Having been to Harveys Restaurant on a couple of occasions, we were more than curious to stay at the Winchester Mansions in Cape Town
The high calibre of food and pristine bathrooms made agreeing to a night’s stay and art experience a given, and felt like serendipity. The Winchester Mansions is perfectly situated on Seapoint’s beachfront, across the road from the cosmopolitan promenade, about a hundred metres from the ocean.
With views of palm trees and sunsets, you could find yourself sipping a cocktail on the bar patio or joining hundreds of people running, strolling or cycling along the promenade. The grassy park across the road is a popular landing place for paragliders, who launch off Signal Hill, making this picturesque setting ideal for budding photographers.
Winchester Mansions is a landmark along Beach Road, a drive peppered with fine restaurants, delis and tourist spots. Within walking distance of Mouille Point’s Lighthouse, on the doorstep of the Red Bus Tour and a short shuttle ride from the V&A Waterfront, a variety of leisure and tourist activities await any guest.
On this trip, the tour included a visit to an exhibition of the incredible 3D Illusions of Kurt Wenner
We caught the hotel’s free shuttle service to the Water Shed at the V&A Waterfront. While Wenner’s work is flat, spanning his artworks from floor to wall, the artist’s brilliance is experienced from fixed viewpoints around the room. While most exhibitions discourage you from taking photos or touching the exhibit, this one is all about interaction, getting you to photograph yourself posing in various parts of the artwork and sharing across social media as you see fit.
The images are wildly imaginative and eclectic, from castles and dragons to renditions of famous classical artworks, allowing you to become a character in his 3D illusions. After interpreting two floors of illusions, we were given a chance to enjoy some ‘artjamming’… a new party craze that gives you the canvas, easel and paint to get creative in a flash with your friends.
While some in our party took a paint-by-numbers approach, others explored their artistic sides with free-form creations. All-in-all, it was a relaxing and enjoyable time engaging with art in various forms.
After a drink and some zippy nachos at Cape Town’s original microbrewery, Mitchell’s, we returned to Winchester Mansions where guests had a chance for a refresh before dinner at Harveys.
Having a nap seemed like the right thing to do, so we checked in and made our way to our apartment on the first floor. The four-star hotel has been tastefully-decorated and could have been a setting for a Hercules Poirot mystery, embracing its old-world charm with an eye for quality and woody finishes.
The spacious room felt like an apartment, moving from the open plan bedroom through to a lounge and onto the view of the promenade and ocean. While the room had a masculine edge, the decor gave everything a practical luxury feel.
The Winchester Mansions maintains a good balance between business and pleasure
For professionals, there is a board room and lounge facilities to host meetings and clients. Then for holidaymakers, the entertainment areas include a tranquil courtyard filled with delightful greenery and bright, colourful flowers, where you can read a book, and an airy pool area, surrounded by sun loungers and more pretty plants.
Whether you’re travelling for work or vacation, the hotel encompasses the renowned Harveys Restaurant and Bar, which means you don’t have to travel to enjoy fine dining in the restaurant or lighter fare at the bar.
The hotel has free secure parking just beyond the private pool and is close enough to catch a short taxi ride into the CBD. We got to enjoy trips to and from the Waterfront in the hotel’s complimentary shuttle.
After a power nap, we made our way downstairs to Harveys restaurant
On a previous visit, the chef had impressed us not only with his culinary skills but with his flexibility around my dietary requirements. Being a vegetarian in transition to veganism, catering for me was a challenge he accepted with great gusto and flair. On this occasion, the kitchen was able to entertain my requirements again.
My husband enjoyed the original menu: a creamy curried pumpkin soup, a tender lamb shank and their more-ish malva pudding. I was treated to a vegetable broth, a hearty roast vegetable main and a delectable fruit platter with refreshing sorbet.
The long table made it seem like an episode of Come Dine with Me as each of us interacted, breaking the ice even further after a day of creativity and fun. After a chameleon design double shot cappuccino (for hubby) and a pot of relaxing peppermint tea (for me) rounded off our evening, we retired to our room to watch a sitcom on DSTV and drift off again into dreamland, grateful for the luxury linens and comfortable king-size bed.
The air conditioning ensured the room wasn’t stuffy, the coffee bar had an assortment of warm beverages and the mini bar had a number of options available on request.
Day 2 of the Winchester experience
The sleep-in the next morning was welcome and while a bit early, the 10am check out time got us into gear for day 2 of the Winchester experience.
The Cape Town water crisis made us default to a quick shower, although the large bath tub and shower are designed to be enjoyed for longer soaking sessions, as evidenced by the deliciously fragranced Charlotte Rhys soap, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.
We managed to get a brisk walk on the promenade in before the Jazz Brunch commenced. Apart from paragliders swooping in, a Superhero Charity Dash was in progress, just one of the many fun run or walk events that happen on Seapoint’s popular promenade area over the weekend.
The hotel’s Jazz Brunch is a popular activity on Sundays in Cape Town, and this occasion was sold out. While the weather was overcast, there was no rain, making it easy to enjoy the lovely courtyard in the heart of Winchester Mansions.
Popular jazz numbers played out as guests enjoyed a brunch that transitioned into lunch and then high tea. Continental, traditional English breakfast, fresh fruit and muesli or oysters and sushi… it seemed as though you could do breakfast any way you liked it with a wide array of possibilities, and eggs or filled omelettes made to order.
As an echo to our illusion experience, they even served vibrant magenta coloured dragon fruit. While we wanted to sample everything, we had to curtail our buffet banqueting before it turned into gluttony. After a hearty breakfast including pastries and omelettes, there wasn’t much room to try the chicken curry or sushi, and we had to keep some room for the exquisite-looking desserts.
While the music was a bit loud and centre-stage, it was beautifully played by some seasoned musicians and included a rousing rendition of Bye Bye Blackbird with the pianist’s superbly talented sons – 14-year-old on bass and 10-year-old on vocals.
Wonderful weekend of cultural and culinary experiences
This finished off a wonderful weekend of cultural and culinary experiences, which are only a taste of what’s on offer in and around the Winchester Mansions. The rooms are decked with quality furniture and fittings, which underwrites the four-star quality and luxury one can expect to experience at the Winchester.
While fresh flowers or a couple of pot plants would have given our room a warmer feel, everything was of a high standard and comfortable, and we had an enjoyable and refreshing stay in this old-world hotel.
It’s a fine establishment with warm, friendly and helpful staff, including various hosts like Jeandre; Thailia, Mymoena and Jami at front desk; Shaheed and Lennox the shuttle drivers; waitrons Collen, Warren, Ayanda and Happiness; and Thuli who crafted our omelettes.
We would like to thank them all, along with our gracious hosts from Dei Gratia, Lesley, Kathryn and Kirsty, for a very happy mini-holiday.
Clarens, Free State Province