New hotels are exciting, for sure. But there’s just something magical about the grandest, most iconic hotels with some history. Fresh off a R90 million renovation, The Winchester Hotel is a century-old institution with exceptional neoclassical design and even better service. When visiting Cape Town during a whirlwind weekend, location is key – and this hotel on the ocean-hugging Sea Point Promenade is in a prime culture-hopping position.
WHERE TO STAY
The Winchester Hotel
A prime beachfront address in the heart of a celebrated holiday destination – the newly renovated Winchester Hotel, previously known as The Winchester Mansions, is up there as one of the most outstanding locations on this stretch of coast. This faultless grande dame is bringing unrivalled style and legendary service to Cape Town. Muted, glossy and decadent – the style is difficult to characterise, but the overall effect is sensational. Among the hotel’s features are 76 guest rooms including suites, flame-inspired restaurant Shoreditch House and a new incarnation of the hotel’s famous Harvey’s Bar. However, the best bit of this old-school favourite is the most unexpected of courtyards – with flourishes of sun-loving bougainvillea showering it with bright pink and purple colour. The hotel still has the bones of the original building, but there’s crisp confidence here that’s rare in somewhere so old. The aesthetic of the hotel extends throughout the generous rooms, which each have a grey, taupe and cream scheme jazzed up with heavily patterned fabrics as well as bathrooms slathered with polished marble, a rain shower, fabulous-smelling Woodbury & Co products and a Nespresso machine. Rooms are as grand as they were pre-renovation, but they feel less serious with a tremendous amount of panache. The best of the bunch are the signature suites – we stayed in a cocooning Junior Suite with views straight out to sea. Back at Shoreditch House, there are more dazzling panoramas from the breakfast table. The lively restaurant, which draws a cool evening crowd with bespoke cocktails, is a destination in its own right. Sitting outside in the courtyard with a glass of something chilled is a joy, or you can go out on the terrace featuring panoramic Atlantic Ocean views. The lusted-after dishes are excellent in an unobtrusive sort of way – from wagyu tataki and braaied corn with garlic butter to a steak roll and lime-and-citrus marinated seared tuna. The foodie highlight has to be the ‘dirty’ rib eye with chimichurri, however, that’s so tender you could slice it with a spoon. If more quintessential heritage hedonism is required, some of Cape Town’s great institutions are dotted around the hotel – La Perla, Mykonos Taverna, Posticino Italian Restaurant and the rest.
221 Beach Road, Sea Point
021 434 2351
WHERE TO EAT
In hip Cape Town fashion, to get to FYN Restaurant you have to order an Uber, wander through the East City and finally arrive at a nondescript door that could easily lead to an art gallery. The setting may seem a bit odd, but behind that door and up an elevator is this glittering restaurant where the presentation, taste, aroma and dining environment all play an equally important role. Led by chef-patron Peter Tempelhoff, Jennifer Hugé and Ashley Moss – a team whose former kitchens include those of Liz McGrath’s The Collection – FYN Restaurant serves up the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine, grounded in kaiseki traditions and inspired by locality. Thankfully, the friendly service puts you right at ease, so you can truly enjoy the multi-course banquet without getting too hung up about the etiquette. Food on a stick is the best food, and the porcupine quill appetisers – wild mushroom korokke (Japanese croquettes), tebasaki (double fried chicken glazed in a sweet, sour and savoury sauce), tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet), kakiage (a type of vegetable tempura) and roast beetroot – are fun and approachable, but still manage to hype up your expectations for the rest of the meal. The chefs harness the best ingredients of the season and present them as a gastronomic expression of time and place. You can expect tiny yet mind-blowing courses, such as a Hokkaido milk bun with burnt mushroom custard; tuna and yellowtail sashimi; an obsiblue prawn hand roll; and a langoustine served with chokka and tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetables) – each of which is notably amplified by the optional wine pairing. There’s something familiar yet unexpected about the two standout dishes; the kingklip and abalone with intense sun-ripened tomato and sea plants as well as the Outeniqua springbok teamed with kabocha squash, Hokkaido pumpkin, shiitake mushroom and caramelised onion jus. They’ve become so popular that they’re now a staple on the tasting menu, with slight variations in ingredients depending on the season. This is temptation enough to visit, but the robata grilled pineapple served with rice ice cream, shichimi (a seven-spice blend) and ginger syrup – followed by wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) – seals the deal. Beyond the food itself being world-class, the level of detail that goes into every dish is impressive, making FYN Restaurant an ideal place to dazzle a date.
Cost: R1,575 per person for the Experience Dinner Menu or R975 per person for the Lunch Menu (excluding the optional wine pairing)
5th Floor, Speakers’ Corner, 37 Parliament Street, Cape Town
021 286 2733