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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hartford local seared beef fillet

Seared local beef fillet with fresh horseradish plus creamed potatoes enlivened with horseradish, roasted garlic, juvenile green beans and herbs with a red wine sauce.(Photo : Sally Chance)


Derek Taylor dines grandly at the International Wine and Food Society's dinner at Hartford House an on, um, gourmet bunny chows. Yes, that's possible.

"After a marathon weekend of eating and judging, my most urgent ambitions have now narrowed down to two. First to get star chef, Jackie Cameron at Hartford House to enter a gourmet bunny chow at the next annual festival celebrating KZN's unique food contribution to the world.

Next, to talk the International Wine and Food Society's Durban chapter into launching at this successful celebration of good real food next year. The IWFS members are a delightful group of omnivores but the pleasure of strolling over the grass alongside a row of eager curry-makers' stalls may take some selling.

But first to Jackie's latest IWFS dinner. A chilly Midlands night honed the appetites for the five course dinner and Diemersfontein wine tasting - including a couple of Jackie's edible jokes.

First came a complex meeting of brown mushroom soup with shiitake mushroom powder and Midlands truffle oil. This was a welcome warming soup with a remarkable depth of flavour but I couldn't find much contribution from the shiitake powder. Nevertheless, an auspicious beginning enhanced by the perky flavour of the 2007 Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Shiraz which accompanied it.

On to a warm salad of springbok loin seared with pink peppercorns, spoom, candied walnuts, foie gras terrine and black lava salt. Spoom is a sort of Italian sherbet made with syrup and wine for fruit juice mix and then, when nearly frozen, lightened with a whipped in dose of uncooked meringue to give it air and texture. The dish was excellent, the meat cooked to perfection. Black lava salt is a new one to me, but whatever its provenance, it has a good earthy contribution to flavour.

When it came to the 2007 Diermsfontein Carpe Diem malbec - a rush of big flavours, most satisfying. This is a most interesting growth and hard to find on its own and hard to find on its own : most malbec goes to invigorating other growths in blends.

Then a tartare of Norwegian salmon with Swissland goats' cheese (Swissland is a glorious Midlands source of goats' cheese in several styles,) campfire smoked olives, micro herbs with lemon croutons. This excellent train-crash of flavours and textures with Dimersfontein's Carpe Diem chenin blanc 2009 was a pleasing and lively young partner.

The main dish of seared local beef fillet with fresh horseradish plus creamed potatoes enlivened with horseradish, roasted garlic, juvenile green beans and herbs with a red wine sauce won my instant gratitude. I am an unsuccessful fresh horseradish addict doomed to a life of mostly disappointment in my search for the magic root. The beef was outstanding - obviously grass-fed with some grain finishing from its flavour and texture. A declarative, brightly flavoured 2007 Diemersfontein pinotage supported the dish well.

"Peanut butter and syrup on toast" was Jackie's jokey introduction to the dessert. In it she had combined peanut butter with maple syrup ice-cream, sugar-glazed bananas and a vanilla crème anglaise into an intriguing nougat effect within and around the melange. A good joke, delicious in fact. A nicely edged 2009 viognier from Diemersfontein contrasted effectively with this excellent end to a memorable dinner.

Jackie Cameron is one of our top 10 national chefs and still surprising her fans. We are lucky to have her here".

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American Express Awards 2011

Victor Strugo, Jackie Cameron and Vanessa Singh
(Photo : Hartford House)


As matriculants prepare for their final exams and the last of their school days, our minds turn to prize-giving. In the culinary world, it's no different, as the various gourmet critics put their final pens to paper, and national competitions draw to a close.

One accolade Hartford has always treasured is the American Express Fine Dining Awards, not only for what the certificate represents on the restaurant's wall, but for the respect we have for its organisers, and especially for Victor Strugo, who holds a place among the world's most discerning food critics, let alone South Africa's.

Victor has been a deep inspiration to our team at Hartford House, and a guiding light to Jackie Cameron since her earliest days, when he first discovered her rare talent. Victor knows that at Hartford we operate in unusual circumstances, remote from most of the world, and with people who started out in life with little or no skills to speak of. Over the years, he has watched as young ladies from our community with limited educational qualifications, have grown to the point of representing this country in places like Zurich, Prague and Shangai. Victor's role with us has not been confined to the awarding of prizes; it's been an upliftment project which has changed lives.

Behind these awards is a lovely lady, Vanessa Singh. American Express are lucky to have her; her enthusiasm is infectious, her organisational capacity is evident in the way these awards are managed, and as a member of the previously disadvantaged community herself, she has scaled every ladder there has been to climb.

This past week, Jackie Cameron and one of her assistants Delli Nene, made the pilgrimage to Byzance in Lonehill, where Hartford picked up its 6th consecutive American Express Platinum banner.

House and Leisure Accolade for Hartford Restaurant

Hartford House Restaurant

Hartford House Restaurant

"COMPLIMENTS (as big as they get) from one of the BIGGEST AND THE BEST"

So the accolades have been piling up for Hartford House in the last eighteen months, but its latest achievement in making House & Leisure’s Top Five South African restaurants, ranks with the best of them. Heavens knows how many there are in South Africa, but at the last count, some guru claimed there were more than 60000 eateries in the nation, yet this one, ten kilometres outside the dustiest little dorp in the Midlands at the southernmost tip of what the civilized people to the north of us call the darkest continent, happens to make the top five.

It’s not only a compliment to Jackie Cameron and her team, it’s a miracle in an environment which has emerged from 80% unemployment, a land of few skills, and nothing in the way of culinary virtues.

That Sir Clement Freud, recently deceased and much-lamented raconteur, adventurer and journalist in the UK, once proclaimed Hartford the most beautiful home in the country is a well documented statement, but what a blessing to have that and one of the nation’s elite gourmet paradises.

The August issue of South Africa’s foremost publication on the world of living, House & Leisure, will announce the top five. We have no idea who the competition are, but readers and browsers will get their chance to vote for the king of kings following that issue. Don’t worry, you’ll get the reminder!

home and leisure

WORLD TOP 50 RESTAURANTS : South Africa makes its mark

hartford house desert

Hartford House Restaurant
(Photo : Sally Chance)

We always knew that it was a “big deal” to make the top ten restaurants in South Africa, but its international significance has only just dawned on us. The release recently of the world’s top 50 restaurants included three of South Africa’s Top Ten, Le Quartier Francais, Rust en Vrede and Aubergine. Some accomplishment for a relatively small country at the southernmost tip of what our civilized friends to the north call “the darkest continent”.

For Hartford House and its little “super chef”, Jackie Cameron and her team, this is especially significant, as our restaurant not only counts in South Africa’s Top Ten, but it’s the only one to enjoy that exalted status on this side of the Drakensberg. Somewhere out there, perhaps just beyond the Top 50, Hartford House can justifiably think of itself among the leading restaurants in the world.

Of course, you’ll never know why till you’ve tested it for yourself!

Hartford's Restaurant nominated for Prudential Eat Out Award

Hartford House Restaurant

Hartford House Restaurant

After months of adjudication across the length and breadth of South Africa, a shortlist of 20 restaurants has been released for the coveted Prudential Eat Out Restaurant Awards 2008.

Hartford House is one of the 20 nominees for the 'Oscars of Cuisine' and Executive Chef Jackie Cameron and her team are delighted to be amongst the finalists.

The awards evening, where accolades will be presented for Chef of the Year, Top 10 Restaurants in South Africa and Restaurant of the Year, takes place at the Westin Grand in Cape Town on Sunday 30 November 2008.

Hartford through connoisseur, Victor Strugo's eyes


Fine Cuisine
(Hartford House)

Fine food connoisseur Victor Strugo, always wildly enthusiastic about Hartford - its culinary excellence and the Wellness Centre - had this to say after a recent visit:

“At the risk of sounding predictable, you have again thrilled us with your wizardry and warmed our hearts with your welcome.  Coming to Hartford has become for us something like visiting heaven – it is just a totally different dimension from everyday life, and a significant part of its magic is created in your kitchen.

"We loved both the quiet intimate Monday dinner and Tuesday’s festive party.  Both menus were very impressive, particularly Tuesday’s which I thought very bold for dispensing altogether with fish and giving a succession of intensely flavoured meats.  But you (referring to Jackie Cameron, head chef at Hartford House) paced it wonderfully - the quantities were not overwhelming, the spicy variation held the interest and complex-sounding combinations proved to be totally harmonious dishes, and all beautifully presented.  Also, each dish had a surprise that gave it freshness and originality – I never would have thought that truffle-scenting brinjals would work so well, the candied vegetables were perfect (and beautiful) with that awesome duck and the brittle’s texture and flavour just finished off the dessert perfectly.

"The personal touch was very apparent even in the picnic basket that we enjoyed on the way to Joburg on Wednesday and finished in the office that afternoon.  Your home-made chocolates are wonderful and the description sheet was very thoughtful!"

Victor’s acclaimed fields of expertise include: Le GastroGnome, Saturday Star; Classic Feel Magazine; Wine Magazine; National Selector, American Express Fine Dining Programme; Regional Selection Panel, The World's 50 Best Restaurants