Romancing the Pearl

Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box Hotel, Durban – South Africa

Mere steps away from Umhlanga’s most prominent landmark, its lighthouse; and amidst a backdrop of colonial opulence, one can find the iconic Oyster Box hotel. Standing as proud as the day it opened its doors in 1947, it remains a distinguished jewel in Durban’s crown, trailblazing the way by winning scores of prestigious awards and accolades from the likes of Condé Nast Traveller and World Luxury Spa.

Oyster Box Hotel Afternoon teaSpeaking of crowns, it’s well known that the hotel was chosen by Monaco’s royals; Prince Albert II and his Princess Charlene, for a Royal reception party in 2011.

Since its R400 million makeover in 2009, the Oyster Box hotel has sought to create a handsome marriage of old and new by maintaining original antique furnishings and coupling these with modern touches and the latest technology.

Afternoon Tea Oyster Box Hotel

The presidential suite, encompassing two floors, with private patio pool, its own butler and personalized embroidered gowns, will set you back in excess of R50 000 per night. Certainly fit for a king!

And so it happens, one fine Friday as the winter sun shines cheerfully over Durban, my sister Ronelle and I don our finest stockings and mother’s precious pearls, and head off for Afternoon Tea in the lap of colonial luxury.

Being my first visit to the majestic hotel, I opt for a quick self-guided tour. Passing the stark white Grill Room, I head for the bar. Again, the combination of antique woods and tapestries mesh fluently with modern glass finishes. Inviting couches welcome us, and I love the glass floors providing a view of the dining areas beneath us.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box Hotel

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box Hotel

Glass floors

Finally, we make our way to the terrace which offers sweeping panoramic views of the famous lighthouse and the seemingly endless Indian Ocean.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box Hotel

Afternoon Tea is enjoyed in the hotel’s Palm Court, illuminated by extravagant chandeliers purchased from London’s famed Savoy Hotel. Surrounded on four corners by lush palm trees (which obviously lends to the name), guests are serenaded by the soft sounds of the live piano as the tea commences.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box Hotel

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelWe are shown to our table, and our immaculately dressed waiter immediately materializes, enthusiastically welcoming us. The table is laid with crisp linens and a charming English-garden tea set. A personalized, handwritten welcome card is a tiny detail with big impact.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelWe order our respective cuppas (Earl Grey for me, and coffee (!) for my sister).

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box Hotel

The scent of posh is in the air. I am fighting the urge to call everyone ‘daahhling’

The self-service table gracing the center of the Palm court is heavy laden with mouthwatering treats.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelI head over to the savories section where I sample the cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches. Mini pastries are topped with smoked salmon and dill, whilst the vegetarian options include cheese tarts and mini mushroom pies. An adequate cheese platter with fig and apricot conserve is surrounded by an assortment of crackers, fruit and nuts.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelWe chat leisurely, relaxed – there isn’t a care in the world. Our attentive waiter is ever present, but not intrusive, offering to refill our drinks or replace used cutlery. We strike up animated conversation with guests at the next table. An actual Englishman (and woman) enjoying the age-old English tradition of afternoon tea!

Then it’s on to the sweet treats! Unsure of which mouthwatering delicacy to try first, I settle for red velvet squares with lemon butter icing. One word: delicious!

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelThere are individual crème brûlées and chocolate mousses in decorative glasses. There are cannelés topped with chunks of nougat. There is an assortment of cupcakes, each piled high with frosting. Carrot cake, chocolate ganache, lemon meringue and brownies with pistachio topping…even the most ferocious appetite is satisfied.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box Hotel

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelAfternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelThe table’s eye-catching centerpiece is a giant, multifaceted candy jar!

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelMy absolute favorite: the scone selection. With a hint of gooseberry jam and lashings of clotted cream, I can’t ask for more!

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelIt’s at this point that I find I have to switch my tea selection to a sweeter vanilla blend, as my Earl Grey becomes washed out by the sugar overload. Our waiter is back with a new, piping hot teapot in no time.

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box HotelJust then the piano player strikes up the chords of “Happy Birthday to You”. The waiters bring out a special cake complete with sparklers and we all join in singing the popular chorus to the unknown patron.

We end our tea with heartfelt goodbyes to our new English friends, and many thanks to our superb waiter.

Would I consider going back to partake in the elegant tradition of afternoon tea once more?

Why of course, daahhling!

Afternoon Tea Osyter Box Hotel

This post was featured in iAfrica Travel on 19 July 2013


16 thoughts on “Romancing the Pearl

  1. i thought i was quiet smart deciding to ONLY read your posts on a full tummy…..BUT i find my cravings are STILL reaching an all new high after reading….guess i’m not so smart after all! lol

  2. i dont think i could possibly choose my favourite pic here, BUT i have a feeling that if i were really standing in front of any of them, i would be too afraid to eat any! Not becos i wouldnt want to ruin my hour and a half glass figure lol but becos i wouldnt want to ruin such perfection!!!

    • I think the other rooms (not the presidential suite) may be affordable for the regular (high end) traveller. Especially with £, $ a,d € exchange rates. However there are certainly cheaper places to stay when in Durban!

  3. Pingback: Let Them Eat Cake | THE WOLF WILL TRAVEL

  4. Pingback: Old World Charm | THE WOLF WILL TRAVEL

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