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Al fresco eating can be classy and fun — especially when it’s done in style in a cool indigenous forest.

Often a picnic is no picnic. It is too often nothing like the comfort and serenity of an outdoor studio as depicted in Édouard Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe.

Rather, after schlepping bags and boxes of accoutrement and then propping oneself up awkwardly on elbows that go numb on blankets that steadily grow damp, one discovers bottles that have leaked brine over food, sandwiches that are squashed, corkscrews forgotten. Cling wrap and serviettes blow away; wineglasses topple over; biting and stinging insects invade; and the climax, cold coffee from a flask and someone’s hay-fever attack.

Staging a good picnic requires experience, good equipment and considerable planning.

In Cape Town favourite spots include Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, the beaches (especially Clifton), the forests and the rehabilitated city river parks.

Picnic has a certain romance about it, a promise of relaxation and lazy love-making.

Nadege Cuisine organises French picnics already set up when you arrive at a place of your choice with savoury Provençales madeleines, Gruyère tart, roulés of ham, meli mélo of vegetables, cheese, baguette, cake, wine and decorations.

Restaurants blessed with grounds and outdoor surroundings, such as the Roundhouse, Casa Labia, Buitenverwachting and Steenberg offer picnic baskets. Extremely popular are picnics under umbrellas on the lawns at estates in the winelands; on the river banks at Delheim and Solms-Delta; at Spier beside the lake. Picnics are almost an institution at Boschendal. All these are priced at about R290 a couple, and a few, like Hartenberg Estate, even include a bottle of wine.

My favourite spot, however, is Vergelegen. Few places can rival this stately farm that dates back to governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel, who took ownership in about 1700.

Brent Meersman gives you the lowdown on how to do it with style via The pick of picnics | Arts and Culture | Food | Mail & Guardian.

To arrange a picnic with Nadege Cuisine, email:

Vergelegen Estate, Lourensford Road, Somerset West. R175 a person (excluding gratuity, entrance and beverages/wine). Reservations are essential and made through the Stables at Vergelegen. Phone: 021 847 2156