Shenanigans at Mount Nelson’s Saturday Sunset Soundscapes


THIS past weekend was the first of the Mount Nelson’s, a Belmond Hotel, Sunset Soundscapes. Not only a first for the season, but a first for the hotel. There have been various events over the years with live music of course, and the regular afternoon tea is traditionally accompanied by a pianist, but making use of the lovely gardener-porn lawn (seriously, what is the secret to such verdancy?) for an evening of music and picnics is something new.

So the elements exist separately; putting them together is a stroke of genius. Typically, Cape Town weather is notoriously fickle. When I checked the outlook in the early afternoon so as to decide what to wear, a serious downpour (dark cloud, lots of rain) was predicted for 7pm – an hour after arrival time. Well that’s not ideal, I thought to myself. However, the app updates frequently so by the time I left home, all promises and threats of precipitation had been removed, and although overcast, the temperature was mild. Didn’t even need a cardigan.

We’d selected to have a picnic with our music; there is the option of an evening tea; both include a free glass of bubbly to clutch as you are shown to your seating area. Some tables were set up around the fountain where genteel guests plucked their treats from cake stands. For us there were low but comfortable chairs, thank goodness because I am sadly no longer the one who can lounge on the plump cushions or beanbags. In fact I can, I just can’t get up again in anything resembling an elegant manner so I’d have to stay there all night until someone hoisted me upright.

On the blanket in front of us was a low table with cunning spaces to hold an ice bucket and stemmed glasses. I was fairly easily talked into beginning with a cocktail. I like them classic so I chose an Old Fashioned, my friend, equally classy, had a Whisky Sour. I chose the wine, Constantia Uitsig unwooded Chardonnay, and everyone was suitably impressed. It’s jolly nice, and tastes like a second bottle.

The picnic basket arrived and was unpacked with great excitement, and arranged on the little table. Included are biltong, droëwors, mixed nuts, a jar of olives, and two mini crusty baguettes sliced for our convenience. The bowls contained: a charcuterie selection, chicken liver pâté, tiny pickled onions and gherkins; smoked trout with horseradish creme and smoked trout pâté; fried chicken pieces with sweet chilli sauce; awesome beef frikkadels (more of those please) with brinjal chutney; mini quiches; and apparently crudités with falafel, and seed hummus. I say “apparently” because I was so busy with the other nibbles I didn’t even notice the vegetable stuff but there it is in the pic.

All the while this was going on, duo Acoustic Element – cousins Callen Petersen and Jody Abel – were doing their thing to entertain us. Callen plays the violin, and Jody plays guitar and beatboxes, and sings. As dusk fell, and the pretty lighting around us came into magical play, we noticed Callen’s pants. This is not weird at all. They were silver and glittery and quite divine. We tried to get a couple of people to go ask him where he got them, to no avail, so when they were on their break and he walked past, I’d had sufficient Chardonnay to ask him myself. Still not weird. They come directly from a designer’s Cape Town Fashion Week catwalk show so they’re one of a kind. I found out later one of the hotel staff had in fact asked as well, bless, all handled very discreetly. This is one more reason why the Mount Nelson is as fabulous as it is.

By the second half of the show, it was almost fully dark and when you think things can’t possibly get any better, Callen’s violin lights up! And he walks around between the tables and audience members who by that time are dancing joyfully. Absolutely superb.

The picnic finished with strawberries with chocolate for dipping and whipped cream, cute little petit fours, and a fine selection of cheeses with crackers, preserves and grapes.

The entire time we were there (and yes, we were almost the last to leave) we were treated like royalty, which is how the Mount Nelson rolls, and a round of applause for the staff please. The hotel is still working its way up to full operating speed and everyone is doing a sterling job. Next up will be the Sunday jazz brunch where you have the option to drink as much bubbly as you can. I don’t know why I am this way but I always see that as a personal challenge. Management has been warned.

More information, prices and booking details here.





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