Healthy hotel nosh

Travelling for work shouldn’t take years of your life.

Travelling for work.  Eish!  When I was younger I thought business travel was the ultimate glamour.  The hotels, room service, international jet-setting.  I imagined my be-suited self purposefully striding into waiting taxis and pinging off critical documents from a fancy laptop.

What a rude awakening.

The reality of business travel is terminal airport terminals.  Lumpy beds.  Interesting plumbing noises.  And wifi that only works when you’re balanced on one leg in the far corner of the bathroom.

Far worse is what travel does to your eating habits.  My yoghurt and fibre mornings are kyboshed by sausages and hash-browns.  Late meetings and utterly uninspiring room service mean another round of midnight toasted sarmies, washed down with whiskey.  Not good for a grown up.   When I heard that the Cape Milner Hotel in Cape Town had given its restaurant menu a health rating, I had to go and see for myself. 

Situated on the edge of town, and a close drive to most of Cape Town’s hot spots, The Cape Milner is a favourite for the film crews that descend on Cape Town each season.  Head chef, James Wamboy was apparently inspired by these “Hollywood” types to revamp his menu.  What he’s done is to give each of the special ‘terrace menu’ items a health rating from A (dieters halo) to Z (sinful decadence) which helps guests make informed choices.

I think garnish qualifies as vegetables, so I took my marathon-running mate along to test the healthy-fare theory.  The menu itself was great.  Not extensive, but a couple of good options, all rated as promised.  Not surprisingly, the one ‘z’ rating was reserved for a chocolate and cream based desert. What did surprise me, however, was that no explanation for the rating was offered on the menu itself.  I imagine that people who are health conscious enough to appreciate the rating would want to know what it was for; low fat, low cholesterol, gluten free etc?  Likewise, the normal a la carte menu didn’t include ratings at all, which was a pity.

This didn’t stop us mixing and matching a pretty good dinner.  I settled for delicious crunchy crab and prawn cakes (unrated), but my companion’s vegetable and tofu skewers (A+) stole the show.  The crisp grilled veggies and tofu, dusted with a spicy seasoning and served with two veg sushi rolls, were fantastic.

For mains, my virtuous mate had another starter, the tuna Carpaccio (unrated), which she was extremely happy with.  Sadly, my seared tuna, served with a warmed Niçoise-inspired vegetable medley (A-), was not seared at all, but rather over done, which was disappointing.

Encouraged by our healthy-ish evening we shared desert, a strawberry sorbet served with thin slices of kiwi, orange and melon.  It was fresh and light and a perfect end to our (probably C-) healthy meal.

We were well looked after by the restaurant staff and ended our dinner chatting to Craig Martin, the hotel’s Food and Beverage Manager.  A Scot by birth, he was lured to our shores by South Africans he met travelling.  He now lives here and his passion, interest in the country, and commitment to making a contribution, gave me the warm and fuzzies.  Perhaps it was the food, maybe the inspiring immigrant, but I left the Cape Milner feeling better than I had in weeks.

‘No 2 on Milner’ at The Cape Milner
021 426 1101

Written for Moneyweb Life in September 08

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