HomeWining & DiningEatinnOut With Dusty: Kippers at die Kaap!

EatinnOut With Dusty: Kippers at die Kaap!

To get this in perspective Taj — as the name implies — is a de-luxe, blue chip Indian hospitality chain which operates hotels, resorts and PALACES (they used to belong to Indian Raj-era royalty) throughout the world.

Their breathtaking Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai was the epicentre of a bloody attack by Islamist terrorists in November 2008. They also own the Taj Pamodzi, in Lusaka; next nearest outlet to us is the Cape Town operation.

Holding group is Indian Hotels Pvt Ltd., an offshoot of the Tata vehicle manufacturing empire.

The Taj, Cape Town has been lovingly, painstakingly converted with, clearly no expense spared from the former Reserve Bank of South Africa building, its neighbour the Board of Executors Building and Temple House, which was barristers’ (advocates’) chambers.

And that’s where I stayed recently— possibly oddly— as a guest of Brand South Africa (formerly the South African International Marketing Association). I say possibly oddly as they were trying to push all things South African, so — to me — it would have been more logical to stay in a South African-owned hotel?
But neither I, nor the other 16 journalists in the party, were complaining!
With the iconic skyline of the Cape’s unmistakable Table Mountain as a backdrop, The Taj is at the corner of Wale and Adderley (Cape Town’s main) Street, opposite St George’s Anglican Cathedral, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu preached; close to the old Slave Lodge; South African Parliament, Company Gardens (originally planted to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for Dutch sailors voyaging to-and-from the East Indies) and the Holocaust Museum, the building is in Paarl granite, the interior rich in grained polished marble and hardwood fittings.

Security was discreet, but arguably tighter in the hotel than it certainly looked at the parliament buildings.

For instance you must insert your electronic key into a slot on the lift to activate it; then it will only stop at your floor. Rooms were huge and beautifully soft-furnished; the bed ultra-comfortable; the size of some snooker tables. Free mini-bars were stocked with everything from the best single-malt proprietary brand of Scotch, via Bombay Gin, Amarula, beers, juices and mixers, down to crisps, nuts and jelly-beans!

We arrived late from Jo’burg, having attended most of the Brand Africa Forum at Sandton Convention Centre and after a welcoming cocktail in the impressive foyer were shown to luxurious rooms. It was frustrating that we couldn’t use the deep almost plunge pool-sized bath or the needle-point walk in shower if we wanted to eat, because the kitchen would close in under 20 minutes.

In a private dining room on the first night and the rather swell Bombay Brasserie the next, we enjoyed spicy, rather than mindlessly hot, flavoursome Indian food.

The six Indians with us all endorsed my statement that soup wasn’t authentically Indian (other than Mulligatawny, which is Anglo-Indian) but nevertheless we wolfed bhuni makai ka shorba, which proved to be an intensely satisfying roast yellow corn soup with turmeric popcorn as a crouton substitute!

For starters there were platters of spicy tempura prawns, creamy chicken kebabs and char-grilled broccoli in pickle spices.

Mains were steaming bowls of freshly caught line-fish in spiced coconut curry; lamb in a delicate saffron curry; sautéed spinach with golden-fried garlic; black lentils and kidney beans simmered overnight, with fluffy basmati rice and buttery naan bread. All this was washed down with copious draughts of Windhoek lager, until that ran out and we switched to Cobra Beer.

Pudding was gulab jamun with kulfi (condensed milk dumpling with home-made ice-cream) and green Indian tea.

The hotel soared to an even higher plain in my estimation when — on being told we were having a buffet breakfast with Wesgro (the inward investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape) in the hotel’s attractive three-storey open-plan Mint Restaurant the next day—I asked Zimbo waiter Peter Mutenure, from Ruwa, if he’d find out from duty manager Mohit, from India, if they could manage a pair of kippers for my petite-dejeneur.

“No problem!” I was told and I reproduce a picture of this Scottish manna from heaven to prove it.


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