Culinary Wizardry Lives on at Hartford House
Last night we enjoyed the most stunning 6 course dinner at Hartford House. Although a drive from Durban it's an easy lunch or dinner visit and well worth calling one of our own. Sometimes you just get that craving for a true gourmet food adventure and to be honest there are few places in our province where you can take such a journey. After Jackie Cameron left Hartford there were some trying times in 2014... but now head chef Constantijn Hahndiek is firmly entrenched and working culinary magic at this historic venue. Taking advantage of the special access to organic ingredients available in the KZN Midlands the menu is an orchestra of summer freshness combined with complex flavors and unrestrained African adventure.
Our first course married the simplicity of Rosa tomatoes with a local buffalo mozzarella on a plate of smoked sorbet tomato and olive soil to produce a cacophony of summer freshness that had us singing the prospects of the unlimited season.
As the refreshing rains of a much needed evening thunderstorm made their appearance we received our Asian interpretation of a tuna steak tartar. The fresh tuna combined elegantly with the citrus flavours of lime and mango inviting us to the season of hope.
The locally sourced Porcini transported us from our fresh and vivacious start into a more mature earthy complexity. Paired with a marshmallow goat's cheese and mushroom ketchup and finished with a zing of cognac... Now I know why foraging is becoming so popular. Especially if you have a master chef to dress up a basidiomycete fungus into a cocktail of taste sensation.
The keep it local theme reached a climax with our next course of duck breast. Sourced from the alliterative Dargle Ducks where the quackers are reared in open range, the breasts were well complimented with a liquorice sauce and home grown knarly carrots.
What happened next was a demonstration of just how much fun a tasting menu can be. Sometimes these gastronomic extravaganzas can be a little pretentious and just a bit much for today's easy going guest. Enter Chef Constantijn with a bowl heaving with cloud of vapor like a 'Culinary Wizzard from Hogwarts School of Cooking'. From the bowl he offers each willing student a sample of his smoking spell. A liquid nitrogen frozen version of lemon meringue Is popped into the mouth eliciting squeals of laughter from the wife as puffs of smoke pour out of every facial orifice. And it tastes really good, like the old space dust we used to get from the corner cafe only followed by the real flavors of lemon meringue as the taste buds make sense of the glacial offering. What a cool course and we were not yet done.
The final course was aptly named the cherry on the top and after all that had gone before it certainly fulfilled its labeling. A combination of summer fresh berries with the cherry at the center combined with some refreshing home made ice cream to end the journey on a sweet but refreshing note. Like all the courses before it was not heavy and the portion size perfect for a tasting menu.
We washed this all down with a Graham Beck 2012 Chenin blanc coming off an impressive wine list consisting of many a bottle you won't find at any local restaurant.
So there you have it. The culinary wizardry lives on at Hartford House and we enjoyed its heavenly spell.