Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated on Summerhill Stud in the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa.

PUTTING AN "H" INTO DELICIOUS WITH ANNE STEVENS

Hartford House Restaurant / Hartford House (p)

Hartford House Restaurant / Hartford House (p)

HARTFORD HOUSE RESTAURANT

Anne Stevens has long ranked among the nation's top food critics. Certainly in KZN, she's the "Queen of Critics". She recently visited us :

The five-course dinners at Hartford House near Mooi River are R325 a head.

Is that expensive? Not at all, bearing in mind that one of the country's top chefs is in the kitchen, and getting better and better with each year of maturity.

Jackie Cameron is now so confident of her abilities that she allows herself little dashes of humour in her cooking, like a Maltabella ice cream at breakfast, a deconstructed peppermint crisp tart after an elaborate dinner and a lamb bunny chow made with mealie bread at lunchtime.

The highlight of a recent dinner was a deeply intense brown mushroom soup made with shiitake powder and truffle oil.

Its flavours lingered and it was perhaps wise to follow it with something fresh and light : Norwegian salmon tartare with cream cheese, smoky olives, microherbs (the new buzzword), lemon zest and croutons.

The play of textures and flavours was fascinating, and echoed in the next dish : seared springbok loin salad with pink peppercorns, beetroot, candied walnuts and little cubes of foie gras terrine.

With all that going before, and appetite pretty much sated, it was perhaps inevitable that the main was less memorable. But crispy Midlands duck breast with potato spaghetti, butternut puree, hazelnuts and cinnamon-infused red wine sauce would stand out on most restaurant menus.

Then the peppermint crisp tart, broken into individual pockets of chocolate, mint, cream and crunch.

There is a new lunch menu, served on the deep veranda in good weather, featuring the likes of local trout with almond potato cream, smoked salmon salad with nori seaweed terrine, and asparagus with exotic mushrooms in a Caesar dressing.

A duo of rabbit - hot terrine and loin wrapped in parma ham - sounds inviting, as do gorgonzola capelletti with olives, green beans, apple, toasted walnuts and walnut oil.

But then just about everything at Hartford is appealing.

It features one of my favourite breakfasts of all time : poached haddock sitting on a tuna fishcake, dressed with caviar, rocket and a subtle black sesame seed sauce.

Just add a corn fritter from the full English breakfast, and you have a winning way to start the day.

It's going to be interesting to watch what direction Jackie takes in the years to come.

Booking is also essential here : 033 263 2713

Extract from The Mercury Good Life