Dine In Style in the KZN Midlands
With a colonial setting and decor that preserves and exquisitely exhibits the architecture of the grand house and expansive garden, Hartford House is a historic beauty to marvel at.
The hotel is built on a world-class racehorse stud, Summerhill Stud, with tours of the stud and horse riding available to the hotel guests.
Hartford House also offers hotel guests trout and bass fishing, and a Wellness Centre with a range of therapies, massages and facials. Visitors can walk through the game conservancy and spot animal and bird species that inhabit the estate.
There’s also a historic chapel which caters for weddings and memorial services, and a fully equipped conference facility.
But what makes Hartford House a must-visit gem in the Midlands, for hotel guests or daily visitors, is the award-winning restaurant.
The restaurant at Hartford House serves lunch or dinner to daily visitors, which can be enjoyed while overlooking the gardens or in the candlelit dining hall. Breakfast is available to hotel guests.
The menu, which changes daily, is inspired by the availability of local produce and fresh pickings from the Hartford House garden.
The lunch menu is served as either a two or three course option, and dinner is a five course tasting menu with an optional wine pairing. Reservations must be made.
If you’re a wine connoisseur, then a visit to the Hartford House restaurant is a must, as it is one of the 10 restaurants in South Africa boasting a five star wine list.
New to Hartford House is Tijnhuis, with a fresh, light menu including a range of sweet and savoury dishes, and beverages that complement the menu and style of the venue, offering a unique “high tea” experience in the Midlands. Tijnhuis is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 11am to 4pm.
Fine dining at Hartford House is ideal to celebrate special occasions, or for keen “foodies” who want to explore and indulge in the fresh local ingredients and creatively prepared meals offered by the restaurant’s chefs.
My food journey at Hartford House began with seeded and cranberry bread made at the restaurant, with Mooi River salted butter and paired with Hartenberg Chardonnay. A simple appetiser such as bread, with its presentation, freshness and most importantly delicious taste, proved to be a marvellous start to the menu to follow.
Next up on the tasting menu was rabbit croquet, followed by a trout dish with squid ink and orange foam, and then a tasting of pork belly with puffed crackling, kimchi and the chef's take on a barbeque sauce.
The finale, before dessert, was a tasting dish of lamb, onion purée, onion rings, gnocchi and cauli flower. Hartford House uses locally reared meat and game meat from a farm about 10 kilometres from the restaurant.
A personal highlight was the dessert. A “starter” dessert of “nitrogen coffee” was a gastronomic experience like no other. It combined science and art to craft a dish that evokes the senses and creates awe, while pleasing the pallet.
“It’s something fun to get guests involved in and perk them up before dessert,” said Hartford House head chef Constantijn Hahndiek.
To make the dish, he uses pure coffee with a bit of gelatine and sets it in the gun used to make whipped cream. It is then squirted into liquid nitrogen which freezes it into a light, crunchy ball.
A chocolate dessert was the perfect follow on and was paired with a port. It consisted of chestnut ice cream made from chestnuts from Hartford House’s garden, chocolate ganache made with coconut cream, coffee meringue, fresh coconut water gel, coconut panna cotta and dairy-free, dehydrated chocolate mousse. “Dessert should always be fun and should always be an experience,” said Hahndiek, who hails from Cape Town.