Yesterday Bob Tickler and I took time off the cricket and shopping to go to the Azure restaurant of the 12 Apostles at Camps Bay. Doug Heath was fairly sure the game would peter out to a draw. In fact England gave us a few hairy moments in the morning but in the end we made the right call.
The 12 Apostles Hotel is the name given to the mountian range that runs from Cape Town to Hout bay. It’s a dramatic escarpment that Bob says resembles the graph of the FTSE index. To reach the hotel you drive through Seapoint, now regenerated as the last time I was there it was distinctly sleazy, Bantry Bay, Clifton, Camps Bay and it’s a breathtaking coastal route. It has the feel of Miami with the ocean and Palm trees though the water is much colder this side.
12 Apostles Hotel is more of a boutique hotel with commanding views, the Leopard Bar and Azure restaurant reputedly one of the finest in South Africa. As we perused the menu a startled look came over Bob “I don’t believe it. Two of the dishes are named after Stanley and Bea Tollman”. Bob explained that Stanley Tollman was a patient of his father and he had some dealings with him too. The doctor must have done a good job as at 85 he was still commercially active, heading up the massive Travel Corporation in which 4 generations of Tollman own the stock and hold senior positions. Stanley was in the restaurant with wife Bea and daughter and later Bob was to reacquant himself with them.
There is no doubt but that South African businessmen have some considerable flair for running a hotel empire. Sol Kerzner sold up the Sun Group, which owned Sun City and the Table Bay, to set up casinos in the States. Stanley Tollman, son of a small time hotelier, constructed Tollman Towers, the tallest skyscraper in South Africa, in Johannesburg in the 70s. The company went belly up, and he operated in the States and UK. He acquired the Days Inns chain and then began a lengthy tax and fraud investigation by the U.S. Justice Department who claimed the family and their owning shareholders had undeclared revenue in the Channel Islands. He returned to the UK where he was subject to extradition proceedings and became a director of Chelsea. He eventually settled the claim in a plea bargain for $105m. Many would have retired, he had the wherewithal to do so, but he and wife Bea were back in the business – this time going full circle in South Africa.
You can see why he is so successful. The hotel has a great location, the service is of the highest standard and decor and amenities first rate. As for the restaurant, we had executive Christo Pretorius menu of ostrich tartare, calamari risotto, soft egg in pea velouté, ,springbok loin and strawberry field desert. The portions and flavour moisture were more nouvelle cuisine but yummy all the same. We drank by the glass Bouchard sauvignon, a fruity rose and my favourite South African winemaker Ken Forrester’s red to accompany. I cannot recall the name of the Rose but said to Bob one that was well-known was called The Fat Bastared! The bill was a 1000 rand per person (£42). After a chat with Stanle in which I was able to compliment him, we retired to the Leopard Bar for coffee and the final overs of the test. In my prime, after such a feast the lift would have gone to a bedroom en suite, not to a bar and comfy sofa, and the soon snoring Bob. But at least we saved the Test!!!