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Sunday 28 December 2014

A delightful high tea in the shadow of Table Mountain

Think of high tea and you probably think of grand but discreet English hotels like The Ritz, Claridge's or Brown's.  
Or maybe the venerable Tiffin Room at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, or the wonderful Eastern & Oriental in Penang, Malaysia, both destinations steps back in time and pace. 
Add the The Table Bay Hotel on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town to this list of world-class venues; high tea here comes in three different courses, with impeccable service and starts from around R200 ($20), when tea at The Ritz can set you back four times as much. 

The Table Bay Hotel is Cape Town's ultimate address - right on the water with dramatic views of Table Mountain. Opened in May 1997 by none other than iconic former South African president Nelson Mandela, this gracious hostelry is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group and its afternoon high teas are extremely popular with both locals and visitors. It pays to book.  
Tea is served against the stunning backdrop of the working harbour, Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean - and talented pastry chef Bhupender (Bobby) Kumar has some surprises in store for debutants, while also acknowledging gluten intolerant, dairy intolerant and Halal customers. 

I was happy to eat everything on offer, and was told the high tea menu changes on a regular basis - although some items may not be removed, due to popular demand. 
The R200 starting point gets you three courses and three teas from an extensive tea menu. For an extra R50 ($5) you get a glass of one of South Africa's better sparkling wines, the Graham Beck Brut NV, and for R315 there is a glass of Taittinger Brut NV.
Given South Africa's ludicrously low prices it would be a crime not to go the whole hog. 
The first course is served at your table in the clubby atmosphere of the hotel lounge; maybe a broccoli and leek or smoled snoek and fennel quiche, apple and thyme chicken sausage roll, Cape Malay-style chicken mayo sandwiches, smoked snoek and trout with chive crème fraiche sandwiches, or perhaps rare roast beef in choux pastry with rocket, or a julienne of summer vegetable in a rice paper roll. 
There is a range of loose leaf teas to select from, maybe a Gnawa green tea from China, or perhaps a Margaret’s Hope from Darjeeling, India. 

Next up, scones, also served at the table by the very capable staff; with a choice of buttermilk or chocolate chip scones, or both, served with fresh clotted cream (lots of it), lemon curd and a selection of artisan jams, matched to perhaps Earl Grey or classic English Breakfast tea, or a local Good Hope blend. 
This is followed by cakes and pastries from the high tea buffet; a mouthwatering selection of sweet delights from around the world, including two Australian favourites; a mixed berry pavlova and Lamingtons. Other choices vary day-to-day but include lemon meringue tarts, rainbow sponge cake (a tribute to the "new" rainbow nation of South Africa, triple chocolate cupcakes, cream cheese-granadilla cake and a quite bewildering array of other delights. 

These can be matched maybe with South African rooibos tea (chef Kumar's choice), or  any one of a wide selection from the menu. 
Afternoon tea here can easily last a couple of hours and is a wonderful break from the fast-paced world outside the Table Bay Hotel. It is highly recommended.
The Table Bay Hotel, Quay 6, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001. +27 21 406 5000, is one of the SunLux Collection, a group of luxury hotels in southern Africa. For full details and bookings visit

South African Airways (SAA) has linked with code share partner Virgin Australia to offer return fares from major Australian airports to Johannesburg. SAA operates to 40 destinations worldwide with daily direct flights from Perth to Johannesburg with connections from all major Australian cities. 1300 435 972 or see 

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