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: House and Leisure Visa Best of SA Awards


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

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pecan nut praline parfait

Pecan Nut Praline Parfait
(Photo : Hartford House)


Let us not underestimate the enormity of the occasion. At a gala function this evening, the Hartford team of Cheryl Goss and Jackie Cameron step up to the winner's podium for the second consecutive year as the country's top restaurant in House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA Awards. The finalists included the national icons La Columbe and The Tasting Room in the Cape Town vicinity, and Mosaic in Gauteng, and yet, despite their remoteness, the gourmet public have proclaimed them the masters.

It's a marvellous tribute to a tireless team, forged from the ranks of a community where unemployment is the norm rather than the exception, and where skills in hospitality when Hartford House first opened its doors fourteen years ago, were almost non-existent.

The great thing is, this team is still a work-in-progress, and there are places they still have to go, yet it needs to be said that it's entirely through the encouragement and patronage of our guests, that all of this has been possible.

For those who travel thousands of miles to visit us, there is good news this morning in the government's interim budget, which relaxes our foreign exchange controls, weakening the Rand, and making travel to South Africa even more competitive. This at a time when the Australian dollar has reached the value of its American counterpart for the first time.

hartford house logo

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land of legends, kwazulu natal, south africa

Land of Legends - Legacy of the Zulu Kingdom


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.




(Photos : Paula Mackenzie) 


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.


Caprese Salad / Jackie Cameron (p)

Caprese Salad / Jackie Cameron (p)

"New Flavours, Exciting Experiences and Inspiration"

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

The dining room tables at Hartford House have offered me unusual opportunities. One of these has been the chance to meet and build lasting relationships with people who have been instrumental in advancing my career. Carla and Alberto Ferrari immediately spring to mind. They have homes in Switzerland and Shelly Beach on the South Coast. It was their love of South Africa - and Hartford House achieving House and Leisure's best restaurant award - that afforded me the opportunity to participate in Michelin Star Kitchens in Switzerland. What an experience!

My five-course South African tasting menu comprised of ingredients such as freshly-picked butternut, springbok, sweet corn, Karoo ostrich and biltong. I am always amazed at the quality of produce sourced by international chefs. Language barriers can pose a problem but I'm noticing more and more that food has no language - except of course the language of love! There's a fusion of the world's many flavours happening. This means traditional tastes are being modernised, reinvented and/or reinterpreted. Countries are adopting one another's flavours and this was illustrated in the meals I ate in Switzerland.

I hope you enjoy some of my latest ideas starting with a crispy, hot pizza topped with room-temperature smoked salmon, creamy cream cheese, freshly-picked, slightly-peppery rocket and a drizzle of lemon olive oil. A perfect light lunch option filled with exciting textures.

A richer alternative is "Vitello Tonnato", a traditional, Italian veal dish topped with a tuna sauce. I viewed this as a new-age, tuna mayonnaise and couldn't wait to get home to try out my version.

We all know how well Parma ham and fresh melon combine. Next time you serve it try marinating the melon in mint syrup before wrapping in the Parma ham. Oh so refreshing!

I unexpectedly crossed the border one day for lunch in Italy. Choosing a traditional Caprese salad with Focaccia bread and Gnocchi Gorgonzola seemed the right thing to do. And it was. What a meal!

On my last evening Carla cooked rare beef fillet. Never have I enjoyed such quality meat abroad. And, the sauce with the beef is without doubt the best and easiest home-cooked accompaniment I know. Try it!

I enjoyed an extremely productive week filled with new flavours and exciting experiences that promise to inspire the creation of many more dishes to be shared with you, my family and friends.

And as they say in Switzerland, depending where you are, bon appétit (French), buon appetito (Italian), mahlzeit (German), bien appétit (Roman) and enjoy your meal (English).

Take these recipes and try them.

swiss flag


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.

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2010 House and Leisure - Visa Best of SA Awards / Hartford House (p)

2010 House and Leisure - Visa Best of SA Awards / Hartford House (p)


We’ve just received the news from the organisers of the House and Leisure/Visa Best of SA Awards, that Hartford has once again made the finalists in the Best Restaurant category. As last years winners, we go into the 2010 edition as the reigning champions, with little to gain and everything to loose, as our friends at Summerhill tell us racing people would describe our position.

We’re always humbled to be selected for these finals, especially when you consider the other finalists in the category include two world top fifty restaurants, so this remains a singular and terribly important honour for us.

To those who know us, we hope that we can rely on your support once again to ensure the crown remains on this side of the Drakensberg. It’s very unusual in hospitality or in the world of cuisine, for local establishments to enjoy the recognition of those who live in “wonderland”, and it’s especially reassuring to know that we got there last year courtesy of the readers of the No.1 lifestyle magazine.

It’s also especially pleasing from a KZN perspective in general, and as members of the Land Of Legends in particular that last year’s winners in their respective categories, Best Lodge and Best Spa, Phinda Homestead Lodge and Fordoun respectively have once again made the finals. For the small, but highly selective brotherhood of Land  Of Legends members, this is an accolade of dreams.

land of legends zulu warrior


land of legends kwazulu natal south africa


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”.