Al fresco moments to savour at the Mount Nelson

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HERE’S some good news to end this ghastly year on a sweet note: the legendary pink lady in Gardens has reopened; with baby steps, but also one new step: picnics in the garden.

The hospitality landscape has changed, probably forever, so I’ll tell you entry to the property is strictly controlled. The gate staff are sealed inside a cubicle and talk to you via the intercom which you activate by waving your hand. There are booms, and there are stern-looking columns that recess into the ground when you are granted admission.

The revolving door to the hotel’s gracious lobby – the only one I actually like to use; those things disturb me and yes, I’ve been traumatically trapped in one at the Waterfront – is not in operation, for obvious reasons, but the doorman is there to usher you inside.

Pinky bringing our bubbles

Sexy Deborah and I were there for the aforementioned picnic, and I bumped into chef Rudi Liebenberg in the corridor, as one does. He’s looking well and cheerful, and told me he’s been wanting to do picnics for 10 years. It’s so lovely that someone’s wish came true.

We were shown to our spot on the lawn which had been set up for us with chairs, huge cushions, a warm blanket and a ground-covering blanket. We wasted no time in ordering a bottle of Boschendal Brut Rosé. It seemed like the right thing to do, to toast the reopening of this beautiful, gracious hotel which has been a retreat and a joy over the years.

The picnic comes in an actual wicker basket, which is an important detail for me. Inside, packed in disposable containers, was a feast fit for the VIPs we are (which is how the Nellie makes a person feel). There were battered chicken pieces, the most delicious sweet and sticky meatballs of which I could have eaten a bucketful, and spinach tartlets. I don’t know what they do to this humble vegetable in the kitchen but I’ve experienced them thrice now and I’m flipping crazy about them.

Shameful of us but we didn’t really get stuck into the veggie crudités with hummus, but I did have the falafel balls. There was some charcuterie with pickles, chicken liver pâté, and smoked salmon with whipped horseradish crème fraiche (not a morsel leftover); there was a loaf of bread; there were four types of cheese with grapes and preserves; and there was dessert.

Oh, and little jars of olives, biltong, droë wors and nuts. This latter was most appealing for a cute little squirrel who dashed down the big ol’ palm tree and accepted the treats. Sexy Deborah was not impressed and disapproving that I was feeding the wildlife. I cannot help myself, and she doesn’t like the Egyptian geese in the swimming pool either. Sometimes I wonder which one of us is the bigger curmudgeon (a term we affectionately toss at each other from time to time).

It was a lovely relaxing afternoon, despite the blasted wind which carried off our (thankfully empty) basket on two occasions, until I remembered I live in the southern suburbs and would have to brave the traffic. Have your picnic like we did, or you can request to have it poolside – and pack your bathing suit for a dip (mind the geese).

Look how cute! Just look!

The Mount Nelson’s other offerings include afternoon teas (plant-based menus are available), dining on the terrace, a newly curated menu in the Planet Bar so you can drink, dine and toast any moment of the day.

Note: for every afternoon tea ordered, R10 will be donated to Soupathon, a local soup kitchen that feeds close to 50000 hungry people every week. The Mount Nelson has been supporting Soupathon since it was launched just after the nationwide lockdown began on March 27, 2020.

Bookings are essential: restaurantreservations.mnh@belmond.com

PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©

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