Traditionalists won't think twice before choosing the Mount Nelson Hotel, with its estatelike grounds and ample swimming pool, its wood-paneled interiors and large, warmly domesticated rooms, many affording close-up views of Table Mountain. The lavish breakfast buffet includes a do-it-yourself steak tartare, with champagne always at the ready. The new Cape Grace appeals more to an end-of-this-century sensibility, with light woods and bold colors and a waterfront location. It's Cape Town's modish hotel for the moment, and its restaurant, Quay West, may be the best in the city. The Table Bay Hotel, also new and luxurious, wears a similar contemporary gloss, but it's considerably larger and adjoins the new waterfront shopping malls. Steenberg Country Hotel, in upscale Constantia, sits halfway between the clubhouse and winery in a restored seventeenth-century Cape Dutch building with vineyard views. Staying at the hotel is a nonmember's ticket to the championship Steenberg course, but it's also a very agreeable place in its own right.
High-end Cape Town dining tends to be found in the hotels, but a number of small, ethnic restaurants have cropped up in the Tamboerskloof neighborhood, at the foot of Table Mountain. Blues, which overlooks the Atlantic, is better known for the view than the food, but no less popular for that. The Kaapse Tafel (not far from the Mount Nelson) pleases people with a yen for Cape Malay cuisine -- but that's a special taste, more sweet than spicy. Those seeking the flavors of the Asian subcontinent might be happier at the highly regarded Indian restaurant Tandoori, downtown.
Erinvale Estate Hotel, in Somerset West, maintains club privileges at Erinvale Golf Club, just a minute's drive away. The premiere country hotel in the heart of the Winelands is the Grand Roche, in Paarl, set in the midst of a small vineyard at the foot of the imposing stone hillside that gives the place its name. Its restaurant, Bosman's, is first rate, and if you stayed here long enough you could take a complete course in South African wines right at your table. Less expensive, Le Quartier Française, in Franschhoek, may please some travelers more because of its informality and its location in the midst of this now fashionable town, within walking distance of shops and restaurants. -- R.T.
A decidedly non-inclusive list of some of South Africa's leading wines:
Chardonnay: Jordan, Thelema, Villiera
Chardonnay-Pinot Noir: Haute Cabrière
Sauvignon Blanc: Klein Constantia, Mulderbosch, Villiera, Steenberg
Merlot: Fairview, Meerlust
Pinot Noir: Haute Cabrière, Hamilton Russell, Bouchard-Finlayson
Cabernet Sauvignon: Grangehurst, Jordan
Pinotage: Beyerskloof, Grangehurst
Note: Students of the subject should get a copy of South African Wines (informally called "Platter"), John Platter's authoritative and encyclopedic guide.