12 Feb FIT FOR THE GODS
F ew things can cast more of a shadow over the latter part of my weekend than the spectre of an early morning meeting in the city. Beating the traffic means rising at an ungodly hour such as might induce the kind of nausea, I still, all too readily, associate with the panic of desperate, last-minute cramming for exams, and the alternative is throwing away an hour or more of precious time to the inbound city traffic. Unless of course you opt for the road less travelled and infinitely more serene – and now that I’ve done it, I can from my lofty, omniscient perch also claim that here lies Nirvana – literally. After all nothing is guaranteed to pulverise Sunday afternoon blues into oblivion more effectively than a Sunday night at a luxury inner-city hotel. I packed an overnight bag and drove into the city, with the motorway virtually to myself, taking particular delight in a little acceleration on those marvellously engineered curves on De Waal drive, and after checking in at The Taj, and being shown to my rather wonderful room, it was with a tiny pang of regret I turned my back on the breathtaking view of St Georges Cathedral and the Company Gardens with the backdrop of table Mountain’s slopes glinting in the golden, late afternoon light. But, the Ayurvedic delights of the hotel’s Jiva Spa beckoned, and minutes later, I was reclining, wrapped in a silky, cotton robe, sipping a steaming cup of “detox” tea, brewed with fresh lime, basil leaves and sweetened with jiggery (an unrefined, whole sugar derived from sugar cane and date palms, and apparently rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly iron,) and, frankly, I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be. My therapist bathed my feet in a hand beaten copper bowl filled with warm water and rose petals and informed me that in true Indian tradition, Jiva believes in the time-honoured adage “Atithi Devo Bhava,” which means: “the guest is god,” and the treatment which followed was indeed heavenly. I had Champi, an authentic Indian head massage followed by a facial. All the creams and lotions used at the Jiva Spa are natural products containing a heady mix of exotic herbs and spices. After the treatment I was invited to make use of the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, which I did. Thus at peace and aglow, I joined my partner for dinner at The Bombay Brasserie where legendary executive chef, Harpreet Kaur’s contemporary Indian approach results in Relais et Chateau type presentation, incorporating exotic flavours that pack a mighty punch.We feasted on roasted yellow corn soup with turmeric popcorns, soft lentil dumplings in yogurt with sweet mango relish, char grilled spiced broccoli, char grilled Indian paneer cottage cheese spiked with guntur chillies, a masala prawn curry, smoked brinjal mash, black lentils and kidney beans, naan bread and fluffy steamed basmati rice. If I’d had a teaspoonful of space left for dessert, I would have opted for malai kulfi – a cardamom ice cream, to round off the culinary extravaganza. But back in the room, another menu awaited us – a pillow menu! I was almost weak with delight. What to choose? The orthopaedic neck pillow, the full body hugger, goose or duck down or a cotton filled puff of pleasure? The latter was delivered to the room in minutes and the ensuing sleep was deep and refreshing. We rose early enough to watch the rosy, dawn light on the top of Table Mountain while the city streets below slowly began to wake up, punctuated by the odd call of a gull straying a little far from the ocean. After a sumptuous breakfast buffet at Mint Restaurant, it was still, happily, too early for my meeting in the city, so, wide-eyed as a tourist, I meandered down St Georges Mall, taking in all the arts, crafts and fashion, and wondering why I don’t visit my exquisite city more often.