CAPE TOWN, March 5 — We wake up to the sun rising over the mountains, the dark indigos of the sea before us giving way to the subdued oranges of a new dawn. There is a slight chill in the air. The seagulls call in the distance. We are on holiday in Camps Bay, the beachside sanctuary of Cape Town, and what a getaway this is!
Outside our balcony, opposite the beach, we see the craggy face of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain slowly being revealed in the morning light. Camps Bay (or Kampsbaai in the local Afrikaans) is home to well-heeled suburbanites and holiday-seekers, a world away from the bustle of the city centre and tourist-packed spots such as Cape Point and the V&A Waterfront.
But enough of the morning view; we close the heavy curtains and return to bed. We’re on holiday, after all, and that means sleeping in and lingering beneath the sheets for far longer than we normally would. When we finally wake, it’s mid-morning and we’re famished. Time to freshen up and head downstairs for breakfast (or brunch, as it were).
We are staying in a boutique hotel — POD at Camps Bay — rather than a more traditional establishment along the promenade, partly to get away from beachside partygoers but partly to enjoy a more intimate ambience. Designed by architect Greg Wright, the hotel is all clean lines with raw wood and slate finishing. Think Monocle rather than People magazine.
Padding softly into the dining room, we observe there is still sufficient morning light to lend a soft glow to the incredible breakfast spread before us: fresh rolls, cold cuts, seasonal fruits, muffins and muesli. Helping ourselves to some juice, we make our own yoghurt bowl with dried fruits and seeds while waiting for our orders of mushroom omelette and Crêpe Suzette.
This is the life, we tell ourselves, with nowhere particular to go and no schedule to adhere to. No running around, nothing to be late for. Now this is what we call a holiday.
Eventually we rouse ourselves to head down to Camps Bay Beach, the main attraction hereabouts, literally just across the road. The effusively friendly hotel manager offers us complimentary flip-flops for a more comfortable trek.
Once there, however, we realise there’s nothing quite like the feeling of soft white sand beneath our soles (and in between our toes). Other beachgoers kick a ball around, jog, fly kites or simply lie down for some decent tanning, enjoying the constant breeze.
We’ve been to many beaches around the world but there’s nothing quite like Camps Bay Beach where the mountain meets the shore. Our eyes marvel at the majesty of Table Mountain’s Twelve Apostles formation, all scrappy and grey, sweeping down to the endless depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
There isn’t much to do, per se, but everything to experience, to feel. The sound of the sea is like none other.
Once it gets warmer, we return to the hotel for a shower and a nap. (Sleep is a recurring trend here.) Late afternoon and we make our way downstairs to the well-equipped bar for coffee to wake ourselves properly, or so we tell ourselves. The array of cocktails available is too tempting; caipirinhas in the afternoon? (Why not? We’re on a holiday, we tell ourselves again.)
Instead of the usual greasy teatime treat of goreng pisang or sugar-laden kuih, we tuck into healthier bowls of fruit and spiced nuts. If this is the Camps Bay lifestyle, we sure can get used to it. As the afternoon air slowly cools, we stroll along the Promenade, dropping into a gelateria for a scoop of ice-cream or two. Others go on bicycle rides; for us, it’s more fun to indulge in a spot of people-watching — to better admire the athletic prowess of the cyclists, of course.
All that people-watching, uhm, walking would make anyone hungry. Time for dinner. We know just where to go, thanks to a tip from POD’s helpful staff.
First opened in 1987, Blues Restaurant & Bar is a long-time stalwart of Camps Bay’s food scene. Currently run by Lorenzo Magni and Nick Sheperd, both who first joined as waiters over a decade ago, Blues encapsulates that casual blend of beachfront locale, a lively open kitchen and locally sourced ingredients — most caught from the sea that very day.
Food here is straightforward, with a Mediterranean influence. For starters, a popular choice is the steamed mussel gratin loaded with a spicy garlic butter. Of course, you can’t go wrong with fresh West Coast oysters, served with shallots and sherry vinaigrette: simple and good.
We can’t decide between fish or shellfish for our mains, so we decide to have both. (Why not? We’re on holiday...) The catch of the day is kabeljou (cod) that has been caught on the line, rather than unsustainable nets, and lightly dusted in Cajun spice. Served with roasted garlic and potato mash, caramelised roasted butternut and tomato salsa, this linefish is so fresh we swear we can taste the sea in every bite.
When our seafood and shellfish platter arrives, we know instantly that we’d have no need for supper tonight (or even breakfast tomorrow, possibly). The dish is positively overflowing with West Coast crayfish and mussels, Mozambican langoustines, Cajun-style baby calamari and juicy prawns still in their shells. Everything is grilled before undergoing a swift open-flame bake with lemon butter slathered on liberally.
The result? Our fingers are kept busy unshelling, our lips smeared with shellfish juices and butter, our table accompanied with the music of slurping and chewing. A Camps Bay dinner is not one where you worry about tableside manners.
Our bellies full and our spirits high, we stroll down to the beach again to watch the sunset with the rest of the couples. We help an elderly pair take a photograph – it’s their anniversary – and their beaming smiles are a promise that true love can only deepen over decades.
Back at our hotel, we turn in early, each with a book to read in bed. Most guests are out at the Promenade, partying the night away. But we are beat. What a full day, what a sweet getaway!
POD at Camps Bay
3 Argyle Road , Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: +27 21 438 8550
Blues Restaurant & Bar
The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
Open daily 12pm-11pm
Tel: +27 21 438 2040