STILL IN THE PINK

Financial Mail - - LIFE BOOK - Adele Shevel

The Mount Nel­son is one of those rare ho­tels in­ter­wo­ven with lin­eage and loy­alty, the kind of des­ti­na­tion where chil­dren come with their par­ents and over the years end up bring­ing their own kids.

So when the ho­tel com­menced a year of cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions to mark “100 years in the Pink” in Novem­ber, it did so with a cer­tain style. It all started with a gar­den party, more of a Veuve Clic­quot­fu­elled fête, on Novem­ber 10, the day be­fore Ar­mistice Day (which marks the end of World War 1 in 1918).

The ho­tel was re­painted af­ter “the Great War” by its then-man­ager, Aldo Re­nato, who chose to re­coat the ex­te­rior in a shade of pink that, he felt, con­veyed a sense of joy at the end of hos­til­i­ties. Ac­cord­ing to some, this kicked off a trend in grand Euro­pean ho­tels to go pas­tel.

To cel­e­brate a rosy cen­te­nary, the ho­tel has in­tro­duced a se­ries of “Touch of Pink” events. They in­clude an art ex­hi­bi­tion that will be cu­rated by artist-in-res­i­dence Cyril Coet­zee.

There’s also a sep­a­rate “pink cock­tail menu” in the Bel­mond group for the year. A rose pe­tal oil mas­sage, us­ing an oil blend cre­ated specif­i­cally for the ho­tel from oil and pe­tals, has been put to­gether; and Cape indige­nous wild plants are be­ing made into tea in­fu­sions.

The af­ter­noon tea fea­tures del­i­ca­cies in­clud­ing Turk­ish de­light, rasp­berry-filled white truf­fles, pink mac­a­roons, pink pavlova and pink filled éclairs. Pink cock­tails served at the ever-pop­u­lar Planet Bar in­clude G&TS made with Cape Town Pink Lady Gin, named af­ter the ho­tel, which is in­fused with hibis­cus flow­ers and rose pe­tals.

The mother ship

The ho­tel is part of the his­tory of Cape Town. It opened its doors for the first time in 1899 and was the first ho­tel in Cape Town to of­fer hot and cold run­ning water and was ap­plauded for be­ing “even bet­ter than its Lon­don coun­ter­parts”.

It has played host to world lead­ers and colourful char­ac­ters. Queen Elizabeth cel­e­brated her 21st birth­day on the grounds while still a princess. John Len­non sur­prised guests by med­i­tat­ing in the gar­dens un­der a tree.

He’d booked in un­der the pseu­do­nym “Mr Green­wood” and re­port­edly was very tidy and made his own bed.

Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela wel­comed world lead­ers for the first World Eco­nomic Fo­rum held on African soil, and the Dalai Lama en­light­ened more than 500 Capeto­ni­ans who sat cross-legged on the floor in the ball­room.

The SA War broke out a few months af­ter the ho­tel opened, and the Mount Nel­son was used as head­quar­ters for the top brass of the Bri­tish army — and a young war cor­re­spon­dent who wrote, “… a most ex­cel­lent and well-ap­pointed es­tab­lish­ment, which may be thor­oughly ap­pre­ci­ated af­ter a sea voy­age”. The jour­nal­ist was Winston Churchill.

Guest re­la­tions man­ager Joey Michael has worked at the ho­tel for 29 years. He’s no­ticed that things that weren’t im­por­tant be­fore have be­come im­per­a­tive over the years. First it was squash courts, then a gym, then a spa and a kids’ club.

The cui­sine changed as peo­ple be­came less in­clined to eat heav­ier meals. “As the years have gone by, peo­ple have be­come fit­ter, they care about their bod­ies, their well­be­ing,” says Michael. To­day the first thing peo­ple want to know is the Wi-fi code.

Most guests are from the UK. In sev­eral in­stances, third-gen­er­a­tion guests visit. Around Christ­mas one will see many of the same fam­i­lies who’ve been com­ing for

15, 20 years.

The Mount Nel­son may have an air of be­ing el­e­gant and stately, but there’s sure to be a fair amount of cel­e­bra­tion tak­ing place be­hind the arched en­trance on Or­ange Street.

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