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.

For more information, 
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2010 HOUSE AND LEISURE / VISA BEST OF SA AWARDS

land of legends, kwazulu natal, south africa

Land of Legends - Legacy of the Zulu Kingdom
www.landoflegends.co.za 

"PLAY IT AGAIN SAM : HARTFORD TOPS AGAIN"

There was a time not long ago, when KwaZulu Natal ranked as the poor third cousin in the eyes of international travellers in particular. That's changed in recent years, and if the outcome of the House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA competition is anything to judge our province by, it seems the world has finally awakened to the beauty and diversity of this spectacular region.

Within the walls of the province, there has long existed an intimate collection of hospitality properties known as the Land Of Legends, whose common glue is their celebration of culture, tradition and history, and their outstanding records of social upliftment and environmental preservation. These establishments include Hartford House, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Fordoun Hotel and Spa,the Beverley Hills Hotel and Rocktail Beach Camp, and the first three of these recently made the final five in each of their respective categories in the House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA competition.

Given that the best names in South African hospitality were among the finalists in each category, it's not only a wonderful tribute to the Land Of Legends in general and these properties specifically, but it's a compliment to the depth and diversity of KwaZulu Natal's offerings, that all three were voted national winners by the readers of South Africa's most popular lifestyle magazine, for the second consecutive year.

Hartford House topped the podium as the nation's best restaurant in that category, which included the The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francaise and Le Colombe at Constantia Uitsig, both of which rank in the World Top Fifty. Some achievement for celebrity chef, Jackie Cameron, and her team, considering the remoteness of their locality, 10kms on the Giants Castle side of Mooi River.

Hardly surprising, for their well established reputation for excellence, was the Phinda Homestead Lodge's top spot in the Best Of SA Lodge category, and here again, we should be mindful that the finalists included Ivory Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge and Makanyane Safari Lodge.

In the Spa category, there were two KwaZulu Natal-based properties amongst the finalists, Fordoun Hotel and Spa and the Karkloof Spa, with the outstanding Nottingham Road-based Fordoun the voter's favourite for a second time.

While the voting was not confined to South African readers alone, the outcomes were probably as much a statement about the excellence of these KwaZulu Natal establishments, as they were for the values South Africans treasure most : excellent quality, great dependability and outstanding value, and the fact that increasingly, modern travellers have originality, authenticity and genuine hospitality at the top of their shopping lists, in the choice of where they eat and where they choose to stay.

Visit
www.landoflegends.co.za 

 

THE LEGENDS ON TOUR

(Photos : Paula Mackenzie) 

www.landoflegends.co.za

Some years ago, we teamed up with the late great David Rattray and his wife Nicky, to form what is now popularly known as the Land Of Legends. Our purpose was to highlight the virtues of some of the finest properties in hospitality, but specifically the best in the land of the Zulu. In those days, only 4% of the international traffic patronising our respective hostelries included KwaZulu Natal on their first visit to South Africa, and the success of this venture lies in the fact that today, this figure is closer to 40%.

But then, the local offering is quite extraordinary, and this turn of events comes as little surprise to those who know the diversity, the history and the culture of our region. Couple that with the fact that 2009/10 House and  Leisure/Visa Best Of South African Awards recognised the Hartford Restaurant as the best in the land, the Phinda Homestead Lodge as number one in its category, and Fordoun's Spa as the standard bearer too, and you realise that there's not much left that wasn't covered by our membership, in the realm of national hospitality establishments.

You can take none of these things for granted though, and unless you keep the propaganda flowing, you quickly join the ranks of the forgotten. Ordinarily, we wouldn't be so pretentious as to speak for others, but with a long association with the Cape ourselves, this is a topic on which we have some understanding, having lived there and been partly educated there in our own time. We tend to forget sometimes when we live in the "mother" territory, that there is life beyond the Hottentots-Holland mountains, and sometimes, when it comes to the other side of Drakensberg, we can be quite oblivious.

So last week, the "Legends" took their products to the Western Cape to share the delights of their local properties with journos, travel agents and corporate representatives. It had been raining for a week before we got there, and then the "Sunshine Boys" turned up. What a glorious day in glorious surrounds, from The Vineyard to Waterford, in glorious old cars.

HOUSE AND LEISURE ANNOUNCES BEST OF SA FINALISTS

house and leisure magazine

House and Leisure Magazine
"Stylish SA at Home and Play"

House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA Awards

House and Leisure magazine has announced the finalists in the 2010 Best of SA Awards, in association with Visa. These awards celebrate the best hotel, spa, lodge and restaurant in the country as voted for by House and Leisure readers.

"We have narrowed down the search this year to the top five finalists in each category and now give readers the opportunity to vote for their favourite spot," says Naomi Larkin, editor of House and Leisure magazine. "The finalists represent the best South Africa has to offer, from urban chic hotels and world-class spas and restaurants to luxurious country lodges."

House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA 2010 finalists :

Hotels :

  • The Owner’s Cottage (Franschhoek, Western Cape)
  • The Oyster Box (Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu-Natal)
  • Shamwari Townhouse (Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape)
  • 15 On Orange (Cape Town, Western Cape)
  • Kurland (Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape)

Spas :

Lodges :

Restaurants :

  • Hartford House (Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal)
  • The Tasting Room (Franschhoek, Western Cape)
  • La Colombe (Cape Town, Western Cape)
  • Marianas (Stanford, Western Cape)
  • Restaurant Mosaic (Elandsfontein, near Pretoria, Gauteng)

House and Leisure readers stand a chance to win amazing prizes in the House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA Awards. By voting for the winning hotel, spa, lodge or restaurant, four lucky readers will each win a five-star trip for two to one of the winning establishments. For more information on how to vote, see the August issue of House and Leisure magazine.

House and Leisure is the authority on "Stylish SA at home and play". It is South Africa’s beloved premium home-grown shelter title, showcasing the South African dream : stylish homes and people. Inspiring decor. Delicious and innovative food. Inspiring travel and leisure. House and Leisure's readers are discerning, up-market pleasure seekers who are at home in South Africa and the rest of the world. House and Leisure is their trusted guide, celebrating what matters to them most - their homes, passions and pastimes.

House and Leisure won the Best Décor and Home magazine award at the recent AdVantage AdMag Awards.

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

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”.