Grande Dame by the water

With 24 hours to spare in Cape Town on my way back to Asia last month, I decided to pamper myself with a stay at one of the city’s most iconic hotels. The Cape Grace sits regally by the waterfront, with its back facing a quiet marina lined with multi-million dollar apartments and the majestic Table Mountain just behind it. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful views of Cape Town.

Cape Grace Hotel near the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town


For the tourist, it’s an ideal location as you get the views and access to the V&A Waterfront, which is Cape Town’s premiere shopping destination. The latter is just five minutes away on foot, so if you’re short on time and big on luxury, staying here is practically a nobrainer.

This was why I booked the Cape Grace for a night, arriving one early morning straight from a safari experience in the Northern Cape. I’d had a late night and then I’d woken up at 4 AM to catch two flights; so by the time I walked into the hotel, I was wavering uncertainly between climbing into bed as soon as possible to recover some sleep, or hitting the shops for some last-minute purchases.

Luxury and Efficiency by the Sea

The beautiful room I was given, on the top floor, with a rooftop terrace facing the waterfront, did not help balance matters out either. The large bed beckoned invitingly, and there were even books and magazines set out on the night table – the kinds I actually wanted to read, including a magazine on interior design and a book about Africa.

Meanwhile, my terrace with a view kept sending me a subliminal message: “Stay in and order room service instead. Imagine having lunch here, enjoying a view no one else has.”

Everywhere else in the hotel tempted me with offers, as well. Passing the elegant library, full of porcelain and antiques, I espied a display of Cape Grace’s famous cakes by the entrance, and saw many guests escaping the noonday sun in plush comfort. The spa, which is on the hotel rooftop along with my room, also offered an irresistible menu of treatments, perfect after two weeks of safari and before the long trip home.

Cape Grace Hotel near the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

Spa experience in Cape Town

I ended up trying to do a bit of everything . I ordered afternoon tea to enjoy in the hotel library, and then booked a massage at the spa, where I had rooibos tea on the spa terrace with a view. Afterwards, I walked along the waterfront to visit the crafts markets and stores by the water, returning just in time for drinks before dinner.

It was at this point, walking back to the Cape Grace from the waterfront, that I fully appreciated the charms of this convenient and yet luxurious hotel.

Cape Grace Hotel near the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town


However, the quality of service at Cape Grace impressed me the most. I stay in good hotels all the time precisely because I travel so much and treat each one like a home – so I always need an excellent concierge at the end of the phone and great in-house restaurants within a three-minute walk.

The concierge at the Cape Grace certainly passed my tests with flying colors. Upon arriving at the hotel, for instance, I gave the concierge staff a large box without a cover, with a filigreed brass tree sticking out of it. I’d bought this at a crafts shop in Kimberley, the capital of Northern Cape, and two plastic bags containing an assortment of African wood figurines from Long Street in Cape Town.

Luxury and Efficiency by the Sea

I needed a way to transport the results of my haphazard shopping back to Asia, and I’d run out of luggage space. Unfazed, the concierge took everything off my hands and delivered back to me a new and neat box with a handle on it, and “fragile” stickers all over. They’d even written my name on the box so that I didn’t have to do this myself


Then, somewhere in this short and busy day, my laptop computer became infected with a virus that wiped out all my communication lines. I couldn’t even go online, just when I had so many emails to send out before the long flight back to Asia.

Distraught and helpless, I took my computer down to the reception and handed it to them. I knew my laptop inside out, but even I could not get it back to normal. It was really wishful thinking to believe that a good hotel can fix everything, but there I was, standing in front of the hotel staff with my broken computer, hoping for some magic.

Without even flinching, the ladies at reception said: “We’ll see what we can do.” So, off I went to look at tanzanite rings and then to enjoy dinner by the marina. Meanwhile, without my knowledge, the hotel’s IT manager, who had already finished work by then, had returned to the hotel just to see what he could do with my computer.


Luxury and Efficiency by the Sea

By the time I finished my meal – it was about 11 PM by then – the hotel concierge was ready to deliver my computer back to me with the happy news that they got my computer to partially work. They brought an extra computer for me to work on as well, in case my computer still gave me trouble.

Needless to say, between these two computers, I fixed the problem from here, and everything went back to normal by the time I turned in for the night. In the grand scheme of things, the 17-year-old Cape Grace is relatively new; and yet, in this short span of time, it has earned a reputation especially for its good service. I now understood why.


Afternoon tea at Cape Grace

That evening, I planned to try Signal, which is Cape Grace’s award-winning fine dining restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant was booked for a private function, so we reserved a table in the hotel’s library instead, which has an enclosed terrace with large windows offering sparkling eye-level views of the marina and Table Mountain in the distance.


Malika van Reenen oversees the kitchens at Cape Grace; and this young and talented chef has a knack for infusing continental cuisine with Cape Malay influences. Some of her signature dishes include a bobotie-spiced springbok loin with spiced mango pickle and rooibos-scented lentil jus, and a grilled prawn with green risotto and spiced mango foam.

Dinner was wonderful; I stayed longer than planned, enjoying the best of Cape Town’s wines and food, along with this view unique to the Cape Grace.

\This was my last night in beautiful South Africa, and it was most befitting to spend it in this special hotel, reigning supreme between the mountains and the sea

Read more about South Africa in Travelife Magazine.