The historic Mount Nelson opened in 1899, and is said to have been the first hotel in the country to have hot and cold running water. Since then, many illustrious people have stayed there, a tradition that continues today as it a favourite among actors, filmmakers and other famous people visiting Cape Town.
The Mount Nelson is part of the Belmond collection of luxury hotels, which was rebranded in March 2014 (formerly Orient Express, which bought the property in the eighties). The hotel is known locally as “the Nellie”.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Set among palm trees and gardens, this grand, pink-painted hotel is made up of six wings meaning the décor and ambiance is different depending on which one you are staying in. The most unique are the eight cottages, which come with their own white picket fences, and the six-bedroom Taunton House, which can be taken over if you’re are in a group looking for privacy.
The property has been undergoing a revamp in recent months, so despite its age is looking better than ever, and yet its personality remains. It’s an elegant, high-end hotel that is at once peaceful and happening. For example, take breakfast on the veranda overlooking lush lawns and one of the outdoor pools, and you are likely to overhear film crews talking about the day’s forthcoming shoot. The Nellie is the place to be. And it is well set up for business people, no matter what your profession.
WHERE IS IT?
In a desirable location at the foot of Table Mountain, tucked away off Orange Street, where security guards ensure vehicles entering the grounds are for guests only. It is 20 minutes from Cape Town International airport, and about 15 minutes from the V&A Waterfront.
All rooms are different, but standard-category Superior ones start from 30 sqm and feature en suite bathrooms, lounge areas, air conditioning, workdesks and free wifi.
I was staying in a Superior One Bed suite in the hotel’s main building. It featured an LG flatscreen TV, a Nespresso machine and kettle, a minibar (stocked with soft drinks and beer but no spirits or snacks), and a wardrobe with a safe, robes and slippers but no iron or ironing board.
Tall windows opened to let in fresh air and looked out on to the trees (Table Mountain was behind). There was a small living room with a table and UK plug sockets (but none by the bed, which was a bit too squishy for my liking).
The classic décor consisted of a beige carpet, cream walls, duck egg blue curtains, while the marble bathroom had a tub and walk-in shower with locally made bathing products in large bottles. It all felt very tranquil.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The ground-floor Planet restaurant is open Monday-Saturday 6.30pm-10.30pm. I didn’t eat here but noticed the menu offers a fine-dining experience incorporating African delicacies such as ostrich, springbok, kudu and crocodile, as well as plenty of South African wine.
Private dining can be held in the Cellar, which can seat six people for a meal, or at the Chef’s Table, for up to ten (seven days a week). I had a couple of cocktails at the cosy Planet bar, which was a comfortable, glitzy place to settle in for the evening (you can also sit outside).
Lavish morning and afternoon teas are served in the lobby lounge, terrace and gardens daily – these are a real feature of the hotel, attracting locals and tourists alike.
Breakfast (buffet and à la carte) is served in the Oasis bistro in the neighbouring wing from 7am. It feels a little bland and outdated compared with the rest of the hotel but the al fresco terrace is lovely.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES
The Nellie has a good choice of event venues in a range of styles and sizes. The largest is the opulent Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 400 people, while the Garden room can host 150 delegates and has a minstrel’s gallery.
As well as the Grill room with its own bar and the Green Park room (capacities of 140 and 60, respectively), smaller spaces range from the Orchid room for 45 guests to the Union Castle room for 14.
The wood-panelled Lord Nelson room was once the hotel’s primary drinking den but is now dedicated to private functions of up to 40 delegates. There is also a business centre.
There are two heated outdoor swimming pools at the hotel (one for adults only), open seasonally, along with a hair salon, boutique, tennis courts and Librisa spa with eight treatment suites, saunas and steam baths.
There is also a fitness centre open 7am-9pm with three rooms fitted with free weights, Technogym and Arke Core Centric equipment. The venue has plenty of natural light and garden views.
Cycology electric bike tours are also on offer (a great way to discover the city – highly recommended), and Table Mountain is easily accessible (the hotel offers a free shuttle service).
This is one of the best – and oldest – hotels in Cape Town, and its ongoing refurbishments are bringing it into the 21st century. It has a great buzz about it – the city is relatively small and its blossoming film industry is attracting many well-known names, all of whom seem to check-in to the Nellie (although staff are highly discreet). Service is excellent and there is a wide array of accommodation to choose from. A great choice for business travellers.
- HOW MANY ROOMS? 190 rooms plus eight Garden Cottages.
- HIGHLIGHTS The outdoor adult-only pool, free wifi, revamped luxury interiors and garden setting beneath Table Mountain.
- PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in February started from R 7,565 (£419) for a Superior room.
- CONTACT Belmond Mount Nelson, 76 Orange Street, Cape Town; tel +27 21 483 1000; belmond.com