Don’t you just love saying ‘I’m off to The President for lunch, darling’?
Well I do, it makes me feel all chic and swanky.
Chic and swanky indeed is the new-look President Hotel in Sea Point, since it underwent a major make-over under its new independent ownership. Once the flagship hotel in Cape Town, it veered off course for a while and hardly figured as a hot spot for too long.
All that has changed. Back with a bang and better than ever, The President once more reigns regally over its prime spot overlooking the ocean in Bantry Bay. The lobby is cool, tranquil and airy, leading out onto the deck and infinity pool with sea views.
Says sales and marketing manager Nikki Vardan of the rejuvenation project: “People call The President ‘iconic’, and it is, in the sense that it represents the best, most gracious, most beautiful and most fulfilling of what Cape Town lays out for the visitor – but it is an icon not to be admired at a distance, as something remote and impersonal. It is a Hotel to be experienced, embraced and appreciated first-hand – a haven of harmony in the vortex of vibrant city life, where professionals are on hand to meet every need and want in order to ensure a relaxing holiday or business stay.’
The new Botany Cafe and deli is a lovely large all-white welcoming space, decorated with hanging potplants and greenery. Comfy white rattan chairs and slatted wood screens add to a classy, tranquil Long Island vibe. Emphasis is on all things fresh from the garden and farm: organic, artisanal, seasonal and bursting with flavour.
Great plans are afoot to offer knock-out food and wine experiences, with new chief executive chef Craig Paterson steering a talented, focused team. The mission? To position The President among the top contenders in our food-loving city. As well Craig might, with a stellar track record in some of the finest kitchens locally. Among his many plans are a new alfresco bar, a dedicated wine bar featuring their absolutely stunning wine list, and a bang-on-trend bar snacks menu with Wagyu burgers, pulled pork sliders and craft beer tasters too. Very soon The President will be the place to go, so get your glad rags ready for some big nights out.
Lunch at The President is a pretty good deal too. Today my teenage son and I were guests of the hotel for their Winter Warmer Hot Pot Lunch Special. At only R65 a pop, it offers a different choice of pot pies or hearty soups and toasties in the Botany Cafe every day of the week until 31 August. There is also an à la carte menu with excellent choices for appetites of all kinds, be they light and health conscious, or hearty and indulgent. We chose from both menus: smoked venison carpaccio and crispy salt and pepper calamari from the carte, and the chicken and mushroom pot pie from the special menu. My son loved his Mocktail Mosquito, and I relished the excellent Blaauwklippen chenin blanc on recommendation from our lovely waiter Garth Mack. The cocktail menu has all the latest hip drinks and then some, while the Mocktail menu offers serious pleasers for teetotallers. The Blaauwklippen chenin was the perfect pairing with the lush, rich pie.
My son is quite the critic and generally not easily impressed, what with being a 16 year old lad-about-town. So when he declared the chicken pie the best in Cape Town, the hotel beautiful and the staff fantastically nice, he spoke from the heart. Initially he wasn’t that keen on ordering the carpaccio, but at first bite exclaimed ‘Wow! This is awesome!’ and proceeded to polish his plate.
I loved the setting. It has an incredibly peaceful, happy vibe, and the staff are diamonds. Genuinely friendly and warm, they made us feel welcomed as if we’re old friends. The food tastes clean and fresh, loaded with texture, colour and flavour. Yes, we are already planning a return visit for lunch and definitely dinner for the family at The Islands, for the special menu served there. Have one course for R100, a 2 course set menu for R145, or the full 3 course set menu for great value at R190, not including wine.
And come summer, you’ll most likely find me on a lounger near the pool, sipping something tall and cold under a shady sun hat.
“The Botany Café is not the only menu from which guests can make their selections,” Vardan points out. “There is also a new terrace menu, a revamped à la carte menu and of course, the upgraded room service menu. We have also changed the buffet menus to add spice and variety to the dishes. However, while we have focussed on the healthier options, we have definitely not banished those sinful treats that lead us all astray – we all need to indulge from time to time! So you can still sneak an ice cream or chocolate sundae – and then make up for your guilty conscience with some raw juice or a smoothie!”
A super special touch is the original jersey worn by Nelson Mandela during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, framed in glass by the entrance. There is also a brass plaque commemorating Madiba opening The President on 3 June 1998.
Good to know The President still does him proud, by being a true jewel in the crown of Cape Town’s hotel and restaurant scene!