Sundays are for jazz at Sanctuary Mandela

27 Mar 2024
Ask anyone what makes a great Sunday and the word “lunch” is bound to feature in the description. Add jazz and you have something extra special. At Sanctuary Mandela, Sunday lunch is an occasion, much more than just a plate of food placed before you after church or before your weekend nap.

Every Sun afternoon from 12:00 – 15:00 the boutique hotel in Houghton, where Nelson Mandela lived from 1994 to 1999, becomes a playground for sophisticates when it opens its doors for lively jazz events at its Insights restaurant.

New jazz musicians take to the stage every week, transforming the open space between the bar and restaurant. On a recent visit, it was the sounds of Vimbs Mavimbs and his band that had us tapping our feet and bopping our shoulders over starters of roasted beetroot with feta mousse and springbok carpaccio.
Vimbs Mavimbs and his band fill Sanctuary Mandela with the sound of live jazz. Photo: Sanet Oberholzer.

The kitchen is headed up by Xoliswa Ndoyiya who once again found her place in the house when the hotel opened in 2021. As Mandela’s personal cook of more than 20 years, she has a unique insight into the food Madiba enjoyed when he was alive – food she draws inspiration from when crafting the menus featured in the hotel (if you like what you’re being served, you can grab a copy of Made with Love, the cookbook Ndoyiya brought out in 2023, on your way out).

We can’t be sure that Madiba was treated to the exact recipe of North African chicken tagine we enjoyed on the day but, somehow, we can see him relishing the plate of succulent deboned chicken, the statesman finding joy in sharing in the culture of African brothers and sisters on the continent.

Those who enjoy a traditional Sunday roast tucked into plates of classic roast beef while the vegetarian smoked aubergine sounded like a delicious, meat-free alternative.
A perfect setting for live Sunday afternoon jazz. Photo: Sanet Oberholzer.

The star of this three-course lunch was the dessert: the plate of amasi and pear presented a delicate balance between tart and sweet with every mouthful of silky mousse and tender sherry-poached pear. Dining with a partner is always better than doing so alone, no less because of the opportunity to sample their food. The mango sorbet was fresh, sweet, and clearly made with the real deal. The mouthfeel was made all the more complex with the addition of roasted coconut flakes.

Tickets include a glass of bubbles on arrival but if you want to indulge in a glass of wine with your mains, you’ll find several good, albeit pricey, options on the wine list. We love the inclusion of wines that reflect transformation in the wine industry, with varietals from impressive winemakers Ntsiki Biyela, Carmen Stevens, and Joseph Dhafana featuring prominently next to wines from Iona, Steenberg, and Bouchard Finlayson.
Ntsiki Biyela's Aslina wines feature on a well-thought-out wine list. Photo: Sanet Oberholzer.

A meal enjoyed in Insights is bound to be an elegant affair, but it’s the music that makes an afternoon spent here extra special. Doing jazz well is an art to marvel at and each of the musicians had the talent to make their instruments sing. It’s a wonderful way to discover talent you might not otherwise have picked up on your Apple Music or Spotify playlists – and supporting local musicians is always worthwhile, and completely rewarding.

Menus for the Jazz Sunday lunches change seasonally, giving diners all the more reason to return every so often.

And if you are asked if you’d like to do a tour of the hotel, don’t hesitate. Every member of staff is trained to show you around and relay the history of the house and meaning in the numerous artworks that have been expertly curated. It will give you a renewed appreciation for the beautiful space to learn about the hard work that has gone into making what it is today.

Ticket options include R300 p.p. for music and a glass of bubbles to enjoy the show while seated at the bar, or R600 p.p. for the seated three-course meal from their menu inspired by Madiba's favourite dishes. Visit the website to book.


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