In November 1918, at the end of the first Great War, the Italian general manager at the time, Aldo Renato, celebrated by having the Belmond Mount Nelson painted pink for peace. The colour – which symbolised hope and a new dawn – is the signature shade of the hotel and has not changed since.
The celebration of this milestone event got off to a fine start with a fabulous Veuve Clicquot pink garden party, and continues all this year with pink events, pink drinks and pink bites. Before your dinner at the Lord Nelson Restaurant, you should stop in at the Planet Bar for one of the two specially created cocktails, to be enjoyed inside or outside on the patio overlooking the gardens and fountain. The Pink Lady is made with gin, Bols white chocolate and rose syrup; Timeless In Pink is my current favourite – Belvedere grapefruit vodka, rose and elderflower, fresh mint, raspberry and lemon, and an egg white froth. It’s as delicious as it sounds, and just as pretty.
Thereafter, make your way to the Lord Nelson. This is the hotel’s original dining room and dates back to 1899, and takes its inspiration from Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. On October 21, 1805 the Franco-Spanish fleet came out of port, and Nelson’s fleet engaged them at the Battle of Trafalgar. The battle was Britain’s greatest naval victory, but during the action, Nelson, aboard HMS Victory, was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter. Now you know, and will have some excellent information on the tip of your tongue for interesting dinner table conversation.
By April, the menu will have changed somewhat to include more classics – as is fitting for a restaurant such as this which is steeped in so much history – and dishes prepared and served tableside, like crêpes suzette joining the likes of Beef Wellington and similar.
For now, the format is by the course: R345 for two, R420 for three, and R540 for four (excluding wine).
There are four groups of dishes and although it’s unconventional, perhaps they would discreetly not bat an eyelid if chose to order four desserts. In the first group you’ll find dishes like ostrich carpaccio with smoked date purée, chakalaka oil and almond flakes; mango, paw-paw and nectarine salad with ginger and lime dressing; and scallop and sweetbreads with prosciutto.
We began with salmon tartare with lime seaweed crumble, a rice cracker, kimchi, and a miso-cured egg yolk; and mixed tomato salad with artichokes, dried olives and pine nuts and topped with a sheet of subtly smoked tomato panna cotta. I tasted both and declare them equally good. I cannot choose one over the other.
We skipped the second group of dishes, which includes the likes of roasted squash risotto with spekboom salsa verde; hazelnut and sweet potato tortellini; and pakora brinjal (pakora is a fried snack originating from the Indian subcontinent). The third group includes springbok loin with Gorgonzola sponge cake, pan-roasted duck breast with elements of sweetcorn, and roast sea bass with parsley crust.
For her main course, my friend had beef tournados with mushrooms, bacon, and potato and seaweed espuma, while I ordered the grilled lamb loin with crispy lamb bacon, fine beans, slow roasted tomato, and confit neck. I chose a glass of Springfield’s outstanding Work Of Time, a Bordeaux blend which I first tasted right here at the Mount Nelson thanks to then-sommelier Pearl Oliver. My friend drank, on my recommendation, a glass of Neil Ellis’s Cab Sav, which is another current favourite of mine.
For dessert there is peach melba, a true classic of yesteryear given a modern touch with raspberry coulis and almond tuile accompanying the poached peach and vanilla ice cream; baked Alaska; dark chocolate fondant with Amarula ice cream; and a selection of local cheeses with preserves, bread and biscuits should you prefer a savoury finish. We shared the salted rosemary baked chocolate tart with milk chocolate chilli ice cream.
* Belmond Mount Nelson is at 76 Orange Street, Gardens, and is one of my favourite destinations in Cape Town, where the service is always superb, and the experience exceptional.
The Lord Nelson Restaurant is open for dinner, Mondays to Saturdays, from 6.30pm until 10pm. Call 021 483 1948, or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mother City Fine Dining
By Bianca Coleman