“Tea” at the Mount Nelson has always been heralded as one of the most decadent and ‘must do’ things in Cape Town. I finally tried it for myself this past Sunday Morning. And it was as luxurious and colonial as Queen Victoria would expect.
Everything about the Mount Nelson is decadent. From the thrillingly pink walls, the palm lined driveway and the exploding flowerbeds around the emerald manicured lawns. It screams 5 star. The service of the Morning Tea is no different. When I’m at these fine dining type places, I always want to whisper in the waiter’s ear as they unfold my starched napkin for me; “Don’t worry, I’m not rich, you don’t have to be so nice to me” because it leaves me feeling like a fraud.
If you haven’t been (as I hadn’t) the sun room is spectacular. It felt like The Opulent India of the 1800s. They have huge arrangements of potted flowers flanking the doorway which opens into a serene garden, with high trees, hibiscus and a central fountain, filling the area with the giggling sound of sparkling water falling into a pond. Bliss.
Now, it’s a bit pricey and I’m not going to say ‘but it was worth it’. But it kinda was. For Morning tea (the cheaper option, as opposed to High Tea) Including tip, you’re looking at around R215 per person for what’s essentially tea and scones. But you’re not going for Tea and Scones. You’re going for the fountain and the waiter making you feel royal, and the birdsong, and the real sunflowers smiling at you. If you bear that in mind, it’s much more worth it.
The tea is served in fine bone china and glass tea-pots so you can see the infusion. Our waiter spoke about tea like a somalier talks about wine. Explaining the different infusions, blends, notes, tones and even which ones compliment which flavours and palates. I really enjoyed the respect shown to my most beloved beverage. (You can drink as many pots and kinds of tea as you want. No extra charge.) The waiter was so good at upselling that my first tea flavour choice was blue cornflower earl grey tea. I hate earl grey tea. I loved this one.
The food is exactly what you’d hope from a poncy colonial tea experience. Complete with cucumber and cream cheese sarmies. Tim Noakes fans of Banting need not apply to this tea – as every single thing was dripping in sugar and carbs. Finger sandwiches, croissants, scones, chocolate ganache cake, cheesecake, banana bread and spinach quiche. It was more than I could finish, and they let me take a doggy bag – which thrilled me.
High Tea is slightly more expensive as it’s a buffet with much of the same ingredients (and many more). Buffets are sneaky little monsters. You pay more so you can eat more, sure. But it might be worth your buck if you plan on only stocking up on macaroons or something, but you aren’t really going to be able to eat your fill of these rich, carby, sugary treats without regretting your life decisions. (Unless you’re American.)
I’d recommend this experience as long as you know that you’re in it for the experience and the tea (which was amazing, I had an orange, cardamon infused one second. So yum!) But not for the foodies. The food was fine but not worth that price. I think next time, I’ll just order a pot of tea (around R60) and soak up the ambiance. Rah rah rah.
Remember, Pinkies up!