On Tuesday evening I was fortunate to enjoy a stay-over at the beautifully located five-star Tintswalo Atlantic on the Atlantic Ocean, at the foot of Chapman’s Peak in Cape Town. The invitation was to try out the newly rebuilt hotel, of which the public rooms were destroyed by a devastating fire in February this year, with accommodation suites renovated, and to provide feedback and suggestions ahead of the reopening of Tintswalo Atlantic on 1 October. A number of media representatives, travel trade representatives, as well as past guests have been invited to experience the Hotel during September.
I had invited my friend and housemate from Paris to join me, and we chose a beautiful weather day for our stay. After our reservation was checked at the security gates entrance, a very kind Maintenance Manager invited me to park in an undercover bay just beyond the entrance. By the time I had done so, and taken the luggage out of the car, the Tintswalo vehicle was waiting to drive us down to the lodge at the water’s edge. The hotel’s hostess Chantel had driven with us, and told us about the hard work that has gone into the renovation and rebuilding of the hotel in just six months. In this period the public spaces had to be rebuilt, with more stacking doors added, furniture ordered and/or specially made, and new decor touches sourced, the theming reflected through the decor being a hallmark of the Tintswalo Collection. Initially it was hard to see any changes in the building layout, furnishings, and decor, the reconstruction having followed the original design. Similarly, the room design and furnishing, if changed, was similar to what had gone before. The new couches in the lounge were upholstered beautifully in a blue velvet, a fabric not previously used. The bar now has a counter with coloured resin wood effects, and we saw a new table top made in the same way too. Dining room chairs are upholstered in a blue silver fabric, the back of the chairs reflecting a fabric with a silver fern design. A wine cellar at the far end of the dining area has been upgraded.
At the entrance door a guest welcome station has been created, not there previously, with rows of small mirrored circles, reflecting the ocean behind us as we stood and watched the making of a welcome drink, being a Strawberry Spritzer. GM Melissa du Rand came to greet us, and walked us through the public spaces, showing us the lounge, the new cloakroom at the entrance with new wallpaper, the bar, the kitchen, the dining room, and the deck. She showed us a newly built guest room, that had been destroyed in the fire, as well as a number of renovated guest rooms, including my Antigua Room and my friend’s Madagascar Room. At Tintswalo Atlantic each room is named after an island, and I had to admit to Melissa that I had no idea where Antigua is. When I returned to my room after dinner, a fact sheet about Antigua had been placed in my room, informing me that it is a Caribbean island, its nickname being ‘Land of 365 Beaches’. A fabulous service. In my room Melissa showed me the bathroom, the tea/coffee station, the bar fridge, the safe, and in a drawer below it a container with emergency requirements, including a medical aid kit, and a hairdryer. She showed us how to activate the TV, but mine remained unused.
I had not seen the pool area before, despite having stayed at the hotel once before, and loved its location at the water’s edge, with a higher deck containing a double-sized day bed with a myriad of cushions. Loungers are available too, with a swinging double seat, and there are more directly at the ocean too. A table offers water. Umbrellas shield tanners against the sun. The water is heated to a pleasant temperature, welcome as there was a light chill when the wind came up. The pool steps are quite big, so I recommended a rail to facilitate getting in and out of the pool. The sun invited us to change and to head to the pool, here meeting two sisters from the UK, one being associated with Harper’s Bazaar. We were spoilt with a second Strawberry Spritzer, and a very large tray filled with grapes, pineapples, kiwis, spanspek, blueberries, and strawberries. The sun made lying on the day bed so cosy that I fell asleep for a while. Whilst at the pool, I asked one of the staff if they had a comb for me, not being able to get through to Reception due to a technical fault being repaired whilst we were there, as I realised that I had forgotten my hairbrush at home. When I returned to the room from the pool area, a gift bag was waiting for me, with a hairbrush, and a pin cushion finishing off the gift pack. I heard from Melissa yesterday that one of their staff had been sent to Hout Bay especially to buy a replacement brush. Another fabulous service.
Tintswalo is known for its Sunset Cocktails & Canapés, and we were invited to come to the deck at 18h00. We chose the Instagram chairs, blue tub chairs that are loved by Tintswalo guests, and often featured on Instagram. We sat in them and Instagrammed our photographs taken so far. Melissa came to join us, and we got to hear more about the plans for Tintswalo Atlantic’s Wednesday lunches, the only dining opportunity for non-resident guests from now onwards. Called the mouthful ‘Tintswalo Atlantic Where else in the World Wednesday Lunch’ (WWW), a limited number of patrons can be accommodated by prior reservation, subject to availability, at a cost of R960 for a three-course lunch. In-house guests have breakfasts included in their rates, and can book lunch and dinner at the hotel. The hotel has moved away from fine-dining, focusing on fresh seasonal cuisine.
The media statement I received from Five Star PR contained the prices per season: ‘Coinciding with the re-launch, Tintswalo Atlantic is taking a new marketing approach to focus on resident guests only. In addition, more accessible room rates have been introduced to invite guests to immerse themselves in the full Tintswalo hospitality experience. Room rates include bed and breakfast and start at R6500 per room per night (low season 1 May to 31 August); R9600 (high season), R11500 (peak season 15 December to 15 January).’
The Hotel has 10 Suites and a 2-bedroom Villa. Each Suite is uniquely designed in blue and turquoise by mother and daughter owners Gaye Corbett and Lisa Goosen. Each room has a private outside deck facing the ocean, a lounge area, a wood-burning fireplace, a tea and coffee station, a bar fridge, a Victorian bath and walk-in shower in a bathroom with a magnificent sea view, and his and hers wash basins.
My friend ordered a glass of sparkling wine by Hout Bay Vineyards, the local support being commendable, and it being a very pleasant bubbly, I ordering a glass of it too after I had finished a Jameson. The waiter brought a beautifully presented tray of canapés, consisting of smoked salmon bites, vegetable spring rolls, and roast beef with a berry coulis. I had indicated my dietary requirements by email to Five Star PR, and a record of these was noted on our reservation form, and was confirmed by Melissa. The menu was brought to us on the deck, but I was chatting so much that I had not had a look at it by the time our order was taken by Sous Chef Dustin Hammond. Three options are offered per course.
We were moved inside, and only one other couple was dining too, seated close to us, but not visible to me as my chair position meant that I had my back to the couple. I could not believe it when I was addressed by Piet Beyers, a past client of the ad agency Y & R that I had worked at in Johannesburg at the time that Piet was the Marketing Director of Cadbury. I had seen his wife Francé from a distance during the cocktails outside, but I had not seen Piet at all. We had a lot of catching up to do during the dinner, this reconnection taking both of us back more than 30 years making it a very special evening. Francé is the energetic editor of Stellenbosch VISIO, the luxury lifestyle magazine devoted mainly to Stellenbosch.
My friend and I were offered wine with our dinner, and I heard the waiter mention a Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2017, which I accepted immediately. I was brought a glass of poured wine, but when I requested that the bottle be brought to the table for a photograph, I saw that it was a different brand. I was brought a new glass of wine with the bottle of Newton Johnson, the error being corrected. Piet wasn’t happy with the other brand of wine he was drinking, and switched to the Newton Johnson Pinot Noir too, both of us being more than happy with it.
A bread platter was brought to the table, the waiter not able to immediately identify the type of bread, but the chef confirmed it as being ciabatta, a plain variant, and one baked with olives. Basil pesto and a smoked red pepper dip were offered on the board too. I requested some butter instead, and it was served almost immediately, with a message of inspiration written on it.
For our starters, my friend ordered a Norwegian salmon Crudo (served raw), watercress, housemade pickles, with pea shoots and garlic aioli, and she detected soy sauce in the dish, even though it was not specified in the menu description. She could not detect the garlic aioli detailed on the menu for her dish. My starter choice was a spinach and coconut risotto, served with mushrooms, and crisps of carrot, but I could not detect any sign of the spinach. Both dishes were generous in size for being starters, and were tasty despite the missing ingredients.
Both of us chose the slow cooked lamb shoulder, offered with herbed crushed potatoes served as mash, minted baby carrots, and ‘natural gravy’. The portion was very generous in its size. The lamb was crispy, a delicious treat for both of us not eating much meat. The presentation of the dish could have been more inspired.
We had heard Piet request a dessert wine with their desserts, so the waiter brought us an impressive tray of three crystal carafes, one each with sherry, port and dessert wine, coming back to us to share that they were all made by KWV when I asked him. Like Piet and Francé, my friend and I each chose a different dessert, intending to share them. My friend chose a New York cheese cake plated with stewed mixed berries, while I had an interesting chocolate tart with truffle and mixed nuts, served with what was described as orange marmalade ice cream and slices of dried orange. The chocolate tart was delicious, and the roughly chopped nuts gave the tart crunch. The ice cream was bizarre, with a consistency that I cannot describe in words other than stretchy. The chef explained that he had made it with condensed milk, possibly explaining this. My friend ate most of the cheesecake, it not being a favorite of mine, which she paired with a glass of port. I enjoyed the dessert wine with the chocolate tart.
The Music was too loud in the enclosed dining space, coming from two speakers, and the music selection was not to our taste. Twice the music stopped, but restarted after a while.
I had some Instagramming and Facebooking to do on my return to my room, and I loved the contrast of the absolute quiet of the room with the crashing waves outside. I slept with the sliding door open to the ocean for most of the night.
I met with Melissa before breakfast yesterday morning, to run through my feedback with her. She was very gracious in accepting the positive highlights, as well as the dinner feedback. She said that they are grateful for every bit of feedback that will make the guest experience exceptional. Without being defensive, she explained that the waiter had not served dinners since the fire in February, and may have got a little rusty in the time of the hotel being closed to the public for the rebuilding and renovations.
My friend and I were allocated a table on the deck for Breakfast, and disappointingly it was a little chilly when we breakfasted at 9h00, the weather forecast having promised a warm day. Each chair had a blanket over it, which my friend wrapped around herself. Our table had two sets of cutlery by Hepp Exclusiv, and Villeroy & Boch salt and pepper grinders. White and brown sugar was offered. We each ordered Earl Grey tea, when there was no Chai tea available for my friend. It was suggested to me on Facebook that only a leaf tea is good enough for a hotel of this calibre, seeing the teabag tag in one of my photographs. Teas offered were Earl Grey, camomile, and Rooibos. From then onwards it was a Breakfast Feast, with a selection of three juices (orange, cranberry, and mango); a healthy bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola; a health shooter of carrot, apple, and ginger; a beautifully designed A-frame stand of platters, one each of smoked salmon with dill and capers, cold meats with prosciutto; and a selection of cheeses; a selection of toasts from their bread menu, including white, seeded, rye, and gluten-free breads; and a cooked breakfast. My choice was Eggs Benedict, choosing to have the muffin base excluded, and with steamed spinach. The menu stated that it was served with Mustard Hollandaise, the latter not being something I had ever tasted, and I did not enjoy the dominance of the mustard. Only in writing this post did I see that the menu specified that the eggs would be soft poached, yet the waiter asked me how I would like them, and I requested them to be medium. He returned to the table to double check that they should be medium, but this message did not appear to reach the chef, who prepared them soft poached.
No matter how beautiful the setting is, and how tempted we were to have even more tea to savour the view, we were aware of the 10h00 check-out time deadline, and had to pack up and end off our fabulous stay. Chantel offered us a bowl with wishing stones, each inscribed with ‘May all your wishes come true’, and suggested that we make a wish and then throw the stone into the ocean over our left shoulder.
We were driven back up to our car, and we had the opportunity one more time to look down onto the ocean and to photograph the beautiful Hangberg and Hout Bay across the ocean.
Lisa Goosen, CEO of Tintswalo Lodges, said about the Tintswalo Atlantic rebirth: ‘With tragedy comes opportunity and after the fire the re-launch has provided us with the prospect of fine tuning our product offering. Tintswalo Atlantic is synonymous with luxury, privacy and seclusion. This is what we will highlight as our service promise. We’d like to present guests with a bespoke and exclusive, private lodge experience, complete with the warm South African hospitality and personal service our brand is known for. Family owned and managed, Tintswalo Atlantic is a magical, emotive place. The sensation of love, gratitude and peace is what we’d like for our guests to experience when they stay with us. It is a Tintswalo tradition for every guest to be invited to make a wish before they leave this special place, by casting a pebble into the ocean and taking this special moment away with you.’
We loved our stay at Tintswalo Atlantic, feeling utterly spoilt, and I appreciated Melissa’s openness to my frank feedback and lack of defensiveness, so common amongst Hotel GMs. The pool area is a huge bonus, as one cannot swim in the ocean on the door step. The service by Melissa (left) and her management team was impeccable in providing me with a hairbrush and information about my room name. The furnishing in 50 shades of blue is exquisite, with extra decorative touches to bring the ocean inside the hotel. The dinner and breakfast service from the kitchen and the waiters has room for improvement, not yet matching the luxurious quality of the location and furnishings of Tintswalo Atlantic. I appreciated the invitation, and being allowed to offer suggestions for how Tintswalo Atlantic can be made even more superb.
Tintswalo Lodges is a collection of five family-owned and run properties in unique locations within South Africa: Tintswalo Atlantic in the Table Mountain National Park at the foot of Chapman’s Peak; Tintswalo Safari Lodge in the Manyeleti Private Game Reserve, with Tintswalo Manor House; Tintswalo at Boulders Boutique Villa located on Boulders Beach in Simonstown, home to African penguins; and Tintswalo Lapalala Game Reserve in the malaria-free Waterberg region (Limpopo province).
Tintswalo Atlantic, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Hout Bay, Cape Town. Tel (011) 300-8888 www.tintswalo.com Twitter: @TintswaloLodges Instagram: @Tintswalo_atlantic
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein