I have often seen recommendations for the High Tea at The Table Bay hotel on Twitter, and gave it a try a week ago, having written about the High Teas at the One&Only Cape Town (still the best of all those that I have tried), Mount Nelson Hotel, Grande Roche, Grande Provence, and Le Franschhoek Hotel. I was disappointed with both the food and the service offering.
The High Tea is set up in The Lounge of The Table Bay, a large open space with comfortable couches and chairs, with a beautiful view onto Table Mountain and the harbour, and a nautical decor theme. A harpist creates an old-fashioned atmosphere. It has a central table on which the ‘Sinful Delights‘ are set up.
When I arrived, I asked a waitress about the cost of the High Tea, and she said it costs R160. I was not offered a menu nor told that there were in fact different High Tea options to choose from. Supervisor Christine Holtzhausen came to the rescue, invited me to sit down, gave me the High Tea menu, and explained the options for the ‘three-course’ High Tea as being the following:
* ‘The Victorian Table’ : This consists of English Tea, ‘your table will be swathed in the most elegant linen and tea service’, and the ‘finest of the kitchen’s savoury creations’ is served, says the menu. I saw the sandwiches, served on an ordinary plate, consisting of egg and mayonnaise, salmon, a vegetarian wrap, and cucumber and cream cheese, quite ordinary looking. Ordered on its own, this option costs R100.
* ‘The English favourite’: This option offers English tea, as well as home-made scones with homemade strawberry preserve and double thick cream ‘delivered to your table by our butlers’, an over-promise on the menu as there were no butlers to be seen. Lemon curd was also served with the scones last week. Christine told me that the scones for the day were a plain and a cheese scone. Ordered on its own, this option costs R100.
* ‘The Dessert Selection’: this is its name on the menu, but Christine referred to it as‘Sinful Delights’, and it referred to the selection of about 25 sweet pastries and cakes, displayed in heavy glass bell covers. Unfortunately the names of the items are not indicated, and the waiter I asked was not sure of all the items. Christine kindly brought me the Christmas High Tea list, their most up to date list, and most items were on the table when I visited. The selection last week included Swissroll, fruit tartlets, Kirsch and dark chocolate mousse, Eton Mess in a small glass, Hertzoggies, eggnog tart (which looked like a melktert), Nutty Cherry cake, Red Velvet cake, Carrot and Walnut cake, cranberry muffin blondie, choc chip muffin, and white chocolate mousse (which looked like a crème brûlèe). I ordered a cappuccino, which was served in a Wedgwood cup and saucer, which was included in the price. This was the option which I selected, at R100. Compared to the selection I have seen at other High Tea buffets, the display and quality of the sweet treats was very disappointing, given one’s expectations of the 5-star Table Bay Hotel. Cherries were used in a number of the items, and pistachio crumbs were frequently used as a topping.
* ‘Tea Royal’: This is the full High Tea (which costs R160 for the three courses) with a glass of Graham Beck Brut or Rosé Brut, at R200.
The High Tea menu has an old-English feel to it, with illustrations of angels, and photographs of some beautiful ‘dessert’ items, none of which I saw on the display table nor did I see the presentation of the items of this quality. The High Tea menu goes on at length about ‘The Art of High Tea’, and provides a historical record of ‘high tea’ and ‘low tea’, going back as far as the 17th century. In addition, the menu dedicates a page to ‘Tea Etiquette’, addressing how one should hold the tea cup, what to do and not to do with one’s spoon and saucer, and what to add to tea, rather superfluous in this modern day one would think.
For the calibre of the Table Bay Hotel and the guests that it accommodates, I expected more from its High Tea. The menu looks impressive at a first read, but the delivery when one orders is a complete let down, not reflecting the over-stated flowery descriptions. The main menu photograph shows a chef serving a customer, which of course does not happen in reality. As with other High Teas, I did not see the pastry staff replenish the table at all, meaning that certain of the platters for the more popular items looked bare. The staff are difficult to understand, and they are not well-trained in respect of the ‘Sinful Delights’ table content. Last, but not least, the High Tea is expensive, especially for the first two courses, which come in a limited quantity of items.
The Table Bay, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 406-5988. http://tablebay.suninternational.com/ Monday – Sunday 14h30 – 17h30.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage