Pink Lady goes Red as old Mount Nelson grill room space is revived

Pink Lady goes Red as old Mount Nelson grill room space is revived
The new very red space. (Photo: Supplied)

It’s a red letter day for Cape Town dining as the former Grill Room space at the Mount Nelson Hotel opens as a restaurant for the first time in decades.

It was a dull, sombre day when the Mount Nelson Hotel decided to cease operations of its Grill Room restaurant and dinner-dancing space, which had outlived its time. Tastes and habits had changed and people wanted something different from a restaurant. That they did not reuse the space for so long has long rankled for those of us old enough to have known all of the former great dining spots in the city. And the “Nellie Grill” was pre-eminent among them.

A secondary space was deemed better suited to the hotel’s flagship restaurants, and under the auspices of a series of top chefs, not least among them the legendary Garth Stroebel, their restaurants continued to win favour with diners and win many major local and international awards.

But ever since the Grill Room closed, something has been missing from the Cape dining scene. Today, that changes and things are put to rights once more.

The word is plush, the colour is red, and red was indeed the key colour of the old Grill Room’s curved leather banquettes. In the old times, trolleys would be wheeled between tables and wonderful things would be flamed in front of bedazzled diners.

We cannot expect that it will be the same, a revival; nor do we. What we do expect is high, very high, standards, and there is the expectation and hope that the two chefs leading the charge of The Red Room at the Mount Nelson will be the right people for the task. That they are no less than Liam Tomlin and David Schneider of Chefs Warehouse surely makes us all breathe easy. There have now been years of their success in various spaces, a true force to be reckoned with, and it is easy to see why the hotel was happy to go with their notable expertise.

The restaurant is Pan-Asian, and that is an instant win. The Mount Nelson (these days we’re supposed to add “a Belmond Hotel” but I don’t pander to that demand) opened its doors in 1899 (a young Winston Churchill was among its earliest guests) and its roots are firmly entrenched in the late Victorian era of the old colonial times, and the idiosyncrasies and ways of the Far East were an integral component of Victorian-era culture.

What to expect. (Photo: Supplied)

The news of this venture came to my notice only this morning, so, very unusually, I need to dip into the press release to flesh out the story. Here it is in full:

Adding to the Mount Nelson’s international prominence, the iconic pink hotel unveils its latest epicurean offering, The Red Room by Chefs Warehouse. Under the guidance of celebrated chefs Liam Tomlin and David Schneider, both of Chefs Warehouse, the new Pan-Asian restaurant, set beneath the hotel’s grounds, is poised to become a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.

With a devoted following, owner-operators Liam and David will be joined by their two chefs de cuisine Geoffrey Abrahams and Teenola Govender. Backed by a wealth of experience working in some of the Cape’s top restaurants, Geoffrey and Teenola will lead the restaurant’s vision.

During his years working in Australia, Liam’s travels into Asia gave rise to a love affair with its cuisine and a deeper understanding of the nuances of the region’s flavours and cultures. Rooted in that experience and answering to the country’s call for a truly Pan-Asian restaurant, Liam and David plan to offer guests an immersive restaurant and bar experience. “The menu will take guests on a curated journey through the East, honouring these cuisines with a unique dining experience in an iconic setting,” Liam explains.

The menu expresses Chef Liam’s experience in Pan-Asian philosophy; he explains the menu takes guests on a curated journey through the East, honouring these cuisines with a unique dining experience in an iconic setting. Headed by Chef David Schneider, The Red Room offers an immersive restaurant and bar experience. Diners are greeted with two curated moments: relax into a cosy deep-velvet booth with a tea-infused cocktail or sake and sample any one of the flavour-packed small plates from the à la carte menu, including grilled scallops with Tom Yum foam and Kombu butter or Korean BBQ pork steamed buns. Alternatively, sink into a corner of the lavish dining room to enjoy a four-course set menu to share. The star of the show Peking Duck delivers the perfect crescendo to the meal, accompanied by Duck Consommé, dumplings, and marinated tofu.

Here, the ceremony and high standards of old-world dining will be celebrated in an opulent underground den, where time and place are ambiguous. Through a set of red velvet curtains and down a lacquered staircase, guests will arrive at a low-lit, glimmering bar with a tangible buzz in the air. Beyond it, the dining room will be fun and luxurious, bearing many of the original features of the Nellie’s iconic 70s Grill Room that went before it.

Bringing together Belmond’s well-travelled, cosmopolitan guests and Chefs Warehouse’s discerning epicurean following, The Red Room will offer an entirely novel Pan-Asian dining experience that is in a class of its own.

On the table. (Photo: Supplied)

“Our hope is that by bringing Chefs Warehouse to the Mount Nelson, we will aid in expanding the food and beverage offering for the already-legendary hotel, giving guests little reason to leave the property in search of world-class dining,” adds Liam.

This new chapter for the much-loved Nellie heralds the evolution of the hotel’s gastronomic credentials, aligning with other exciting culinary developments.

“Elevating the Mount Nelson’s gastronomic offering with the Chefs Warehouse team brings to life our vision of curating ever-new experiences for culinary curious guests. The Red Room offers a unique opportunity to experience the revival of a truly iconic space set beneath the buzz of the city,” concludes Tiago Moraes Sarmento, General Manager of the Mount Nelson. DM/TGIFood

The Red Room opening hours: Restaurant: Monday – Saturday 6 pm – 9.15 pm | Bar: Monday – Saturday 4 pm until late | Closed Sundays

Bookings via

The Mount Nelson, a Belmond Hotel, 76 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town | Call: +27 (0)21 483 1516


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