I have been writing about Afternoon/High Teas, and have previously visited  the One&Only Cape Town for its Afternoon Tea.  It was a week-day visit, and at that time they served the High Tea on a cake stand on week days, and a buffet on weekends.   On reading our review, the hotel immediately altered the Afternoon Tea offering to a buffet one on all days of the week, and comparing it to the Mount Nelson Afternoon Tea, that which is served at the One&Only Cape Town now is by far the best of those that I have tried (Grande Provence, Bosman’s at Grande Roche, Mount Nelson Hotel, the Le Franschhoek Hotel, and the Cape Grace Hotel).

The opportunity to re-try the Afternoon Tea came from an invitation from the One&Only Cape Town via Ian Manley, the PR consultant to the hotel.  Our visit yesterday was the second to the hotel, having stayed over two years ago just after the hotel opened.  I have the highest regard for One&Only owner Sol Kerzner, and even travelled to Mauritius, to try out Le Touesrok (which had just been sold by Kerzner) and St Geran.  We were accommodated on The Island, and felt as if we were right back in Mauritius, surrounded by water and palm trees.  The 73 sq m room was massive, and my son and I each had a queen-size bed.  The bathroom was open-plan to the bedroom, and the shower room has two shower options.   There is no shortage of space.  Lauren was very efficient in welcoming us back, her clever computer ‘remembering’ our previous stay, and even Gerhard Erasmus, the Executive Assistant Manager, and the Food & Beverage Manager, welcomed us back, a very nice touch.   Lauren gave us a heated welcome cloth on arrival, and showed us all the facilities in the room, and told us that the internet service is free of charge, a commendable facility not offered by most hotels (Taj Cape Town charges R230 per 24 hour usage, for example!).  The room offers a pillow and scent menu, which one’s room butler will organise.  A massage by Rochelle at the Spa was a special treat.

The Afternoon Tea buffet is laid out in the Vista Bar and lounge, and looked beautiful in its layout, around a very large bouquet of proteas.   The savoury items are on one table, and include white and brown bread egg mayonnaise, cucumber and salmon sandwiches, as well as heated small green pea, vegetable, mushroom, and salmon quiches.   The sweet treat range consists of 22 items, some duplicated on the table, and all beautifully presented.  Hayley, Demi Chef de Partie, and her Sous Chef colleague Garth, brought new items to the table continuously, so that one never got the feeling that it had all been eaten, or that something would run out, as one does at the Mount Nelson Hotel.  

The sweet treat presentation was designed by pastry Chef Rene Simatos, and I loved her cleverness in displaying some items in glass jars, on top of related items.  So, for example, pistachio nougat was presented on pistachio nuts, chocolate biscuits were presented on coffee beans, canelles were on dried apricots, fruit scones were on a mix of dried apricots and cranberries, the Lindt chocolate chip cookies on almonds, koeksisters looked interesting on cinnamon sticks, almond biscotti on blue and silver nicolleta, and amaretti were displayed on cranberries.   Other sweet items are baked vanilla cheesecake, fruit bretonne, caramel and gold leaf éclairs, dark chocolate cupcakes, marble cake, banana loaf, macaroons in two flavours, tiramisu and buttermilk pannacotta in glass containers, for which a spoon was brought immediately, dark chocolate savarin, opera slices, peanut cookies, French style marshmallow knots, cherry-flavoured Pavlova meringues, and One&Only cookies, an absolute feast.  A group of 24 celebrated a kitchen tea with the Afternoon Tea.  Bagged tea and coffee is included for free in the Afternoon Tea, which costs R145.   The Food & Beverage Manager Nick Patmore said that at the end of the month the hotel will add a Lindt chocolate fondue, at a surcharge to the Afternoon Tea price.

If one wants to order special teas, there is a selection of 36 loose-leaf teas from Nigiro, the Origin coffee company, and these were brought to the table by Terence in a box detailing each of the teas, which come from China, Taiwan, Brazil, India, Kenya, Japan, Middle East, and Sri Lanka.  South African teas offered are Rooibos, African Sun, Blood Orange, Orange and Spices, and Strawberry and Vanilla, ranging in cost from R16 – R50.  The tea is brought to the table in a Bodum tea pot, and an hour glass is brought to the table, to measure a 3-minute infusion, allowing for the perfect brewing of the tea.

The service by Thabisa was excellent, checking on us continuously, removing used plates, bringing spoons and water when required, and having a lovely smile throughout. Hayley too was most helpful in explaining all the Afternoon Tea buffet items, as these are not labelled on the table nor listed in the Vista Bar menu. 

The Afternoon Tea at the One&Only Cape Town is excellent, professionally managed, outstanding quality, with good service, and one feels that it is presented with pride and care.  It is vastly improved on what I experienced two months ago, and certainly is the best on Cape Town, and is cheaper than that at the Mount Nelson Hotel.

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  The Lindt Chocolate Fondue commences on 4 June, and will only be served on weekends. It costs R145 for two. 

Vista Bar, One&Only Cape Town, V&A Waterfront.  Tel (021) 431-5888. www.oneandonlycapetown.com  Monday – Sunday, 14h30 – 17h30.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage