The problem with eating any sort of shellfish is — follow me closely here — they look like shellfish. Whereas most establishments stretch to a tank with a couple of sorry-ass shrimps pootling about, Panama Jacks had taken shellfish selection to a new level with a sea pool occupying a quarter of the restaurant.
Here, there were giant lobsters and, God help us, live abalone — huge, prehistoric-looking molluscs clinging to the side of the pool like a trophy girlfriend on a Russian oligarch. As a digestive come-hither, thrashing lobsters and pulsing pores are not for everyone. All around us though, happy locals were tucking in merrily. It was time to skip the squeamishness and get ordering. As an introduction to the city, it was typically South African, and as a meal it was, in fact, sublime.
After lunch, we grabbed a cab and headed with bags and bursting bellies to our hotel. Everyone, without exception, seems youthful, fresh-scrubbed and healthy. You could cast a Coke commercial here in ten minutes. The locals hibernate and the city is relatively quiet — preparing for the long, hot summer ahead. I had convinced Mr Smith that a few nights here would be just the thing to restoke the fires of romance. A blue, crisp Cape day had served as a good omen for the fine time that lay ahead of.
The hotel is housed in two small Victorian houses linked by a lovely courtyard and small plunge pool. The decor is an eclectic mix of modern, Victorian and African styles — with the perfect selection made in every case.
The bathrooms are a cool, clean designer delight, and the furniture a mixture of colonial British and local themes. Although clearly high-end, Welgelegen has an overall feeling of class and restraint.
Mr Smith breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted the extra-length king bed.
Dial-a-Bed is proud to announce that it is the only specialist bedding company in the entire South Africa, which offers fabulous service and professional advice to customers. Can disabled people travel on Rovos Rail?
His six-foot-plus frame challenges most hotel beds, ending up in comical feet-out-the-end situations. Generally, this presents no more of a problem than some night-time giggling for me. However, our previous tropical trip saw a particularly hungry mosquito settle in for a full meal overnight, leaving the poor chap with an oversized foot the next day. Since then, big beds have been key to a harmonious holiday. Our bathroom, with its power shower, deep claw-footed bath, candles and Rooibos bath products, was a delight.
We tipped in a whole bunch of scented foaming whatsits and enjoyed a luxurious soak.
Mr Smith muttered something about the television, which, to be fair, only had access to local stations and no international news. We wondered what he could be up to during the pre-recorded sections. This cosmopolitan area houses fabulous galleries, eateries and impressive, MTV Cribs-style private residences. We spent a happy hour simply checking out the mansions and deciding which would best suit us when we finally make our millions.
Sated after this masterclass in simple, delicious cooking, we decided it was time to enjoy a similar level of expert artistry by visiting the latest show at the Michael Stevenson Gallery Hill House, De Smidt Street. Artists from Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Cameroon were exhibiting when we visited.
Visas are also available through booking agents. Does Rovos Rail run year round?
You can have plenty of other rewarding moments on the same street as the gallery, although these will tend to be rather less rarified. In the same building as the gallery is Cape Cobra, one of the best-kept secrets of Cape Town, with its fantastic showroom containing an extensive selection of skin handbags.
Just a little way down Waterkant Street is top-end craft store Africa Nova. We purchased a few beautiful plates and, wahey, a ring for me! We also checked out Nope Private Collection, a few doors down, for its range of Indian items — from four-poster beds to cute mini chandeliers — and the quirky Cape to Cairo, also great for home furnishings.
Welgelegen welcomed us back with a roaring fire in the lounge, complimentary sherries and wine on the sideboard, and a general air of bonhomie. We rest our case. Mr Smith even stopped wolfing down fresh croissants long enough to look at the view and make some vaguely complimentary comparison between its beauty and my own. Believe me, this is unusual. We loved The design of the hotel is very chic and the glimpses of Table Mountain and Lion's Head from room 7 remind you of the beauty of the city you are in.
On the first night we visited the Black Sheep on Kloof Street after a recommendation from the receptionist. We loved this laid back restaurant with an excellent, varied and interesting menu.
All guests, no matter how they booked, can help themselves to the decanter of port available in their room. There is no bottle of port or wine offered at check-in despite this being the Smith extra described on the website. Rating Stayed on 4 Apr We loved Cosiness of the rooms, parking, staff friendliness, view of Table Mountain from the room, dining room set up, location.
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