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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INNOVATION IS LIKE A BUSHFIRE...

(Photos : Leigh Willson, Amorette Kramer and Michael Nefdt)

Summerhill Group Conference
"Phinda 2012"

Mick Goss - Summerhill Group CEO

Mick Goss - Summerhill Group CEO

Summerhill is lucky in its friends and its people. One of our most treasured associations is with a group who call themselves (appropriately,) the Land Of Legends. It is the only collection of properties whose raison d'etre lies in their histories, their culture and their tradition. It was founded by ourselves (Hartford House) and the late David Rattray's Fugitives' Drift Lodge, and these days it includes the The Oyster Box, the Beverley Hills,Fordoun SpaRocktail Bay LodgeArdmore Ceramics and Phinda Game Reserve. By now you'll have spotted the fact that these are KwaZulu-Natal's pride in hospitality, establishments of legendary repute that rank with the best in the world.

For our twelfth annual conference, we've been hiding out at Bayete camp, deep in the nether regions of Phinda's spectacular bushveld. No cellphone signal, no radios or televisions, no pack drill. And in a matter of days, the Big Five, in every shape or form. Phinda isn't South Africa's finest bush experience for nothing. Authentic, wild, professional, diverse, down-to-earth, riveting. Oh, and luxurious, but at Phinda, luxury is just the journey, not the destination.

Summerhill has faced many challenges in its three decades and more. The rich and the powerful, the cunning and the envious, the enterprising and the resourceful. There was no inheritance at Summerhill, no big business to fund its growth, just relationships and the sacrifice of our people. That means we have to get up that bit earlier in the mornings, we have to box that bit smarter, just to stay in the swim.

These gatherings in the bush are moments of reflection, for galvanising the spirits, and for recharging the batteries. When the stormclouds approach, don't seek shelter. Put on your raincoat, and get back to work. At the end of the day, you have to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life sipping sugar water, or do you want to change the world? At Summerhill, that's a rhetorical question. We are what we are because our people chose to write their own histories.

By the time the curtain came down on this jamboree Friday morning, I was more convinced than ever that this team is in better shape to deal with the future than any time in our past. Given they already have seven Breeder's titles under their belts, that's some statement. But a few days in the bush reminds me that these are paragons of enthusiasm, good humour and curiosity, Renaissance people in an era that badly needs them.

They've already prepared themselves for the day they come second, and they've already defined the benchmarks by which they want to be measured down the road. This team knows the equations others don't know. Times may be unbelievably tough, but great harvests come from arid sources. Pleasure comes, often enough, from restraint.

The other thing that drives them, is knowing that one day you're going to get beaten. It's the best way of avoiding the trap of thinking you have something to lose; you are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Be a pirate; don't join the navy.

And speaking of challenges, you're not to worry. I know the authors well and I already know how this narrative is going to end. This team will make sure the good guys win.

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FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH

land of legends kwazulu natal south africa

LAND OF LEGENDS

Just a few weeks back, we told the world of our joy at Hartford being voted South Africa’s best restaurant in the House and Leisure / Visa Best Of SAcompetition. The results are now in the public domain following the publication of the November issue of House and Leisure, and we applaud our fellow KwaZulu Natal and Land Of Legends pals, The Homestead at Phinda Game Reserve and Fordoun Spa, for topping their categories alongside Hartford.

To quote House and Leisure editor, Naomi Larkin, “each of the winning destinations has a unique touch and global appeal, and deserves to be named the best in South Africa”.

And then back to renowned food critic, Anne Stevens, who wrote this past week in The Mercury : "But that’s not all, as they say in the ads. Hartford and the Beverley Hills in Umhlanga have earned Diamond Wine List awards as well”.

“The celebration was twice as sweet for both; the “Bev” was also awarded an American Express Platinum Award for its signature restaurant, The Sugar Club, and Hartford took its fifth consecutive American Express Fine Dining Award in Johannesburg”.

IT’S SPRING TIME : NEW LIFE AND NEW HORIZONS

"... Spring is a glorious time at Hartford" / Barbara Meier (p)

"... Spring is a glorious time at Hartford" / Barbara Meier (p)

HOUSE AND LEISURE-VISA BEST SA RESTAURANT

It’s a glorious time at Hartford, and it was in spring that our garden first earned its accolades at the The Witness Garden Show more than twenty years ago. By the end of this month and well into October, both Hartford and Summerhill will be a profusion of rosebuds, flowering cherries, and the wisteria will be weighed down by its beautiful mauve petals.

By heavens though, we don’t remember a spring of so much celebration. Within the past fortnight, Hartford earned one of only two Diners’ Club Diamond Winelist awards in KZN with our old friends, the Beverley Hills, a fine compliment to all the work our hotel manager, Paula Mackenzie has put into her maiden effort.

The restaurant also took its fifth consecutive American Express Fine Dining Award in Johannesburg, and now comes the news that the readers of South   Africa’s most widely publicized lifestyle magazine, House and Leisure, have voted Hartford House the best restaurant in the land in their Visa Best of SA competition. Now that’s quite a statement, considering that a world “Top Fifty” venue, the Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francaise, and last year’s “Eat Out” National Number One restaurant, Le Colombe, were among the finalists.

Most Hartford fans know of our proud affiliation to the Land Of Legends, South Africa’s only collection of properties connected through a mutual celebration of history, tradition and culture. Besides this unique “glue” in our respective make-ups, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Rocktail Bay Camp, Fordoun Spa and Hartford House all have exceptional records of social upliftment and environmental preservation (www.landoflegends.co.za).

Three of these, Hartford’s Restaurant, Phinda’s Homestead Lodge, and Fordoun’s Spa were nominated finalists in their respective categories of the House and Leisure competition, and quite amazingly, all three made it to the top spot on the podium. As much as this is a wonderful accolade for the Land Of Legends as a brand, speaking as it does not only of excellence but of depth and diversity too, it’s also a tribute to KwaZulu Natal as a world-class travel destination, which stands alone when it comes to value.

To those of you who rallied to our cause and voted for us and our Land  Of Legends colleagues in the House and Leisure competition, may we add our heartfelt thanks for the trouble. We were up against the best here, and we understand there were more than 100 000 votes cast, so every single one mattered.

Wait a minute though, that’s not the lot. The champagne had scarcely run out, when head chef Jackie Cameron was notified once again that we’d made the finals for the Eat Out Top Ten, but we’ll have to await our fate in November for that one.

As we write, the Hilton Drama Festival is under way, one of the nation’s hottest expressions of the performing arts, and the wonders of nature have new revelations for us every day in the Summerhill foaling barn, were the champions of tomorrow are being brought into the world in some earnest.

Come and see us, we long for your return. If you can get here before the end of October, as an established Hartford customer, we’ll book you at our winter rate. We can’t promise that for November or December sadly, as advance bookings from our friends from abroad tell us that with value-for-money being the clarion call of most travellers these days, places of Hartford’s distinction are going to be in high demand. 

EXPRESS REMAINS DOUBLE QUICK

Pamela White, Tania Maree, Vanessa Singh, Jackie Cameron, Victor Strugo

Pamela White, Tania Maree, Vanessa Singh, Jackie Cameron, Victor Strugo

AMERICAN EXPRESS WINNING MOST RESTAURANTS

It’s often been said that the great financial sage, Warren Buffet’s, winning-most investments were Coca-Cola and American Express, and American Express’ winning-most restaurants were announced at a gala function in Johannesburg on Monday night.  We’d scarcely dried the ink on Hartford House’ Diners Club Diamond Wine List Award, than we were greeted with the news that the culinary giants, Victor StrugoLannice Snyman andVanessa Singh were among those that had selected Hartford’s restaurant, it’s celebrated young chef Jackie Cameron, and the talented cooking and hospitality teams behind them, among just four KZN based restaurants in the fine dining categories.

Just a fortnight ago, Shaun Munroe of Durban’s grand old dame, the Beverley Hills, joined Jackie in a chef exchange between the two gourmet gems, and it was gratifying to see the Beverley  Hills and Andrew Draper among those locally based eateries, walking away with “gongs”.

Within the month we’ll know how Hartford fared as one of five finalists in House and Leisure’s national restaurant of the year, so (its..... award of the past twelve months) Hartford’s not just about being the only world class hotel on a world class stud farm.  It’s right up there with the best restaurants in the world, and if you think that’s stretching it, give it a shot.