Eastern luxury in the heart of the Cape

How culture fuses with the contemporary and the local at Taj Cape Town.

By Ntokozo Maseko

My first encounter with Taj Hotel is a sit down dinner at the renowned Bombay Brasserie restaurant. After a busy day driving from the city to Paarl and back in a beautiful but un-air conditioned classic Mercedes Benz in the midst of what seems to be a heat wave in Cape Town, I arrive for my stay at the hotel just in time for some much needed dining. A friendly porter has diligently done the arrival car-to-check-in-counter trip with me and while he takes my luggage up to my room, I slip around the corner from the check-in desk and step into a piece of Mumbai in the heart of the Cape. To the left of our table, Peacock and lotus flower paper reliefs adorn the walls as culturally inspired wallpaper and a magnificent blue crystal chandelier hangs over our secluded semi private corner of the restaurant.

Executive Chef Surendra Kumar has been with the Taj Hotel group for 20 years, from the Palace in Mumbai to Bern, Lucern, Paris, Istanbul, Belfast and now Cape Town, serving the best flavours of India in locally relevant ways. “Coming from the fasting culture of India to feeding the foodies of Cape Town, a chef can’t ask for more,” he tells us.  He’s been at Taj Cape Town for just over two months and has already been in conversation with local Cape Malay cooks in order to understand what influences local palettes. “When you’re at Taj you must be as close to India as possible, this is the new flair from Bombay,” he explains as one of our five courses is delivered in a smoke filled cloche concealing what’s inside until our waitress lifts the glass for a rather dramatic reveal. Family style food is still the mainstay but the drama in the presentation effectively juxtaposes the cultural and the contemporary. “The food can be instagrammable but when it comes to the tongue it must have flavour,” chef Kumar insists, he has prepared a feast ranging from street food designed to be eaten by hand as at the markets of Mumbai to an array of flavourful but never stingingly spicy meat and vegetable based curries accompanied with the softest naan breads. The Mango and amkapar sorbet made with mango that’s been placed  in a tandoor (clay oven) making it interestingly smoky and sweet at the same time is a work of art to the eye and a salve in the mouth  after a long and hot day.

My room was appointed with a spacious bathroom which included a large shower and bathtub

I’ve booked into a luxury tower room with city views, a step out onto a private balcony gives me a dazzling view of the city by night. I look back into my room and past the mahogany wood office desk, past the King sized bed through a glass wall I’m met with the welcome sight of a marble tiled bathroom complete with a generous tub and shower duo. A lush white towel gown hangs on the wall, an irresistible invitation to the ultimate wind down after a filling dinner; a bath and a cup of tea in silence.

Breakfast at the Mint Restaurant and wood-fired Grill is offered until a satisfactorily late 11am (check out from the hotel is an even more indulgent 12 midday) and features a menu suitable for the global traveller with local culinary curiosities.  Apart from the buffet style spread of continental must haves, cereals and fruit, the hot breakfast menu offers anything from a generous eggs Benedict to eastern treats like the fan favourite Marsala Dosa. Across from the mint, guests can enjoy a tipple or two at the The Taj Lobby Bar and Lounge, day or night.

A world class spa

When at the Taj… do make time for some self-care at the J Wellness Circle, which is inspired by traditional Indian healing practices that are over 6000 years old. “We believe that a spa unfolds a holistic path of life that opens out channels to nurture one’s life force,” explains the massage therapist at the spa. It certainly is one of those places that envelop the senses as soon as you enter and transport you to a quieter, calmer world. The quietly neutral space – think wood with gold accents, a gentle glow from candles, ambient music and soothing aromatherapy scents – is truly calming whether you opt for a quick pedicure or a full therapeutic journey.

J Wellness Circle encapsulates the ‘science of longevity’ with the wisdom of the ages behind its offerings

If you’re looking for mental and physical repose, the Sushupti treatment is highly recommended. Sushupti means a good night’s sleep, and this two-hour treatment (R1800) really is the equivalent of a deliciously deep slumber. It starts with having the feet washed in warm, fragrant water with floating petals. This ritual helps to release tension and refresh the body, but is also known for its grounding effect. It’s followed by a pampering and nourishing scrub and wrap, which is rinsed away under the shower with a warm milk and finished off with a deeply relaxing full body massage. Tip: Head straight to your room afterwards to let the sense of peace and serenity prevail.

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