Mount Nelson: Breakfast with Xavier Lablaude
A talk with Xavier Lablaude, General Manager of the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town
The launch of my book ‘I Had Tea at the Nellie — The Mount Nelson Treasury’ brings us together again. Xavier Lablaude runs one of the legendary flagships of the Belmond Group, the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, or as it is known around the world of luxury travelers, “the Nellie”.
AA: Xavier, you have worked in renowned hotels in Paris, such as the Hotel Royal Monceau, Hotel de la Tremoille, Le Méridien Paris Étoile, and the Trianon Palace in Versailles.‘Xavier: ‘Yes, I then had the opportunity to work in the US as Assistant General Manager at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. The next move took me to the Orient-Express’s Hotel de la Cité in Carcassonne, France, as General Manager where I stayed for ten years.’
AA: ‘So why did you suddenly come to the other side of the world to manage La Nellie?’
Xavier: ‘The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town is a wonderful hotel, perfectly located in the heart of Cape Town. The staff is truly dedicated and service levels have improved spectacularly over the last few months. The refurbished rooms are beautiful and Planet Restaurant is a vibrant, contemporary restaurant, matching the equally glamorous and much loved Planet Bar.
I love the area around the Mount Nelson. Kloof Street and Long Street are always abuzz, full of locally owned boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. My wife and daughters have already found some lovely fun boutiques and it is so very convenient to have the Labia movie theatre next door which offers an excellent independent film programme.’
AA: ‘What about the wine region here at the Cape?’
Xavier: ‘Well I am French ... I love living in a wine region. I just left the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region and it has been very exciting discovering the wines of South Africa ever since I have arrived in Cape Town. I left many winegrowing friends in France and I meet many new ones in this beautiful country.’
AA: ‘You now have a book, the first book about the history of the Mount Nelson.’
Xavier: ‘Yes, thank you for your hard work and input. I’m sure ‘I had Tea at the Nellie — The Mount Nelson Treasury’ will be successful. Our guests are all looking forward to reading it.’
AA: in the tradition of my breakfast interviews, let me ask you:
What is your preferred breakfast? If I’m healthy, an egg-white vegetable omelet with Tabasco…..On special occasions, what I love is a normal omelet with truffles from the Perigord.
Whose advise is most important to you? From the ones I love and admire.
What do you think is your greatest weakness? Not knowing my greatest weakness ... or a bad sense of humor!
Do you suffer from too much or not enough enthusiasm? I find enthusiasm painless; just resourceful
Black&white or colour? Rainbow, living in the “Rainbow Nation”
Seaside or country? Cape Town, it offers both!
Smallest room in the best hotel or large room in less expensvie hotel? I’ll take the smallest room in the best hotel and therefore I’ll just have happy people surrounding me.
Wine or beer? Depends on my mood….but have to say that I drink more wine than beer.
... and what is the biggest challenge of our industry? Difficult working conditions, long hours, seasonality, salaries…and yet there are many opportunities of meeting fantastic people. At, the end it comes down to finding the right balance.
Thank you, dear Xavier, for your time.
The book ‘I had Tea at the Nellie — The Mount Nelson Treasury’is available here and at the hotel.