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Unimaginably Spectacular 21 Nettleton, Cape Town

May 22, 2018

Lifestyle | by Baldwin Ho

Breathtaking views, gastronomic excellence, culture and sandy beaches, Cape Town is a city blessed with everything, perhaps this why it is a city high on most people’s wish list of places to visit. Accommodation varies from the budget to the unimaginably spectacular; the latter is mostly found in the exclusive area of Clifton. 21 Nettleton is a boutique hotel situated in the heart of Clifton on an exclusive street widely regarded as the most expensive street in South Africa if not the whole of the continent.

The hotel only has 5 suites but resembles a castle occupying 8 floors perched on Lion’s Head with imperious views of the Atlantic coast and the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range. As soon as you step into the reception hallway, you have an immediate sense of occasion with the stunning spiral staircase and the exquisite collection of priceless antiques and modern artwork.

The presidential suite where we stayed is situated on the top floor; at 250 sq.m this penthouse boasts 360 degree views and two bathrooms including an integrated steam room, there is a TV drawing room with a fireplace, a king-sized bed, a separate lounge and daybed relaxation space, indoor and outdoor balcony dining and 2 other separate balconies. You might question the need for so many balconies, but when the sunset is as spectacular as the one you will witness at 21 Nettleton, there will simply be no other place you want to go before dusk. They also offer complimentary drinks and canapes before dinner, in case you needed further enticements.

The decor in the presidential suite and for that matter the rest of the hotel is sumptuous and elegant, having been hand selected by the owner during his lifetime of travels. You could easily spend an afternoon admiring the fascinating artwork and collection of top-notch coffee table books.

They have all the luxury amenities you will need from Africology bath products to lavish robes, linen, and slippers.

Service is exemplary from the whole team whether it is from the General Manager, Dirk or Sales and Reservations Manager, Luc who will look after your every need from ordering an Uber and making restaurant bookings. Breakfast was a particular highlight as we enjoyed expertly prepared eggs royale on their garden lawn by their swimming pool admiring the breathtaking scenery whilst playing with one of their 3 in-house Burmese kittens.

Although they do offer in-house catering for lunch and dinner, I would recommend checking out some of the highlights of the Cape Town culinary scene to further enhance your stay in this magical city. A short Uber ride away is the newly renovated, Top of The Ritz, which is on the 23rd floor of The Ritz Hotel offering the only revolving restaurant on the Western Cape. Apart from the Atlantic seaboard,  you can also see Green Point Stadium and even Robben Island.

The tasting menu is cleverly constructed to take you on a culinary journey through the highlights of Cape Town in sections such as the garden, the karoo, ocean, and mountain view. A beetroot three-ways starter showed the exquisite quality of the local produce and the masterful plating from their kitchen team. Rack of lamb was beautifully pink and tremendously flavoured with truffled celeriac purée, whilst chocolate mousse had a thrilling smokiness and served along with chocolate soil and white “mushrooms”, which were meringues.

For a more casual dining experience but no less impressive, try visiting The Shortmarket Club downtown. It’s from the team behind the critically acclaimed The Test Kitchen and Potluck club and brings opulent old-world charms to this heritage building with a spacious open kitchen. A wall of framed butterflies using old receipts from their sister restaurant by renown artist, Mark Rautenbach is as impressive as anything you will see in Tate Modern.

Provenance of ingredients is just as important in Cape Town as it is in London. We enjoyed an ultra-fresh tuna tataki and locally sourced leek flavoured with a rarely seen in London sunflower seed salsa macha for starters. Whilst main course, included the main local sustainable fish, kingklip flavoured with an appetising lemon and tarragon veloute and a Za’atar baked cauliflower.

You do get a sense South African chefs are unafraid to experiment with new ideas and ingredients and none more so than Glen Foxcroft Williams who is the chief proprietor of Foxcroft in leafy Constantia. Having worked as a pastry chef at the stupendous, La Columbe, his knowledge of the intricacies of fine dining is unparalleled in Cape Town. However, whilst the food is Michelin-starred quality, the atmosphere is distinctly relaxed with smart, well-polished brass and wood throughout the dining room, no white linen in sight and a centrepiece charcuterie room giving the whole venue a welcoming, earthy feel.

The menu makes clever use of a few key ingredients to embellish the ingredients; farmed kob had added sweetness from mango atchar and slangetjies, which are crunchy chickpea flour noodles to give the dish textural variation (and a nod to the Cape-Malay influence of South African cuisine). Mushroom cannelloni was a riot of colours with beetroot, carrot, and broccoli along with the pasta, whilst you won’t get a more exciting chicken dish than their version with sweetbreads and spicy cauliflower, kohlrabi and tatsoi.

Other highlights to try out in Cape Town include trying out innovative Japanese cocktails at Kyoto Garden such as their signature dirty ninja saketini that uses Japanese Sake along with dried nori and sweetened rice wine vinegar to go with the more standard  Stolichnaya vodka and Tanqueray Gin. And a visit to the groundbreaking Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a must as it has the largest collection of modern African art in the world. Think “Tate Modern” but a museum that encompasses the artwork from all 54 African states as well as African artists from across the world. It is institutions like the ones mentioned in this review that really puts Cape Town on the map and make it a prime destination choice for the discerning traveller.

For more information on 21 Nettleton see here.

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