Best Afternoon Teas in Cape Town

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Carrie Hampton selflessly researches the top spots for an afternoon treat

“Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on.” (Billy Connolly).

Sitting down to High Tea in the hushed tones of dignified hotels in Cape Town, I couldn’t get this comical image out of my head, glancing around to see if I could spot any tea cosy-wearing men.

Hotels seem to be the only establishments offering this most agreeable of colonial rituals and my top seven doing justice to it are:

  1. Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
  2. One&Only Cape Town
  3. The Twelve Apostles
  4. Cape Grace
  5. Table Bay Hotel
  6. The Taj
  7. Vineyard Hotel

Feeling somewhat fatter than when I began my research, here’s my Best Of Cape Town Afternoon Tea… biased by whatever tickled my tastebuds and because I’m a Brit and we have standards to uphold when it comes to tea time!

Best Tea: Individually wrapped tea bags just aren’t pukka and should be avoided! The best loose leaf tea – presented in cast-iron or glass tea pots with an hourglass timer for the perfect infusion – goes to The Taj, Mount Nelson and One&Only. All have an extensive tea menu describing varieties and flavours. Try the fragrant Chinese Show Tea, whose flower balls slowly unfurl into a floral display in the glass pot.

Best Savouries: Give me savoury over sweet any day, so the melt-in-the-mouth quiches at the Vineyard, Twelve Apostles, Table Bay and One&Only did it for me. And cucumber sandwiches (crustless, of course) are de rigueur at them all.

Best Scones: Kudos to Table Bay Hotel and Cape Grace which were the only ones to serve their scones warm, with jam and lashings of whipped cream. The Vineyard’s were also notable for being delightfully light.

Best Sweet Treats: While the Mount Nelson’s spread of all things sweet is famous, you’ll find as good at the Table Bay, and occasional fairground favourites like toffee apples and marshmallows at Cape Grace. One&Only’s irresistible French pastries are clearly made by passionate hands, and the Vineyard’s sublime petit fours – including chocolate-dipped strawberries and pastel pink, sugar-dusted Turkish delight on a traditional three-tier stand – are delectable. Cape cuisine is celebrated at Twelve Apostles with their ‘South African Afternoon Tea’, with perfect mini koeksisters, melk tart and hertzogies (meringue and caramel mixture on a pasty base). For intricate presentation, the swan éclairs at The Taj take the cake.

Best Atmosphere and View: For ‘Tea by the Sea’ the Twelve Apostles location can’t be beaten, although the buzz in the harbour and yacht basins of the V&A Waterfront hotels like Cape Grace, One&Only and Table Bay are very appealing. For tradition and grandeur it has to be the Mount Nelson and the Cape Grace. For a strong sense of Cape country history, overlooking beautiful gardens, you can’t do better than ‘Lady Anne’s Afternoon Tea’ at the family-owned Vineyard Hotel.

Best Service: Impeccable, discreet service is implicit at Cape Grace, contrasting with the hectic pace and random attention at the hugely popular Mount Nelson. You’ll get excellent service with a smile at Twelve Apostles, Vineyard and Table Bay and keen, knowledgeable staff at the Taj.

It Won’t Break the Bank:

  • Cape Grace offers Cream Tea (tea & scones) at R75 per person, or the 3-tier full tootie at R185pp.
  • The Vineyard’s Lady Anne Barnard Afternoon Tea stack is R165 per person.
  • Tea By The Sea at Twelve Apostles is R215 or R95 for tea + two high tea items.
  • Sinful Delight with all you can eat sweets treats at the Table Bay costs R130, but their full monty High Tea is R260pp.
  • Enjoy true French patisseries at the One&Only Afternoon Tea for R225pp.
  • The Taj offers an all-you-can-eat teatime buffet spread for R210 per person.
  • Belmond Mount Nelson comes in as the most expensive at R295pp, but it’s open house for you to return to the groaning table as often as you like, and you won’t need to eat afterwards for a week!

I’ll let Winnie-the-Pooh have the last word because I couldn’t say it any better:

A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.”

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