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: Paula Mackenzie


Beef Lasagne / Jackie Cameron (p)

Beef Lasagne / Jackie Cameron (p)

"While transactions build turnovers, relationships build value."

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

I have been blessed with some extremely special staff over the years at Hartford House. I consider myself very lucky. Pressure of work is a great tester, and while transactions build turnovers, relationships build value. If you can stand together in adversity, you can manage anything, and cooking together is the pressure tester for character building. My kitchen team is my second family and with any family, when one is in need, everyone jumps in to help out. My kitchen team was involved in the first "Taste of Durban", at Suncoast Casino, and we were attempting to run Hartford at the same time. Desperation is the mother of most inventions with me, and here was an SOS for help from past staff members. Hence, I thought we should get them to share their favourite home-cooked meal for you to taste this month.

Kezia Duke was my Sous Chef at Hartford, second in charge, for over two years, a true perfectionist. One just has to look at her handwriting to know exactly what she is about. Last weekend we celebrated her hen's/kitchen tea, and can you believe, after working with me that long, she still wants me to be her maid-of-honour! I do feel honoured. She sent through a recipe for a quick-and-easy bacon and courgette crustless savoury tart; wonderful for its simplicity. Use any of your favourite ingredients to make it your own.

Paula Mackenzie, where do I begin? She started at Hartford as a trainee from "ICA", a cooking school in Stellenbosch. Her roles changed significantly as the years went by, with short intervals elsewhere: from trainee, to pastry chef, to sous chef to manager, and eventually, to General Manager at the tender age of 24. Her passion for all-things hotel, not only the food side but the magnificent Hartford gardens and the award-winning wine list, convinced her to hang up her chef's jacket and step over, as us chefs say, "to the dark side." Milk Tart is as South African as Nelson Mandela, and it is appropriate that Paula submitted a recipe for this national favourite, because she too, is proudly South African and I believe her forté is pastry.

Robynne Balcomb, whom I refer to as "my little one," is a past trainee whose arm I have been trying to twist to leave her new-found passion for teaching children and to join us permanently. Her roots are still very foodie, she's an absolute "natural", and she jumps at any opportunity to help out. She recently assisted me in compiling my recipe book "Jackie Cameron at Home," which Penguin Publishers will have on the book shelves early next year. I couldn't have managed without her with all the food preparations for the photo-shoots, and her wonderfully creative food styling, critical to meeting our deadlines. More recently she was my "chef-model" for the launch of my 'all-female chef range' shoot. She sent through two recipes, which I can't wait to try. The cracker biscuits with her "Mum's chicken and broccoli bake" is wonderfully savoury and her coconut and yoghurt fridge tart of condensed and coconut milks, sounds like a hit in the Cameron household.

My right-hand lady, Elaine Boshoff, present Sous chef at Hartford, made the "Taste of Durban" exhibition possible for us, as she held the fort, immaculately, as she always does, while I was trekking between Durban and Mooi River. While running Hartford's kitchen, she was prepping up stock levels and doing my daily demonstration preparations for the show. Our favourite staff or home-cooked meal is our ultra-rich lasagne, an irresistible Elaine speciality.

Here we were, a gathering of my past assistants, aged from 21-30, all in retirement as none of them are cooking professionally these days, and we had a "ripper" of a time; I just hope I can rope them in again next year. The cherry on the top was the visit of Deena Naidoo, Masterchef South Africa, and his wife Kathy, who made the special effort to come and visit us and meet my team. A superb weekend, don't miss it next year; it's one of those not-to-miss dates in the "foodie" calendar, and is bound to grow from strength-to-strength. As cherished a weekend as I can remember in my culinary adventures, time spent with lovely people, doing what we love most. The recipes they have shared with us will bring you the essence of their personalities.

Take these recipes and try them.

chef hat

Send comments and food-related questions to jackie@hartford.co.za. I always look forward to hearing from you.For the latest on local foodie news add me as a friend on FACEBOOK. Find me on Twitter - jackie_cameron.

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef
Hartford House
+27 33 263 2713


paula mackenzie and jackie cameron at the 2010 eat out awards

Paula Mackenzie and Jackie Cameron at the Eat Out Awards 2010


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.


land rover and food and wine society

Chef Jackie Cameron
(Photo : Land Rover / International Wine & Food Society / Hartford House)


Hartford was host to two completely diverse yet highly prestigious gatherings on the weekend. The one came in the form of two visits by Land Rover, who brought more than 59 guests to the hotel as part of a promotion of their exceptional new range of vehicles.

The other was the International Wine & Food Society, comprising some of South Africa's leading "foodies". Both, it seems were "happy campers", and judging by the compliments of the Wine & Food Society it was up there with the best outings ever. Katherine Reardon, Chairman, wrote :

"Jackie, your menu was superb and it was truly one of the finest functions that I have ever enjoyed in my 21 years of membership in the Society. The menu was a delight to us prior to the event. However, it was only at the actual dinner that we were able to appreciate the nuances and subtleties of the menu design.

Each course was a masterpiece and I will long remember the intensity of the mushroom soup with that Shitake Powder and the delicious pungence of the truffle oil. The loin of Springbok was perfectly presented and was so fresh and captivating. We were all very intrigued by the black lava salt!

I'm still salivating at the memory of the Salmon and your wonderful Midlands Beef was outstanding. Lastly, your delicious "Peanut Butter on Toast" was a complete triumph!

We were very impressed with the wines from Diemersfontein and the way each wine complimented the various courses.

Finally, thank you to you Paula and your team for providing us with such excellent service. It was a seamless affair and all the guests commented on the subtle and discreet service from your staff.

Thank you for making our Midlands weekend such a success - it was a real triumph thanks to Hartford House!".


Leopard / Philip Mackenzie (p)

Leopard / Philip Mackenzie (p)


There are people who pay independent fortunes to find leopards and their cubs in the wild reserves of Africa. At Summerhill, we’ve long preserved the fauna and flora around us in conjunction with our neighbours, and we are the proud possessors today of a rich legacy and a deep diversity in the animals and plant types that characterize our environment.

Among the predator creatures that frequent our territory are Caracal (Rooikat), several packs of Jackal, the occasional Cape Fox, and Serval. We’ve been known in the district to have the odd rare visit from a Leopard, and our horse breeding colleagues up the road at Camargue Stud once suffered a loss of several yearlings as a result of their taking flight when a male of the species passed through their paddock several years back.

We don’t recall any reports of sightings on Summerhill though, so imagine our surprise on Monday evening when our hotel manager, Paula Mackenzie, spotted a female leopard and her three cubs on the roadside at the junction dip between our two properties, The Springs and Summerhill. What a sight, and what a pleasure to know that she should feel comfortable raising a family in our neighbourhood. Leopards are strongly territorial animals, and operate within a well defined range. They have been known to pitch up at the strangest places, but seldom venture beyond the kloofs and forests that provide cover for them during the day. There’s little that will prey on their cubs at Summerhill, and it says something for our conservation practices here that this lady should feel free to roam as she has, to our eastern most boundary.

Something for visitors to look forward to at Hartford House, as she’s likely to be in the vicinity for some time, while the youngsters grow up.


Gerhard Patzer / Hotel & Restaurant - Hartford House (p)

Gerhard Patzer / Hotel & Restaurant - Hartford House (p)


Gerhard Patzer, legendary General Manger of Hilton Hotel Durban, had this to say about his recent stay at Hartford House.

“I had a fantastic stay in your hotel and your staff are extremely friendly and the food was excellent. Paula showed me around your farm and I have to say it was very very impressive. Gill obviously enjoyed the stud farm section which made her weekend”.


Paula Mackenzie receives the Diners Club Diamond Wine List Award on behalf of Hartford House

Paula Mackenzie receives the Diners Club Diamond Wine List Award on behalf of Hartford House


James Bond’s originator, Ian Fleming, once proclaimed that “Diamonds are forever”, and whilst you can’t say there is any permanence about your status as holding one of the best wine lists in the nation, Hartford House was on Monday night awarded one of only two Diamond class accolades in KZN, in the revered Diners Club annual contest.

Holders for nine consecutive years of the Platinum Award, Diamond wine lists are as rare as needles in a haystack, and this one comes alongside Hartford’s standing as the only KZN restaurant to feature in the nation’s Top Ten.

The truth is incontrovertible: The Best Value in the World.


The Hartford Zulu Dance Troupe
(Hartford House)


One thing you’ll always notice about the change of seasons in the Drakensberg area, is that each season has a distinct character, and this year Spring has been as spectacular as ever.

It’s not only the birds that are singing: undoubtedly the best boy’s choir in the world, the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, is situated just up the road from us and they’re preparing for their Summer and Christmas seasons. If you’re in the vicinity of Hartford House, be sure to let us arrange a visit for you to one of life’s most outstanding choral experiences. We can even pack you a delicious picnic lunch and direct you via South Africa’s art capital, Clarens, all in the same morning.

Besides a burst of greenery and the profusion of young buds, they’re foaling “royalty” at South Africa’s champion racehorse breeding establishment, Summerhill Stud. This weekend also witnessed the departure of more than 100 bouncing two-year-olds to the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale in Johannesburg, on their way to racing glory no doubt.

Most of these youngsters have never set foot on a moving vehicle in their lives, and it’s a joy to watch the skills of our young Zulu horsemen coaxing them aboard to the encouraging serenades of school children, wives and "gogos" (or grandmothers) at the loading ramps.

You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to get among the trophy trout on this property. Just a few weekends back, two of our young guests availed themselves of our "master-class fly casting lessons", and each came away with prize trout of between six and seven pounds.

Another couple, whilst enjoying a “bomb-proof” horse ride in the direction of the Boathouse and Magic Mirror lake, were thrilled by a sudden stampede of startled Reedbuck and the sighting of the endangered Oribi.

We continue to be surprised, (but oh so pleasantly) at the pilgrimage of foreigners who travel from so far to visit with us at Hartford.

While we’ve always enjoyed a healthy sprinkling of Brits and Europeans, and a throng from the horse-loving countries to the west and east of us, we appear to have new devotees from the United States and Australia. People are supposedly rediscovering their roots, and it seems this area (Hartford House and Summerhill in particular) offers one of the warmest, most hospitable and genuinely authentic experiences on the planet.

There are others who delight in the entertainment of our Zulu dance troupe, and it’s a source of considerable pride to tell you that in a couple of weeks, they'll be winging their way to their third World Traditional Dance Championships to be held in the United States. The troupe have already achieved 2nd and 3rd in Tokyo and Hong Kong respectively and believe they now know how it’s done, and we’re confident they’ll return home the best Traditional Dance troupe in the world.

We know we don’t have to ask you to join us in wishing them well on their way. It’s the visits of our Guests that have encouraged and uplifted our people to such a degree, and we’re forever grateful for the contributions you make.

We sincerely hope this note finds you in the “pink”. If you aren’t already on your way to us, please visit us on our website at www.hartford.co.za for the latest in what’s up at Hartford. There’s just a tiny chance we might be able to lure you back before too long!

With the Rand at unprecedented levels against the major currencies, South Africans will be staying at home more than ever, and our foreign friends will find us the best value in the world, by a country mile.

Warmest regards,