I have evaluated the High Teas at Grand Provence and at the Grande Roche, and popped in at the One&Only Cape Town earlier this week, having noticed their High Tea stand when I went to interview Reuben Riffel about his recent American visit. The weekday High Tea at the One&Only Cape Town is the best value I have encountered so far, but its service and execution appeared amateurish, with no Vista Lounge/Bar manager visible throughout my visit, and it is a complex offer.
My Twitter friend Michael McKenzie has sent me links to show that it is incorrect to refer to High Tea, as it means our definition of supper, but I prefer ‘High Tea’ to the more correct ‘afternoon tea’. The One&Only Cape Town does call it “Afternoon Tea” on its website. One cannot fault the location of the One&Only Cape Town’s High Tea, in their beautiful Vista Lounge just down from the entrance, with a beautiful view onto Table Mountain. The problem, however, is that one is seated in the lounge area of the hotel, and this means that one sits uncomfortably when eating, as the table is too low for the couch which I chose to sit on. At the Grand Roche and Grande Provence one sits at restaurant tables and chairs.
The biggest disappointment of all is that the High Tea seems to be an after-thought at the One&Only Cape Town, as it is not featured in the Room Service-type menu which the waiter brought to me. There is no explanation as to what is included in terms of tea/coffee, nor the names of the treats, which the Grande Roche presents so beautifully in their special gold-ribboned High Tea menu. The waiter told me that in the High Tea price of R145 a cup of tea or coffee is included (but not a cappuccino!), and that the High Tea treats can be ordered for two persons to share at that price. At both the Grande Roche and Grande Provence the High Tea costs R95, inclusive of a cup of tea or coffee, and one gets the impression that it is a price per person, and that one is not meant to share. At R 72,50 per head if one is sharing on weekdays, the One&Only Cape Town High Tea offers the best value of the High Teas I have tried, each person enjoying about 13 treats, even if one has to pay R 16 extra for a cup of filter coffee and R 22 for a cappuccino, bringing the total cost close to the R95 of the other two High Teas, but with a larger variety offered. The catch is that tea and coffee are excluded during the week, an odd inconsistency, which I only discovered when I read the website to write this review after my visit! On weekends the High Tea is laid out as a buffet, and one can help oneself to as much as one likes, making this High Tea more expensive as it is charged at R145 per person, but includes tea and coffee. The One&Only Cape Town serves the High Tea daily, while it is only available over weekends at the Grande Roche and at Grande Provence. Given the complexity of the offer, here is the hotel’s description of its “Afternoon Tea” on its website:
“An Afternoon Tea stand with carefully selected “sweet pleasures” is served on a classic tree (three?)-tiered cake stand from Monday to Friday each week. The confectionary (sic)selection includes chocolate delice, baked vanilla bean cheese cake, caramel and gold leaf éclairs, tea loaf and macaroons, to name but a few, which is accompanied by individually prepared tea sandwiches of complementing flavors and fine buttermilk scones accompanied with traditional clotted cream and strawberry preserve. All items are prepared in the unique style of the One&Only, originating from the classic French art of patisserie, with our local innovation and inspiration. The Afternoon Tea stand will be offered from 14h30 – 17h30 each day, at R145 per stand which is exclusive of all beverages. A full Afternoon Tea buffet will be available on Saturday’s (sic) and Sunday’s (sic) from 14h30 – 17h30, at R145 per guest, inclusive of selected Tea’s (sic) and Coffee’s (sic)”.
It took about 15 minutes for the cappuccino and water to arrive, and I started getting worried. I loved the fancy ‘cup and saucer’ in which the coffee was served. Three miniature Hillcrest jams were brought to the table, but oddly no butter and cream for the scones (despite the promise of cream from the website above). A sideplate with a serviette and Robert Welch knife and fork was brought to the table. Another waiter was instructed by my waiter to write down the names of all the treats, which I received hand-written from American-sounding Congolese waiter Paul on a till slip, even indicating which of the items contain pork and which are vegetarian. Sharon made her appearance from the kitchen, wearing a Lindt apron, and she asked me if I had been informed of all the names on the High Tea stand. She talked me through all of them again, and it emerged that Paul had left some out. She explained the time delay, in that the Banqueting department has to make the savoury part of the High Tea fresh when ordered, whereas the pastries from her side are ready to be put on the stand when the kitchen receives the order. Sharon was very efficient, and it is clear that she loves her job.
I must have waited for half an hour to receive the High Tea stand, and it is an overwhelming presentation of about 27 items spread over three tiers. The savoury items cover one of the three tiers, and include brown bread salmon sandwiches, mini chicken hamburgers, feta cheese sandwiches, and bacon and spinach quiches. The sweet treats are marble cake, a fruit scone as well as a plain scone, macaroons, a butternut biscuit, an Ameretto cookie, a delicious buttermilk panacotta (but served in such a tiny glass that the teaspoon could not get into it – no teaspoon is served for this treat at all, and I used my coffee spoon), passion fruit delice, caramel eclair served with a gold leaf, Tiramisu in a glass (also served in a glass without a spoon, but served in a wider glass which I could access with my coffee spoon), One&Only cheesecake with cocoa crunchies, koeksisters, peanut butter cookie, and white chocolate mousse and chocolate curd slice. I must praise the scone, which was perfect when I cut it, and did not crumble and fall apart as scones like to do! In general, the sweet treats were of a far superior quality to the savoury ones.
While I was eating the two items in glass cups, which I could not take home with me, and the scone, Diana Romburgh recognised me and came to say hello. She and her husband Alan owned the Relais Hotel group, and she said that they are delighted to have sold their business to Tourvest before the World Cup. Diana was asked by One&Only Cape Town GM Clive Bennett to come and assist him as Guest Relations Manager, and I saw her standing just off the entrance, welcoming hotel guests. Even though she must have told the staff to not charge extra for the cappuccino, which they did not do on the original bill, a waiter who did not serve me came up to me afterwards, and asked for the payment of the cappuccino, there clearly being communication problems amongst the waitering staff, and misunderstanding about the weekday and weekend High Tea pricing and inclusions/exclusions.
POSTSCRIPT 1/3: Today I received an e-mail from Manley Communications, Communication Consultants to the One&Only Cape Town, to inform me that following this review, the hotel has reverted to an Afternoon Tea Buffet seven days a week, with immediate effect.
One&Only Cape Town, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. tel (021) 431-5800. (The switchboard at the hotel is a nightmare, or more accurately, the departments they put one through to do not answer!) http://capetown.oneandonlyresorts.com/default.aspx R145 per stand weekdays excluding tea/coffee, R145 per person on weekends, inclusive of tea/coffee. Monday – Sunday 14h30 – 17h30.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage