For those who love traditional finesse
Oh take me back to when dinner was a dignified affair, with no-one trying to get their best Insta-moment, to when connecting over a meal meant nothing about technology. It meant taking the time to enjoy the setting, the people and the food.
The landmark pink lady, aka The Nellie, currently commemorating 100 years of her iconic pink, is celebrating all that is timeless and traditional, the hotel having first opened its doors in March 1899. This is where Capetonians donned their Sunday best (gloves and hats) for high days and holidays. Afternoon tea here is still a drawcard with its table covered in sweet and savoury treats that draw gasps and satisfies the most discerning.
Now dinner at the Lord Nelson Restaurant in the beautiful, intimate Sherwood Room of the Belmond Mount Nelson transports you back to yesteryear with a sense of occasion. It was the hotel’s original dining room, and it was here that Queen Elizabeth hosted a cocktail reception to celebrate her 21st birthday in April 1947, prior to the birthday ball held at Government House. The elegant, romantic room has tables covered in white linen, spaced so that your interlude is yours and yours alone. Settle into your comfortable carver with your handbag nearby on a stool, and peruse the menu whilst you enjoy the pianist playing. You may want to take a moment to absorb some of the history etched into the domed ceiling above. Chefs Rudi Liebenberg and Dion Ventagass have carefully considered what traditional, conventional diners want, and given it to them with a touch of class.
The Chef’s Choice menu is available in two, three or four-courses with allergies and preferences highlighted. The Classic Choice menu features the beef Wellington, which is served tableside with great aplomb, fresh West Coast oysters, caviar or a Caesar salad to share. There is something for everyone’s palate. We opted for the three courses, at a very reasonable R420 (two is R345 and four R540).
The Nellie team is legendary for its breads, but we held back knowing not to fill up. The amuse bouche of a salmon bite and a mushroom jelly, was light and delicate. I chose the salmon tartare to start, delicious with a lime seaweed crumble, rice cracker, kimchi and miso-cured egg yolk. My man went for the heavenly tomato salad – smoked tomato panna cotta with artichokes, dried olives and pine nuts. We followed with the pokora fried brinjal, generous in taste and size, with caponata, a chickpea puree and basil. The hazelnut and sweet potato tortellini (a bestseller I was told) gave me order envy. Then we devoured the pan-roast duck and roast seabass with a spinach crust, masala-roasted cauliflower and a curry leaf cream. There are many dishes that will appeal to visitors, highlighting local dishes and flavours. Although sated, the desserts appealed – choosing from the popular old favourites like peach melba, baked Alaska and dark chocolate fondant proved difficult, so we selected the salted rosemary baked chocolate tart with a milk-chocolate-chilli ice cream, because it sounded different. Simply presented, it was, simply delectable.
Attentive service ensures, without ever being intrusive, ensures that your experience is special, and table-side service is gracious and impressive. Fine, refined dining with old-fashioned charm that will appeal to Capetonians and visitors alike.