Dashing To Durbs
After one night at home it was the early flight to Durban and a two-hour drive to the Midlands. I was able to enjoy a taste of family Sunday over tea and scones with my farmer brother and sister-in-law before booking into Hartford House to tick another local off my bucket list. I planned to unwind, relax and to write. Where better than in a lake suite with a private pool, at one with nature. Pre-dinner drinks on the patio after wandering around the gorgeous gardens (where antelope insist on chewing the roses), I engaged in lively conversation with visiting Germans who were equally impressed with all on offer. Manager Duncan has genuine warmth and made everyone feel that home is where Hartford is!
All eyes have been on Chef Constantijn Hahndiek. My fellow Capetonian had big shoes to fill, and can be proud of creating his own worthy footprint. He studied in Devon, worked in London, Spain, France and New Zealand before heading back home. At Hartford House bread is baked daily for each meal, from organic, stone ground local flour, served with Mooi River butter, of course. It is this loyalty to local suppliers and their own gardens that ensure top quality produce is the foundation of their unique daily menus. There is no room service here, just tell the obliging staff what you feel like eating, and it will appear. Personal touches are plentiful, and Tijn personally welcomes guests and unveils what they will be eating. We agreed that a consommé is a reflection of the care taken by a chef, and the chicken consommé starter reflected his worth. His Dr Seuss Green Eggs and Ham followed by Zulu Waters Hartebeest, and I was a fan. There was a sense of fun and theatre in his presentation of dessert – he brought a bowl of liquid nitrogen to the table, and served small meringues onto guest's hands. After popping them into their mouths steam followed and there was much hilarity. Whilst there is immense attention to detail with a sense of sophistication and colonial charm, there is nothing stiff and starchy about Hartford House.
After a sumptuous breakfast on the terrace, I had the delight of meeting owners Mick and Cheryl Goss, who now live on the hill overlooking the stud farm. I learnt a little of the history of this property, I then understood their ethos and why this is such a special place with custodians who are all special people. My only wish for them is rain, as that is the only thing Hartford House lacks. With a legacy of chefs who have all contributed to putting Hartford House firmly on the culinary map, they are there to stay. "There is an eruption of awareness of food in SA" says Tijn. Yes Tijn, because, thank goodness, talent like yours has returned home to roost.
Extract From Jen's Journeys Of Flavours