FOOD + TRAVEL: Luxurious views, meals at Capetown’s Mt. Nelson

Published 1:59 am Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Mt. Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. Courtesy photos

The Mt. Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.
Courtesy photos

What a trip we have had this past 10 days. We flew to Cape Town, South Africa, for a nine-day visit. Not so long since it takes two days to get there and two to get back. But yes, it was worth it! My husband had been wanting to go to Cape Town for many years so this was the year.

Food columnist Connie Anderson at Mt. Nelson;

Food columnist Connie Anderson at Mt. Nelson;

There is no easy way to get to Cape Town since it is quite a distance but we flew Delta and KLM and the flights were all on time and security was not a problem and luggage was not lost so we had no complaints there. The longest flight was from Amsterdam to Cape Town (12 hours) and I did see my share of movies, about 16 round trip. None were that great, but they did kill the time.

I was in Cape Town 43 years ago and remembered visiting the Cape of Good Hope and riding in a bus along Chapman’s Peak which was beautiful then as it still is now. Things were certainly different 43 years ago. Nelson Mandela was still in prison, and on this trip we visited Robben Island and saw his cell. The 3-and-a-half-hour trip and tour of the island with former political prisoners giving the tour is a must do, but tickets can be hard to get.

We arrived late at night in Cape Town and had a service meet us to take us to the iconic old Mt. Nelson Hotel. This was luxury with our room opening on to a terrace where we could sit and look at Table Mountain. The most amazing thing about the Mount Nelson was the breakfast buffet! I have never seen so much food, and it was included in the room rate, which was really a great value for your money. We learned fast that the exchange rate was in our favor and loved having wonderful food and hotel accommodations for so little.

The hotel served oysters on the half shell with champagne on the breakfast buffet. Photographer/Star-News

The hotel served oysters on the half shell with champagne on the breakfast buffet.

The breakfast had oysters on the half-shell with champagne if you wished to drink that early. There was a table of breads, and meats, and cheeses. A table of only fruit, some local, which you do not see here. A table of fish including the oysters, salmon, and smoked trout. A table of yogurt and different granolas. Then, after all this, you could order your cooked breakfast of any type eggs or omelets and then add your mushrooms, potatoes, and bacon or sausage. I was in heaven it was all so lovely and good. We found this type breakfast at the other accommodations also, just not quite as extensive.

We spent the afternoon on Table Mountain, which is the landmark in Cape Town. It is another must but can often be shrouded in clouds (the table cloth). I missed it 43 years ago but the early spring weather made this trip delightful. Table Mountain rises up from the upper reaches of the bay city thereby dominating everything. We got our tickets for the gondola on line to avoid the physical line at the base. That was an exciting ride with the gondola rotating as we go up and it is open! Not for the faint of heart. We walked around on top in the fynbos vegetation. The Cape floral kingdom is the smallest (only the tip of the western cape) of the six world plant kingdoms but more species dense than the others and with more plants found only there. We had a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the city and the ocean. The western Cape is full of wineries so wine is the way to go here. I suppose that is the reason for the local bubbly for breakfast. As we talked some lady said you all must be from the South. She and her husband were from Atlanta. Most tourists were African, Asian or European.

We left Cape Town in our rental car all too soon. My husband loves to drive the stick shift on the left side of the road. He could shift ok and keep the left in mind but kept turning on the wipers when he meant to turn of the turn-signal. Our next stay was at a country house by the name of Cellars-Hohenort. Here we spent three nights and had three lovely meals. One night we got included in a wine-tasting dinner. I have never seen such fancy food. It was tasty but over the top in decoration. I don’t like chardonnay, too oaky for me usually, but we had one that was the best I have ever tasted. Unfortunately South African wines are little imported in the US.

The country house of Cellars-Hohenort offers a wine-tasting dinner.

The country house of Cellars-Hohenort offers a wine-tasting dinner.

The Cellars is a rambling country house hotel on the back side of Table Mountain in a great garden. On a stroll one morning we ran into this lovely lady dressed for tea, but in her wellies. My husband recognized her as the creator of the garden from the website Gardenista. Yes, she created it, she said, 26 years ago, and at 84 she is still there most days. She has five gardeners to help her. (Google Cellars Hohenort and Gardenista if you want a tour.)

The best thing I found at the Cellars was the soufflé served in the Conservatory Restaurant. We had it two nights in a row but I was not successful getting the recipe from the chef. I bought some books at the shop in the hotel and the shop lady heard me talking about the soufflé and said she had the recipe. And true to her word she sent it to me. She told me it was hard to do, and I could barely make out the measurements and directions but I did come home and try. Here is the recipe as I have translated it.


The cheese souffle.

The cheese souffle.

Cellars-Hohenort Cheese Soufflé

Serves 10

½ cup flour

6 Tbsp. butter, unsalted

6 egg yolks

½ teaspoon salt

3 ½ oz. grated parmesan

3 ½ oz. grated Underberg (A South African cheese) I used gruyere instead.

2 cups milk

6 egg whites

2 Tbsp. chopped chives

Sauce: Must go in the bottom of the ramekins

½ cup parmesan cheese

2 cups cream

Squeeze of lemon juice

This is cooked on slow and reduced to a sauce consistency and this takes about 10 minutes.

In a pot, melt the butter, add the flour and cook gently for 5-6 minutes until flour is cooked. Using a spatula, slowly add the milk into the flour-butter mixture until smooth then take off the heat and set aside. Let cook and then add the yolks, salt and chives. Whisk the egg whites and gently fold them into the mixture.

Grease 10 ramekins and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Pour the cream on top of the bread crumbs and then add the cheese soufflé mixture halfway up the ramekin since they will rise. Bake at 200°F for 1 hour. Rotate after 30 minutes. Check and see if they are firm enough to remove and if not add 10 more minutes to baking time.

I just pulled my soufflés out of the oven and they are beautiful and taste so good. I did it!