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.

Filtering by Tag: Eat Out Restaurant Awards

Why Twenty Twelve won't be 2012

Entrance to the Hartford Estate / Nicholas Goss (p)

Entrance to the Hartford Estate / Nicholas Goss (p)

"Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses"

Mick Goss Summerhill CEO

Mick Goss
Summerhill CEO

Mick GossThere've been all sorts of predictions on how 2012 would turn out, not the least of which is the foreboding suggestion that the world will come to an end on the 21st December. By our calculations, that leaves most of us with about a week to live, but if you believe the movie "2012", there is salvation for anyone living within reach of the Drakensberg mountains. In that context, it's comforting to know that we're just over half an hour from Giant's Castle, and if what they have in mind is a flood of proportions to which only Noah can relate, there'll be time enough for anyone booked into Hartford House to make it up there as well. The point of my note is that if you don't already have a reservation at Hartford, get one because, in the same instant, you can enjoy a "Last Supper" before the curtain call at what is now officially KZN's Number One restaurant!

From an operational perspective though, we'd have to say that the outcome of the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale last month, is the principal reason why twenty twelve won't be 2012. By any stretch, the sale was a miracle, a tribute to good horses, good people and great customers, a convergence of all the ingredients in serendipity, and an alignment of the stars. Unless the Mayans had something else in mind, it seems that what they were predicting was that 2012 would be not so much the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. In that case, we have much to look forward to in 2013, particularly if the market's assessment of our young stallions is any kind of yardstick. When it came to the Admire Mains, A.P. Arrows and the Mullins Bays, Ready To Run buyers voted with both feet, and the gratifying thing is that they had the benefit of hindsight at the gallops before they did so. For now, we can at least approach the New Year with positive anticipation. Despite a fairly significant reduction in broodmare numbers around the country, we've had an excellent season in the stallion barn, with encouraging demand for the new boys Visionaire, Golden Sword and Traffic Guard, while the vibes on the first of the Brave Tin Soldiers augurs well for their market debuts in the New Year.

Besides the frentics of the Ready To Run, 'tiz the season for awards, and the number of occasions we've had to don our dinner jackets in the past few months has me wondering whether there is time still for a final investment in a new tuxedo. Last time out, I was astonished to discover in my inner pocket, an invitation from the former Administrator of the old Natal, Stoffel Botha, to a function at King's House in 1983, and while that may be a compliment to the jacket's longevity, it's probably more an indication that this Zulu farmer either wears these things as little as possible, or that we just haven't won enough awards in the interim!

We never take these things for granted though, and they always come as a wonderful surprise. Often enough, they are a tribute to two great teams: an eighth Breeders' Championship, an award from each of Highveld and KZN Racing, and a string of podium visits at the KZN Breeders night out; for Hartford House, another national Top Ten Restaurant award, a sixth American Express Fine Dining accolade, the number one spot on the Top 100 SA Wine Lists and a Diamond class certificate from Diners International. That means those of us with a foot in both camps, have attended a lot of dinners lately. None of it possible without the support and encouragement of great friends and wonderful customers.

'Tiz also the season of many visitors, and this is the time when we top up our reserves of good conversation, fine wine and classic horses. If you're passing this way, please join us: we're bound to have other good friends from the neighbourhood. If not, this note comes with the best and the most grateful wishes of two of the best teams in their businesses.

As always, warmest regards,

MICK GOSS
SUMMERHILL STUD & HARTFORD HOUSE

Tiz The Season

Jackie Cameron receives the award for South Africa's Top Wine List in the Relaxed Dining category on behalf of Hartford House / Top 100 SA Wines (p)

Jackie Cameron receives the award for South Africa's Top Wine List in the Relaxed Dining category on behalf of Hartford House / Top 100 SA Wines (p)

Hartford's Wine List came out Number One, the only one marked 'Inspirational'

If you've been listening to East Coast Radio in the past couple of days, you'll have heard the name Hartford House many times for its distinction as the only KZN-based restaurant among Eat Out's national Top Ten. A few weeks before, chef Jackie Cameron's team were among the chosen few at the American Express Fine Dining Awards for the 7th cons

ecutive year, and within a blink of time, they earned themselves another Diners Club Diamond Award for one of the country's best wine lists.

We know they've been making headlines for a couple of years now, but the Hartford team takes nothing for granted, and the same goes for "big brother," Summerhill Stud. It seems that team has been on the podium for months too, with an eighth consecutive National Breeder's Championship, another statuette at the Highveld Racing Awards, and a string of distinctions at both the KZN Breeders and the KZN Racing "Nights of the Stars". That's an awful lot of dinners, if you happen to have a foot in both camps!

The latest one is as significant as any of them, and came our way last Sunday evening when the "Cameron Girl" winged her way once again to the Mother City to represent us at the Top 100Wine List Challenge for 2013. Remarkably (or perhaps not so remarkably for those of us who know how much work went into it,) in the Relaxed Dining category, Hartford's wine list came out Number One, the only one marked "Inspirational". Selecting wines may sound appealing to those of us who make the odd visit to a cellar on a Saturday morning for a bit of a "jolly", but this team puts in hours of labour, interviewing wine-makers, tasting and pairing, and in the end establishing a criteria that knows no exceptions. Good food, good wine and good company are the irredeemable passports to a memorable meal, but you'll never know what we mean until you've "done" us yourself. Yes, Hartford is all of these things, but it also represents the only venue of its kind in the nation. Visit www.hartford.co.za, and see what we mean.

hartford house logo

Eat Out Top Ten

Hartford House Restaurant / Sally Chance (p)

Hartford House Restaurant / Sally Chance (p)

Eat Out DSTV Food Network Restaurant Awards
25 November 2012

When we last checked the stats, there were more than 70,000 restaurants or eateries in South Africa. That was six years ago, and there are probably many more today, which makes the food business just about the most populous sector in the economy. If you look at the biggest contributors to the Gross Domestic Product, there are not that many mines, it's doubtful there are that many banks, it's unlikely there are more farmers, there certainly aren't that many car hire companies, and there are many more restaurants than there are hotels.

That means the food game is as competitive, if not more so, than any other sector of the economy, though the title of "best restaurant" is always going to be a subjective issue. Yet there are a few names and places that pop up consistently year after year, and when they do so in a number of competitions adjudicated upon by different judges, then you know that the acclaim is pretty much universal.

The point of all this is that last night in Cape Town, Hartford House once again made the nation's "Top Ten" at the Eat Out awards, the only restaurant in KZN to do so, and the only one to have made the finals in each of the past six years. Head Chef Jackie Cameron turned 30 on Saturday, which means that besides being voted South Africa's best restaurant in the Visa/House & Leisure awards in both 2010 and 2011, and Eat Out's most popular restaurant in the latter year, as a personal milestone, Jackie's been occupying the place of a finalist since she was 24, which in itself was a record.

She'll be the first to admit though, that these accolades come courtesy of a team effort, and she'll point immediately to her long-serving (and long- suffering!) assistant Elaine Boshoff, to a great back-up team in the kitchen, to a marvellously hospitable crew in the front of the house, and to an ambiance and atmosphere that belongs only to an historic property like Hartford and its award-winning gardens. We do need to acknowledge though, that our location puts Hartford at something of a disadvantage. We're ten kilometres outside a dusty little dorp in the KZN Midlands, at the forgotten end of what the civilizations to the North of us have often referred to as the darkest continent. We do not see anything like the traffic that traverses the winelands and the environs of Table Mountain, nor for that matter, the populations of the greater Johannesburg, Pretoria or Durban areas, which makes this award all the more commendable. That there are just two restaurants outside of the Western Cape in the "Top Ten", illustrates just how deep the culinary waters are in that part of the world, and equally, how good you have to be to be counted in their illustrious company.

In all of this, we need to pay our respects to those who've guided our team over the years in arriving at this day. Fundis like Victor Strugo, Anne Stevens, Eat Out's Abigail Donnelly, Derek Taylor, Anna Trapido, Paula Mackenzie and the late Lannice Snyman, among critics of the printed media, Justin Bonello of BBC Food's "Cooked In Africa", Masterchef's Pete Goffe-Wood and members of organisations such as Chaine des Rotisseurs have all been inspirations, and let's not forget the encouragement and the acclaim of our guests. Customers are the lifeblood of our business, and their appreciation of the Hartford food experience has not only nurtured the creative spirit in our kitchen, but it's reminded the team that sets the tables and carries the plates that in Africa, by contrast with many other places in the world, it remains an honour to serve.

"It has been a dazzling year of fun dining," said Eat Out editor and judge, Abigail Donnelly. "I have seen local chefs prepare astonishing, world-class food, and the top restaurants in South Africa have shown tremendous talent, continuing to push the boundaries in terms of creativity, confidence and full-on  flavour." International judge Bruce Palling was similarly impressed by the standard of cuisine on offer in this country. The UK-based food columnist, who writes for the Wall Street Journal Europe and is on the judging panel of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, praised the range and dedication of South Africa's leading chefs. "Some of the chefs would rank in my personal top twenty anywhere in the world."

Top 10 Restaurants

THE TEST KITCHEN BY LUKE DALE-ROBERTS
Cape Town - Western Cape

TASTING ROOM AT LE QUARTIER FRANCAIS
Franschhoek - Western Cape

JORDAN RESTAURANT
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

OVERTURE
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

RUST EN VREDE RESTAURANT
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

DW ELEVEN-13
Johannesburg - Gauteng

LA COLOMBE
Cape Town - Western Cape

THE GREENHOUSE
Cape Town - Western Cape

TERROIR
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

HARTFORD HOUSE
Mooi River - KwaZulu-Natal

Other Awards

Restaurant of the Year
The Test Kitchen

Chef of the Year
Margot Janse of The Tasting Room

Service Excellence Award
Rust en Vrede

The Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award brought to you by Paarl Media
Alicia Wilkinson of Silwood School of Cookery

Best Bistro
9th Avenue Bistro

Best Steakhouse
Carne SA

Best Country-style Restaurant
Fresh at Paul Cluver Wine Estate

Best Asian Restaurant
Saigon (Gardens)

Best Italian Restaurant
Café del Sol

Boschendal Style Award in association with Visi
Green House at Babylonstoren

For more information visit :
www.eatout.co.za

HARTFORD HOUSE RESTAURANT FLYING SOLO IN KZN

Hartford House Restaurant / Sally Chance (p)

Hartford House Restaurant / Sally Chance (p)

EAT OUT DSTV FOOD NETWORK RESTAURANT AWARDS 2012

The nation's top twenty restaurants were named by Eat Out magazine last evening. The list recognises the best restaurants in the land, and is one of the gourmet world's most prized accolades. The Hartford restaurant is included for the 6th consecutive year in what is billed the "Oscars" of the South African food industry, and it's a wonderful tribute not only to Jackie Cameron, Elaine Boshoff and their team in the kitchen, but to the whole show. Eat Out recognises a restaurant not only for its food, but for its service, its ambiance, and the broader experience, and it's a matter of some pride that we remain the only KZN-based restaurant in the list in 2012, and of course, to have made the finals in each of the last six consecutive years.

RESTAURANT AWARDS NOMINEES

BABEL
Simondium - Western Cape

BIZERCA BISTRO
Cape Town - Western Cape

DELAIRE GRAFF ESTATE RESTAURANT
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

DW ELEVEN-13
Johannesburg - Gauteng

THE GREENHOUSE
Cape Town - Western Cape

HARTFORD HOUSE
Mooi River - KwaZulu-Natal

JORDAN RESTAURANT
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

LA COLOMBE
Cape Town - Western Cape

MAKARON
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

OVERTURE
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

PIERNEEF A LA MOTTE
Franschhoek - Western Cape

PLANET RESTAURANT AT THE MOUNT NELSON
Cape Town - Western Cape

RESTAURANT MOSAIC AT ORIENT
Pretoria - Gauteng

THE ROUNDHOUSE
Cape Town - Western Cape

RUST EN VREDE RESTAURANT
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

TASTING ROOM AT LE QUARTIER FRANCAIS
Franschhoek - Western Cape

TERROIR
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

THE TEST KITCHEN BY LUKE DALE-ROBERTS
Cape Town - Western Cape

TOKARA
Stellenbosch - Western Cape

For more information visit :
www.eatout.co.za

EAT OUT RESTAURANT AWARDS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT

Eat Out Restaurant Awards 2011

EAT OUT DSTV FOOD NETWORK RESTAURANT AWARDS
Sunday 20th November 2011

The hallmark of greatness, is consistency. There's an old saying in the horse business that "form is temporary, class is permanent", and it's the same in the culinary world. Good chefs may fluke the odd good dish, but great chefs aspire consistently to greatness. In the context of a girl who is yet to strike her 30th year, for her restaurant to be inclu

ded among the finalists for the national Eat Out culinary awards five years in a row, is the best class indicator we know.

Head Chef, Jackie Cameron, who quite remarkably in a world where "musical chairs" is more the norm in staff turnovers than the standard, now in her 9th year at Hartford House, has just received formal notification from the organisers of the "Top Ten" restaurants in the nation, that they're included in the finals once again. The gala function marking the announcement of the top ten takes place in Cape Town on the 20th November.

To quote convenor, Abigail Donnelly "it has been a privilege and a humbling experience to have eaten such beautiful food this year, and it's certainly a huge achievement to have been included on this list".

The nominees are listed below. It's hot as hell in the Western Cape kitchen, where all but three countrywide are based. Notably, Hartford remains the only KZN-based restaurant on the list of finalists.

RESTAURANT AWARDS NOMINEES

AZURE
Cape Town

BABEL
Simondium

BOSMAN'S RESTAURANT
Paarl

DW ELEVEN-13
Johannesburg

THE RESTAURANT AT GRANDE PROVENCE
Franschhoek

THE GREENHOUSE
Cape Town

HARTFORD HOUSE
Mooi River

JORDAN RESTAURANT
Stellenbosch

LA COLOMBE
Cape Town

RESTAURANT MOSAIC AT ORIENT
Pretoria

NOBU
Cape Town

OVERTURE
Stellenbosch

PIERNEEF A LA MOTTE
Franschhoek

THE PLANET RESTAURANT
Cape Town

ROOTS
Krugersdorp

THE ROUNDHOUSE
Cape Town

TASTING ROOM AT LE QUARTIER FRANCAIS
Franschhoek

TERROIR
Stellenbosch

THE TEST KITCHEN BY LUKE DALE-ROBERTS
Cape Town

TOKARA
Stellenbosch

For more information visit :
www.eatout.co.za

LIVE THE MOMENT

la motte and hartford house restaurant

La Motte Eat Out People's Choice Award

When fortune smiles on you, you'd better remember just how illusive these things are. The six consecutive National Breeders' Titles that've befallen Summerhill in recent years, have been matched almost blow-for-blow by the "little sister" Hartford House, and it's much acclaimed restaurant.

Most followers of these columns are already aware that Hartford once again made the Country's Top Ten Restaurants at the Eat Out Gala Function in Cape Town last weekend, the only recipient in KwaZulu Natal. And that this followed hard on the heels of it's second year-in-row billing as House and Leisure / Visa's Best Restaurant in South Africa in October.

But there was more to come; in a brand new initiative this year, Eat Out launched a parallel competition on the web to find South Africa's most popular restaurant, sponsored by the makers of La Motte wines, spectacular gems of Franschoek.

By a margin of more than double of it's nearest pursuer, Hartford House was polled the "Top Dog", the best sign if ever it was needed, of the loyalty of its customers and that it is, without any doubt, the "People's Choice".

Spare a thought though for where we are. Surely the remotest of all the leading 20 restaurants in the nation, and in a province, assuming the critics got this right, not entirely celebrated for it's culinary hot spots, on a little old Zulu farm 10km outside of the dustiest dorp in the KZN Midlands.

Goes to show, when the show's good, anything is possible. We look forward to that case of La Motte. If you voted for us, come and enjoy it with us!

hartford house logo

For more information please visit :
www.hartford.co.za

2010 NATIONAL RESTAURANT AWARDS

paula mackenzie and jackie cameron at the 2010 eat out awards

Paula Mackenzie and Jackie Cameron at the Eat Out Awards 2010

THE CRITICS HAVE SPOKEN

Hail Hartford, national Top Ten Restaurant again. Two months ago, this little hostelry was voted the nation's choice by the South African public in the face of competition from two "World Top Fifties". On Sunday evening Eat Out celebrated the critic's "Top Ten" at a gala function in Cape Town. David Higgs'Rust en Vredetook top spot in both the restaurant and best chef categories, while Hartford House was the only KwaZulu Natal-based restaurant counted in the top ten. Notable absentees in what is an increasingly competitive line-up, include last year's winners, Le Colombe and Mosaic as well as the quite exceptional Green House. Considering the remoteness of our location, this is a signal achievement for Jackie Cameron, her sous chef, Elaine Boshoff and their kitchen crew, but it isn't a matter alone of where we are, it's what we are. It is a victory for our social consciences, a message to the world of what's possible in what might have seemed impossible circumstances. Your patronage and encouragement has revealed a new world to a community of people who never knew life beyond Mooi River before, to our service staff, the scullery team and even our gardeners. To Paula Mackenzie who's God given talent picks the wines, and to her fellow managers Scott Morgan and Emma Stephenson.

You see Hartford is different. It is different because it is not just about the cuisine; it's the only member of the Top Ten that combines a world class restaurant with a matching accommodation establishment. It's both a cultural and a philosophical experience, where luxury is part of the journey, but it isn't the destination. A place without pretence, yet comfortable beyond imagination.

NEW ADDITIONS TO THE LAND OF LEGENDS COLLECTION

land of legends

Land of Legends featuring Beverly Hills Hotel and Ardmore Ceramics to name a few

A BLAST FROM THE PAST AND A PEEK AT THE FUTURE

Readers of these columns took a well earned rest this past week, as Cheryl and I were away on a bit of “R and R”, mingled as usual with a bit of business. Business for us, is a pleasure, because we work at the things we like to play at, like horses and hospitality. In the process, we reawakened some giants of history, taking in their old haunts enroute.

Thursday last witnessed a gathering of the “legends” at Umhlanga’s Beverley Hills Hotel, the grandest old dame on Durban’s glittering coastline. The occasion was the induction into the Land Of Legends of “The Bev”, as well as Fee Berning’s world famous Ardmore Ceramics, which is now at a point where an institution like Rovos Rail pull their great train up at the gates to Ardmore, for their international travellers to glimpse the remarkable work which springs forth from the creative loins of Fee’s Zulu artists. Yes, Rovos Rail, of all rail operators. There is no bigger compliment.

Back to The Bev, and the gathering of monumental proportions. There wasn’t a stopper unpulled. Instantly, if you didn’t know it already, you knew you were at a serious address. General Manager, Sebastian Berernato, is a veteran of the game, and he and Lorna Gourley’s deep-seated passion for hospitality, their embrace of the traditions for which The Bev stands and their preservation of its history, is everywhere.

The induction was unusual, as they led in three employees who were there the day Sol Kerzner “wowed” the world with the first opening of the doors, and each of these fellows, colourful in their own right, delivered their own tale about the “Sun King”. All told in camera, so none of that for repetition here. Since then of course, there’s been Sun City, Atlantis, the One and Only.

By definition, you have to be a legend to join the Land Of Legends, and the Beverley Hills slides seamlessly into a collection of properties which as recently as September included the top Lodge, the top Spa and the top Restaurant in South Africa, and for those of you looking for one of the best meals in the province, look no further than Executive Chef Sean Munro and his side-kick Attie, for as good as it gets. Yes, Durban is in the process of accumulating hotels almost as quickly as Dubai did in its heyday, but the Bev will stand its ground long after many of those have come and possibly gone, because they’ve been at it for 40 years now, they know how to look after people, and the service is up there with the best anywhere.

From a Summerhill perspective, it’s the connectivity with the great racing events of the Kwa Zulu Natal winter that matters, and like The Oyster Box next door, The Bev has any number of stories to tell of the great characters of our history. Besides being the hotel of choice for most of the best cricket and rugby teams of the world, the guest list reads like a who’s who of Hollywood, Broadway and the parade, including Sir Cliff Richard, Embert Humperdink and Whitney Houston.

Friday we took up a longstanding invitation from the General Manager of the newly renovated Oyster Box Hotel next door. Much has been said and written about the half billion Rand recently splurged on this famous landmark before its opening in October, and my goodness, you can see it in spectacular technicolour. You cannot sustain destinations on one great hotel alone, and I’m sure The Beverley Hills welcomes the introduction to Durban of another world class establishment like the Oyster Box, as much as they’re immediate neighbours, and the competition will be hot.

If we’re going to put up our hands finally to the rest of the world, and claim the right to be counted with the most favoured places on earth, We have to have establishments of the stature of The Bev and The Oyster Box, to not only to pull the crowds, but to reassure them that this is KZN’s time. In the end, we have the most diverse collection of visitor offerings in this country, if not the world, with outstanding venues at the Beach, in the Berg, the Bush and the Battlefields, and with its proximity to the new King Shaka airport and the biggest port city in Africa, The Bev adds a special dimension to our collection.

Before we leave the Oyster Box, names like the Durban July Room, the Flash On and Sea Cottage suites (ring some very old bells?). We stayed in the latter, at a sumptuous R17 000 night apartment on the beach with its own plunge pool gazing out over the warmth of the Indian Ocean). The Oyster Box, driven by the energy and enthuisiam of Wayne Coetzer, is well on its way to reviving memories of the greatest characters of our sport, Cyril Hurwitz, Laurie & Jean Jaffee, Graham and Rhona Beck, Eric Gallo, legions of them who decades ago, darkened their doors.

And so we passed on, to another Jaffee, Hurwitz, Gallo and Beck haunt, The Vineyard in Cape Town, for the annual Eat Out restaurant awards (for the full story, click on www.hartford.co.za). This place hums, and deservedly so, because as a world class operation, it carries the mantle as the best value-for-money in an overcharged world. Laid out more than a century ago by the much loved Lady Anne Barnard, family- owned and family driven, The Vineyard perches in one of Cape Town’s most spectacular gardens, and in the short time we were there, we renewed an acquaintance with the most powerful minister in the South African government, Trevor Manuel, and became acquainted with the King and Queen of Norway, out here on a state visit.

Wonderfully, The Vineyard traverses without fuss, the trappings of royalty and the trimmings of us normal beings, without so much as a whimper, a testimony to the values which it (and I like to think, ourselves) have come to respect. A wonderful compliment to a team who know what The Vineyard means to South Africa, and will ensure that our grandchildren will know it too.

If you’ve never been to The Bev, The Oyster Box or The Vineyard, you haven’t been anywhere.