Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses.

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

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DRAKENSBERG BOYS' CHOIR

   
DRAKENSBERG BOYS' CHOIR

"Could this be the best Boys Choir in the world?"

We’re fortunate at Hartford House in the many visitors that travel thousands of miles to visit us, and the tapestry of cultures they represent. People come from across the world to stay at the “jewelled buckle” of the KZN midlands, some of them connoisseurs of the arts and music, others with uninitiated curiosities of what this spectacular part of the world has to offer.

However, the one thing they all have in common, once they’ve made their first pilgrimage to the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir (an enchanting 45 minute drive into the Champagne Valley), is that this is an irresistible option for all comers. Even the Viennese, who have a proprietary interest in protecting the status of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, concede that the diversity and the talent on display, at times, eclipses the lofty standards set by their own, and for those who are with us on a Wednesday during school term time, this is a must.

To most of our guests, we recommend an early breakfast and a drive over the Drakensberg through the gloriously coloured cliffs of the Golden Gate National Park, and then to Clarens, a village not much bigger than Mooi River, but unmistakably the art capital of South Africa. Clarens is home to more than thirty art galleries, and is the starting place for most of South Africa’s young artistic talent. It’s in the bottommost most corner of the south eastern Free State, and apart from being one of the great journeys of South Africa, it’s a convenient distance back to the Boys Choir, whose shows start at 3:30pm. These exhibitions are generally over by 5pm, and it’s a comfortable meander back to Hartford, in time for a shower or a lazy bath, before dinner. Some dinner too, in a national Top Ten restaurant.

And then, if you’re with us through Saturday evening, we have another surprise for you.

www.dbchoir.co.za

Mother’s Day - "IMPRESS MOM"

Mille Feuille

Mille Feuille
(Photo : Jackie Cameron)

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

Pamper your mother with a memorable meal using methods which will transport her on a journey of creativity. After all, all she ever does is spoil you. Create this gastronomic experience in your home.

A welcome, ice-cold, glass of refreshing, fruity flavoured tea will be received warmly. Tea’s full potential is often overlooked as many only know it for its “hot cuppa” properties.

The savoury kick from a Caesar salad is a great start to any meal as it stimulates the salivary juices. Over the years this dish has evolved into a typical everyday table salad. Disgraceful, if you ask me! This is a grand serving of food that was created in 1924 by an Italian chef, Caesar Cardini, at a restaurant in Tijuana Mexico. It was traditionally prepared at the table, with the greatest attention to detail and, today, it should be made with respect for its longevity. Interestingly, the original recipe was without anchovies… which suits me perfectly. The crisp romaine lettuce leaves, crunchy herbed croutons, salty capers, rich-creamy dressing and finely shaved parmesan makes this my favourite salad. The textures excite my palate. I often add sautéed bacon and onion or sliced sesame chicken breast or smoked salmon to this enticing salad. Scrumptious.

You have heard of risotto but have you ever cooked a moist, creamy, textured portion? A quaint description of this short grain rice in the Larousse Gastronomique says:“Each grain should retain its separate identity with a little bite.” This is a food many are anxious about cooking but once perfected it can be used as a main component, a starch helping, a filling for squid tubes and also a dessert – the options are endless. Up next is a vegetarian delight. My home-grown beetroot risotto with toasted walnuts, beetroot sprouts, wild figs and creamy Gorgonzola. Tempting flavours! Even carnivorous South African males agree...

Mille Feuille, when translated means “a thousand leaves”, is a classical dessert consisting of thin layers of puff pastry separated with layers of custard or Chantilly cream (flavoured cream with vanilla extract and castor sugar) and fresh fruit and/or berries. With the variety of fruit available this is the ideal dessert to round off a delectable lunch.

Mothers of any age will enjoy this menu for its use of traditional flavours and, at the same time, it's originality and freshness. Mom’s day off will result in the whole family’s culinary enjoyment. Bon appetité.

Take these recipes and try them.

ICED TEA
CAESAR SALAD
BEETROOT RISOTTO
MILLE FEUILLE

Post your comments and food-related questions below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef
Hartford House
www.hartford.co.za
jackie@hartford.co.za
033 263 2713

Shopping with Head Chef Jackie Cameron

Jackie Cameron / Sally Chance (p)

Jackie Cameron / Sally Chance (p)

The following is an extract from a candid Q&A interview with our Head Chef, Jackie Cameron, which was recently published in the Travel & Food supplement of The Times.

Favourite things?

Recipe books; kitchen equipment (exciting kitchen gadgets always win me over); improved ingredients and products; I also love handbags, shoes and earrings.

Best thing about shopping?

Finding that something that puts a smile on my face.

Worst thing about shopping?

The hustle and bustle.

Cash or Credit Card?

I always pay... cash. With the arrival of the credit crunch, I’ve... become very aware of every transaction I make.

Fragrance?

Jean Paul Gaultier.

Best gift?

A cap gun at the age of three.

Worst gift?

A chocolate-dipped scorpion.

Earliest shopping memory?

Begging my mother for a chocolate at a grocery store. I’m always reminded of that when I hear other children trying their luck. Just the other day, while standing in the queue at Woolworths, I overheard a young boy telling his mother how much he loved her. I was taken aback by his honesty and caring nature, only to hear two seconds later how much he would love a chocolate. I had to laugh.

Whats in yor fridge?

In my fridge I always have... a selection of Midlands cheese and homemade pickles and preserves.

Perspective on 'Green'?

To me going green means... contributing in a positive light. Believing that every individual can make a difference.

Best shopping companions?

My mother and sister.

Worst shopping companion?

A person who is irritated and in a huff and rush.

Best all-time purchase?

Larousse Gastronomique, “the world’s most famous culinary reference book”.

Most expensive purchase?

My studio flat.

WHAT I’D BUY WITH...

R500 : A meal for one at a top restaurant.

R5000 : A coffee machine and beans... together they make a full-bodied espresso with a perfect crema.

If the sky’s the limit?

I would buy only the best quality, state-of-the-art equipment to furnish my dream kitchen. A good chef is a prepared chef and a prepared chef is a fast chef.

Five-course dinner party... nothing less.

strawberries and champagne

"Ruby-red, plump strawberries topped with reduced balsamic and freshly ground black pepper, served with Champagne"
(Photo : Jackie Cameron)

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

A five-course dinner party sounds extremely lavish. My guests, however, expect nothing less! With little available social time on my hands I wow my friends with fresh flavours and quick, clever substitutes. Food that is stress free allows me to enjoy my dinner party.

I begin with pen, paper and an idea. Then I head for the local grocer. The result is a menu expressing the finest produce obtainable.

My choice of arrival nibble is irresistible ruby-red, plump strawberries. Topped with reduced balsamic and freshly ground black pepper and served with Champagne, it is an out-of-the-ordinary extravaganza of sweet and savoury combinations which mingle with the lightness of bubbles. Simply delicious!

The aromas from the melon shelf alert and entice me. I allow the fruit’s natural flavour to develop in my mind and the result is a chilled melon and coconut soup. A perfect summer starter, complemented with lightly toasted pine kernels, finely sliced sushi ginger and fresh mint. This new-age soup has a depth without the kick of richness.

In order to make a fabulous dish, the ingredients you are working with need to excite you. The main course is a perfect example of my favourites: beef fillet, fresh asparagus, roasted Mediterranean stuffed butternut with Pringles crisps. The texture of the crisps adds a fun element to this dish. This is a homely main course with a touch of style.

It is summer fruits that make me wish we had only one season! Dessert therefore is made up of roasted nectarines served with cinnamon-crème fraiche, honey, pine nuts and “Lindt” mint chocolate. The difference in textures, temperature and flavours makes this mouth watering and memorable.

My palate doesn’t allow me to end on a sweet note. This to the horror of any French wine connoisseur; so to end with a cheese selection, pickles, preserves and biscuits is perfect – for me!.

An evening set to succeed.

Take these recipes and try them.

FRESH STRAWBERRIES WITH REDUCED BALSAMIC VINEGAR
CHILLED SPANSPEK AND COCONUT SOUP
BEEF FILLET, FRESH ASPARAGUS, ROASTED STUFFED BUTTERNUT WITH PRINGLE CRISPS
ROASTED NECTARINES, CINNAMON-CREME FRAICHE, HONEY, PINE NUTS AND "LINDT"

Post your comments and food-related questions below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef
Hartford House
www.hartford.co.za
jackie@hartford.co.za
033 263 2713

Food Trends for 2009

Tea-smoked chicken breast sandwich / Jackie Cameron (p)

Tea-smoked chicken breast sandwich / Jackie Cameron (p)

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

Extensive research reveals the obvious: the economy dictates people’s eating and shopping budgets. People swipe less and save more. Food will be cooked by the people for the people, so family meals and stay-at-home dinner parties will be the next "big thing". Knowledge of seasonal ingredients and the use of local produce are essential in impressing your company.

Peruvian food is the new Thai, so Ceviche, or “Cebiche,” to be phonetically correct, is perfect. Ceviche is the Peruvian style of marinating seafood in soya and lime. The benefits of this chilled seafood dish include a cure for hangovers, and is reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Oh boy! Fresh ginger, garlic and coriander form an integral part of the dish and the pantry gossip is that ginger is pushing mint right off menus.

Recognizing that unhealthy eating habits in children result in unhealthy adults, grown health awareness demands a new emphasis on the value of sensible nutrition over convenience foods. Get into the habit of “double” cooking, where possible, and freezing the surplus, so that healthier food is available when time isn’t. When I think excellent value-for-money, I think homemade macaroni and cheese. Plain or schussed up, both are scrumptious.

The new trend is for smoking your food rather than frying, a blast from the past. Imagine a stylish, healthy, tea-smoked chicken breast sandwich for lunch.

Thinking of what works and what is best, remember how your grandparents used to source and prepare their food. They were the trend setters of all time, to the point that today we are looking back to what they did, and more often than not, we nick ideas from yesteryear.

Take these recipes and try them.

SEAFOOD CEVICHE
MACARONI AND CHEESE
SMOKED CHICKEN SANDWICH

Post your comments and food-related questions below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef
Hartford House
www.hartford.co.za
jackie@hartford.co.za
033 263 2713

Hartford House is PUMPING

hartford veranda restaurant

"The home of good conversation, fine wines and classic horses."
(Hartford House)

Living by its slogan “the only world class hotel on a world class stud farm in the world”, dinner on any evening at Hartford House in January and February is a cosmopolitan affair. Adorned with candles, its great colonial verandah is alive with the conversation of as many as six different tongues, though a gathering at the Summerhill table of Australians, British, French and South Africans, demands one universal language. It’s about horses, of course (who might have guessed?) and it’s this time of year when the horse nations of the world converge on us, and Hartford fondly remembers its other slogan “the home of good conversation, fine wines and classic horses”.

Naturally, there’s many a pilgrim who’s been magnetised by the space, the peace, the tranquillity, the beauty of our countryside, and of course, the culture of the only people on earth whose name is known to every airline pilot, “Z” for Zulu.

Guests this evening, include Jonathan D’Arcy and Simon Vivien from Australia’s time honoured auction house, Inglis & Son, here on their annual African sojourn; Xavier and Natalie Bozo, prominent French breeders, Patrick Mitford-Slade, whose connections go back to the great English stallion Petingo; National Spirit’s breeders, Dr Allen and Robyn Bechard, and a rotation of delegates from the Summerhill team. We use the word rotation intentionally: with the best will in the world, we could not dish up an “A” class repertoire, lunch-in-and-dinner-out, day after day as times demand, without a fresh contingent to carry the cudgels.

Jackie Cameron on walkabout in Bremen

Jackie Cameron with Gabi Kirschke and her friend Monika from Berlin

Jackie Cameron with Gabi Kirschke and her friend Monika from Berlin

I have recently returned from a trip to Germany (Bremen) to cook for the Kirschkes. Gabriele Kirschke celebrated her 60th birthday in style. The South African themed evening included Zulu dancers, music and Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz. A perfect evening that was filled with friendly faces, fine wines and food.

Gabi’s South African Birthday menu:

*Roasted Butternut Soup with Pear Custard Ice Cream, Pumpkin Seeds and Curry Oil

*Sweetcorn Fritter with Springbok Carpaccio, Fresh Rocket Leaves, Sun dried Tomato, Sour Cream and Balsamic Reduction

*Poached Ostrich, Caramelised Onions, Gorgonzola flavoured Dauphinoise, Chiffonade Spinach and Red Wine Sauce

*Malva Pudding with Dried Fruit Compote and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Proudly South African flavours! I am always amazed by the quality of South African goods that can be found overseas. Well done to the team at “Restaurant CAMPUS” especially to Marc and Frank for always making my time so pleasurable.

This unforgettable experience was made possible by the generosity of Gabi and Rainer Kirschke. Thank you.

(Photo kindly supplied by Rainer Kirschke)

The fall (and rise) of Tulbagh : Emerging Giants

saronsberg shiraz

(Zsuzsanna Kilian/Saronsberg)

When it comes to seismic shocks, South Africa is a lucky country. We’re seldom disrupted by massive natural disasters, so that when we do feel the effects of one, we tend to recoil in greater horror than those countries that know them. 1969 Witnessed an earthquake which by international standards, was probably of relatively ordinary consequence, but which really rattled the minds of South Africans. The greatest casualty of this quake, which registered something of the order of 6 on the Richter scale, was the little hamlet of Tulbagh in the Western Cape, a village which boasts more national monuments in its main street per square metre than any other in South Africa. Sadly, it was these very monuments that incurred the greatest damage, so it’s a matter of some pride to South Africans that the high street has been restored completely to its former glory.

Largely unrecognised in the pantheon of the great wine producing areas of the Western Cape for the many centuries of its existence, Tulbagh has recently come into its own, prompting Wine magazine to feature a “shoot-out” between two of its leading protagonists in Saronsberg and Rijk’s in its most recent issue. That Wine mag should’ve seen fit to make a front cover fuss of these two wineries, is testimony to the emergence of Tulbagh as a major player in the wine-making world, and especially to the quality of what’s coming out of the cellars of these two estates.

Last week witnessed the arrival at Hartford House of a team of representatives from Saronsberg, headed by Bevan Rees, a bright and enterprising young man of a previous legal persuasion. Bevan is not only eloquent, he loves what he does, and he’s exactly what a wine maker needs in a job like his. At dinner, we were graced by the presence of visitors from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Holland, as well as the usual sprinkling of South Africans, and there was pretty much unaniminity among the diners regarding the overall quality of Saronsberg’s offerings.

The real strength in recent times among the better wines from Tulbagh, has lain with their reds, where Shiraz appears to have a special liking for the area. However, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay on offer was pretty good in itself, yet the red blends of the Full Circle and Seismic are verging on world-class.

National top ten chef, Jackie Cameron, was on hand to ensure the menu matched the wines. Her uncanny knack for guaranteeing this time and again, is part of the repertoire of skills what sets this young lady and her team in the Hartford kitchen apart from most.

The magnitude of Hartford's Top Ten Restaurant Award

Cheryl Goss and Jackie Cameron / Paula Mackenzie (p)

Cheryl Goss and Jackie Cameron / Paula Mackenzie (p)

"Form is temporary : CLASS IS PERMANENT"

There’s an old saying in the racing world that you might fluke the odd big performance, but it’s the ability to consistently achieve at the top level that’s the real mark of quality. The magnitude of Hartford House’s Top Ten Restaurant Award last Sunday evening, is only just beginning to sink in, and the extent of it is quietly coming home to us.

The reality is that none of these achievements are overnight occurrences, and they’re no different to winning Breeders’ Championships. We know what it took to put a team together capable of landing the spoils in the horse business, and the sustained record of four consecutive championships has been the product of almost 30 years of blood, sweat and tears.

In Hartford’s case, the journey started almost eight years ago, with the recruitment of a man by the name of Richard Carstens, who came to us with the option of working at Hartford or at our new venture at the time, Lynton Hall. As it turned out, despite Hartford’s own requirements, we felt that Lynton’s need was the greater because it was in its infancy, and after eight months at Hartford, Richard relocated to the coastal resort, where he took Lynton to a top ten finish in the national awards, and in the end, was elected the nation’s top chef.

As Richard was departing for Lynton Hall, we discovered a waif-like Thespian, who had already spent a year at the Mount Grace Country House & Spa, in the form of Pietermaritzburg born and raised Jackie Cameron, and she proceeded to beaver away as industriously as anyone we’ve ever come across in an already industrious team. Though wet behind the ears, Jackie quickly revealed an underlying potential that’s rare not only in people of her age, but uncommonly so in older people too. It wasn’t long before local critics nabbed onto her coattails, and began to invest in her growth. People like Mechthild Yorke-Mitchell, then restaurant critic for Wine Magazine, Anne Stevens of The Mercury, Derek Taylor of the Sunday Tribune, and latterly and very significantly, Victor Strugo of The Saturday Star, who has been a powerful personal mentor to Jackie. All of them caught onto the fire that was raging at Hartford.

Of course, there's been many other accolades, and last year the Hartford restaurant made the Dine Top 10: Deluxe 2008 voted by Diners club international & Wine magazine, but the Prudential Eat-Out Restaurant Awards are the summit of them all, and to have achieved this is the ultimate for any young chef or restaurant anywhere.

The point of this is that under Cheryl’s tutelage, in the relatively short space of 12 years, we’ve seen the emergence of two national celebrities in the culinary game, and it’s all a result of a sustained obsession that goes beyond perfection.

There’s no team in the world that can appreciate the significance of Hartford better than that at Summerhill. We know what it takes, and we understand what it is that keeps you there. Class, class and more class, and nothing less than class.

Mike Tarr sends Warm Wishes

Lunchtime dining at Hartford House

Lunchtime dining at Hartford House

"THIS MAN’S BEEN AROUND : SO THIS IS SOME COMPLIMENT"

Hello Jackie and Cheryl:

Just a short note to thank you both and Gold Circle and Gill Simpkins for the wonderful experience of being at Summerhill this week and the great lunch in a perfect setting. Jackie you are a genius, pea soup and ice cream!! such invention. I love it. And the Norwegian salmon was superb and the desserts sublime. I hope to come back and do a proper crit and also take in more of the amazing atmosphere of Summerhill. We are truly blessed as South Africans to have a place like this. Thank you for a memorable day.

I saw Mickey briefly on our tour but would obviously like to interview him and get an in depth view into his thoughts on the farm and subjects in general. I am told he has a wonderful way with words and views about our country.

Best wishes and thank you again.

Michael Tarr

(Eminent Journalist : The Daily News)

Tempest de Frederickz 90th birthday celebration

Tempest de Frederickz

Tempest de Frederickz

Last Sunday witnessed another gathering of Hartford connected people, this time the 90th birthday of Tempest de Frederickz, (who was born Ellis in 1918). The Ellis family acquired Hartford as long ago as 1939, and they lived here until early 1990, when the Gosses took over.

During that time, Raymond Ellis Snr manifested his all-conquering racing operation on the farm, and proceeded as an owner/breeder to outstrip the achievements of any of his kind in all of history. From this property, the Ellises bred, raised and trained the winners of every major race on the South African racing calendar, and enjoyed the recognition from no less an author than Sir Mordaunt Milner, as ranking with the all-time elite of the private breeding and racing game. They’re the only South Africans in history to enjoy mention in the same breath as the Aga Khan, Lord Derby and the Sheikh’s Maktoum in English racing, Coolmore in Ireland, France’s Boussac and Italy’s Tesio, and America’s Hancocks and Phippses.

Besides being sterling breeders, the Ellis family were richly endowed when it came to the arts, and Tempest was reputedly a fine musician, while Graeme Ellises’ “The Duck Pond: Midnight” reveals his prowess.

THE DUCK POND: MIDNIGHT

Tonight, if you will walk beyond that lonely tree
And stand quite still, perhaps you'll see
Cloud shadows spun by moonlight; cool
Breezes lulling sleepy flowers;
Three ducks splashing silver in the pool
To while away the evening hours;
And at the water's moon-kissed brink,
Two sleepy cranes that sit and think
Of summers spent in unknown lands,
And waves that lap on silver sands.
By Graham Ellis - 1943

Written at Hartford

The Perfect Midlands Meander Destination

breakfast view

"Breakfast on the verandah, overlooking the beautiful gardens, is also a highlight of any visit to Hartford..."

“For a moment, there’s a lull in the noise of the city. Bird song comes to the fore, a hadeda is heard overhead and for a few seconds my mind retreats to Hartford. This is a place so special that even being transported for a few seconds brings refreshment from the busy pace of life.

There are so many aspects to Hartford House and each of them has the special qualities that combine to make one’s stay unforgettable, however many times one visits. It is the personalities of you, Mick and Cheryl, your vision, enthusiasm and guidance that has made Hartford so special.

On entry down the long driveway with fields and paddocks on either side and Giant’s Castle up to the left, life begins to slow after our four hour drive from Joburg or three hours from the South Coast. The smiling welcome at the gate and then the warmth and friendliness of the staff on arrival and throughout one’s stay at Hartford gives a relaxed comfortable feeling to new visitors and those like us who return as often as we do. The people in the office, the front staff, Jackie and the kitchen staff, housekeeping and gardeners are equally friendly and are genuinely happy greeting visitors.

Then there are the gorgeous rooms into which you have put so much thought and detail, each so different but equally comfortable. We have stayed in every room you have and it’s always exciting on arrival, to see which room will be ours. Nothing has been spared and one feels the luxury of indulgence relaxing in the room or sitting outdoors enjoying the tranquility of the surroundings.

Dinner is always the most special delight and, I think, the best in South Africa. Comparing meals with some top restaurants in Europe, Hartford is still the best. Breakfast on the verandah, overlooking the beautiful gardens, is also a highlight of any visit to Hartford and the menu is amazing.

After the indulgence and tranquility of a Hartford stay, one reluctantly leaves, knowing there will be a time to visit again, and in between visits, cut out the noise of life and transport oneself back for a moment of peace.”

Said by a connoisseur.Veronica Jagoe (and husband Sean) are veterans of more than 150 visits to Hartford House (yes, that’s about a dozen a year, every year, since we opened).Apart from being our most treasured guests, they’re also among the nicest.And they must have taste!