Summer is nature’s way of saying it’s time to picnic. Sadly, they are off the cards in public places due to the pandemic but where there is a will, there is a way – and that way is an intimate picnic poolside at the ultra-luxurious Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.

Cape Town has been blessed with the best pool weather this summer and it’s a shame to let it go to waste if you don’t have access to a pool. The Belmond Mount Nelson has created a safe and socially-distanced space to fill this gap in the market.

It’s already 30°C in the shade when we arrive for the picnic, temperatures are checked at the entrance of the hotel and then again as we sign in our details. They are very thorough when it comes to COVID-19 protocol and it gives us added peace of mind.

A perfect day for a picnic on sprawling green lawns.

We make our way through the lush green gardens to the poolside area and even the walk there is an experience. Fountains, tall and leafy green palm trees and a rose-bush lined pathway lead the way. As the pool comes into view I understand what all the fuss is about – there are rolling green lawns, a sparkling blue pool and intimate picnic settings under trees far apart from each other. The chatter of children enjoying themselves is something you don’t hear often enough these days and something you never thought you’d miss.

Picnics are socially-distanced around the pool.

The gourmet picnic arrives in a wicker basket – included in the feast is light finger food delicacies, Winelands cheeses, artisanal Bosman, Spier and Jewell’s charcuterie served with homemade pickles and tapenade. There is freshly baked bread, homemade crackers, biltong, nuts and smoked salmon and fried chicken. For dessert, there are mini-cakes and strawberries with chocolate sauce. Take your time and devour each course slowly, they all deserve to be savoured individually. In-between each course, fresh yourself with a dip in the pool – the water was refreshing and a welcome break from the searing heat.

A picnic feast for two.

My Kindle in hand, and a lounger to relax on and frequent dips in the pool is all my heart desires on a day as hot as this. The number of picnics by the pool are limited to keep numbers low which is very responsible and a great way to ensure everyone has their space. You also have to book ahead of time to make sure you get a spot and that your picnic is prepared on time.

Mini-cakes and chocolate eclairs for dessert.

It really is the best excuse to leave the house and cool off in this heat, considering that beaches are out of bounds. The waiting staff are professional and courteous, and never without their masks on.

After a short and unexpected nap I woke up to the glorious views of reaching palm trees surrounded by gardens – and for a moment it felt as though we had travelled to another country. Then reality set in and I wasn’t too unpleased about the fact that home was around the corner and that I got to escape my cocoon of isolation to revel in the beauty of the Belmond Mount Nelson.

Options other than the picnic include:

Artful afternoon teas

Afternoon Tea has always made iconic moments at the Mount Nelson. Imagine the scene: debonair, fedora’d Henry Dike plays the grand piano as a silver tiered stand, glittering with sweet gems, is brought to your table. The spread showcases local and global classics, including traditional melktert with Cape Malay cinnamon and cardamom, baked cheesecake with white chocolate and tangy berry tartlets.

Baskets of warm, freshly baked scones and traditional koesisters sprinkled with coconut beckon you to indulge, while savoury options include the hotel’s famous mushroom empanadas, cauliflower and onion pakoras, Farmer Angus beef frikkadels, and delicate finger sandwiches with enticing fillings such as smoked Franschhoek trout. Going green? Treat your taste buds to Chef Rudi’s imaginative plant-based menus.

As for the brew itself, we offer an unparalleled selection of premium leaf and flowering teas from all over the world, as well as healthy local infusions. Make sure to try our signature Mount Nelson Tea, an exquisite blend with pink rose petals, or opt for the earthy, yet delicate orange and spice rooibos from the Cederberg.

Linger in the conservatory or outside on the terrace until the shadows start to lengthen. It’ll soon be time for a sundowner…

Alfresco dining on the terrace

Eating outdoors is a particular pleasure of summer, and our picturesque terrace is perfect for sampling the daily surprises on Chef Rudi’s chalkboard. Cape Wild Foods, plant-based and slow food dishes feature prominently on his three-course lunch and dinner menus. We dare you to resist dandelion malfatti (sourced from the hotel garden), our perennially popular Malay and Indian chicken curry, and chewy-crispy pizzas made with slow-fermented dough.

Dining on the terrace.

The sky’s the limit at the Planet Bar

The Planet Bar menu has been newly curated so that you can drink, dine and toast any moment of the day. A light bite menu features brinjal biltong, General Tso’s cauliflower and mini puri balls with ceviche, as well as dishes such as Madras roasted lamb rib and a deliciously old-fashioned ice-cream sandwich.

* For every Afternoon Tea ordered, R10 will be donated to Soupathon, a local soup kitchen that feeds close to 50,000 hungry people every week. The Mount Nelson has been supporting Soupathon since it was launched just after the nationwide lockdown began on 27 March 2020.

– Lunch and dinner will be served in the hotel lounge or on the outdoor terrace Thursdays to Sundays from 12pm – 8pm.
– Afternoon Tea will be served in the sunny conservatory or on the outdoor terrace Thursdays to Sundays. There will be two sittings, one at 12 pm and the second sitting is at 3 pm.
– Planet Bar is open from Thursdays to Sundays from 12pm – 8pm
– Picnics can be collected between 1pm and 3pm on Thursdays to Sundays.
– Bookings are essential.

Contact: [email protected]
Website: Belmont Mount Nelson

Article written by

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 21 years of journalism experience. Her motto - Travel. Eat. Repeat. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.