, try the Signature Prodige Ritual, which uses organic spa products and heated crystals to melt away your tension.)
The rooms in every building are slightly different, but what they have in common are generous proportions and a heritage feel with a contemporary twist. There is nothing stuffy about these interiors: think oak floors, leather bedheads, beaded mirrors and sink-into armchairs perfectly placed to encourage a bit of daydreaming. The eye-catching art in the rooms, and throughout the hotel, is all the work of South African artists. Rooms are packed with little luxuries, from deluxe mattress toppers to complimentary Wi-Fi. Perhaps the hotel's most charming feature, however, is the inviting array of lounging areas, including the sun-drenched Tea Lounge and Garden Veranda in the main house.
The hotel's dining venues range from the Oasis Restaurant where breakfast is served to the glamorous Planet Bar and Restaurant, as popular with locals as it is with in-house guests. The hotel's most exclusive dining experience is the Chef's Table, a degustation dinner served in the kitchen itself. Depending on the night, you may be served quail breast in Grand Marnier sauce, ostrich carpaccio, or a seafood extravaganza that includes everything from oysters with lemon mango salsa to tuna smoked on coals. The Mount Nelson's other don't-miss culinary experiences include a lavish afternoon tea – think cucumber sandwiches, mushroom samosas, and a staggering array of cakes, crumbles and cookies – and a range of tea master classes led by the in-house tea sommelier. Whether you choose the tea tasting or the tea and food matching, you will get to experience some of the unusual teas in the hotel's collection of 40-plus teas, which range from the delicate floral notes of the jasmine dragon phoenix pearls to a rich pu'er blend.
Thanks to the hotel's central location, many of the city's hotspots, from the bustling Victoria & Albert Waterfront to chic De Waterkant, are just a short taxi ride away. One of the city's coolest dining strips, Bree Street, is just around the corner; the cool Bo-Kapp neighbourhood is also within walking distance. Downtown is just a 20-minute stroll away, the route taking you through Company Gardens.
It's a heritage hotel with resort-style features, an oasis-like setting and superior service. All this, and it's in the heart of town. What's not to love?
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, 76 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town. Rooms from ZAR4900 a night, including breakfast. See belmond.com
It is a toss-up between the beautiful setting and the superb service.
Pack your Fitbit; in this sprawling hotel, you may have a long walk to breakfast.
Ute Junker was a guest of the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.