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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Food & Home Entertaining

Food & Home Entertaining magazine has just released their top list for 'OUT & ABOUT : KZN MIDLANDS' by Clifford Roberts where Hartford House features in the category 'Best for Fining Dining' : weaves culinary magic in the restaurant Jackie Cameron Renowned chef , situated in a large colonial sandstone building featuring vistas of hills and dales. Cameron travels regularly and applies what she learns in her kitchen. 

Food and wine evenings are a regular event, with dishes such as seared beef fillet served with fresh horseradish, horseradish potato creme, green beans and roasted garlic on offer. For breakfast, don't miss the oats and Irish whiskey with grated apple, raisins and cream.

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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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Hartford House Restaurant / Hartford House (p)

Hartford House Restaurant / Hartford House (p)


Anne Stevens has long ranked among the nation's top food critics. Certainly in KZN, she's the "Queen of Critics". She recently visited us :

The five-course dinners at Hartford House near Mooi River are R325 a head.

Is that expensive? Not at all, bearing in mind that one of the country's top chefs is in the kitchen, and getting better and better with each year of maturity.

Jackie Cameron is now so confident of her abilities that she allows herself little dashes of humour in her cooking, like a Maltabella ice cream at breakfast, a deconstructed peppermint crisp tart after an elaborate dinner and a lamb bunny chow made with mealie bread at lunchtime.

The highlight of a recent dinner was a deeply intense brown mushroom soup made with shiitake powder and truffle oil.

Its flavours lingered and it was perhaps wise to follow it with something fresh and light : Norwegian salmon tartare with cream cheese, smoky olives, microherbs (the new buzzword), lemon zest and croutons.

The play of textures and flavours was fascinating, and echoed in the next dish : seared springbok loin salad with pink peppercorns, beetroot, candied walnuts and little cubes of foie gras terrine.

With all that going before, and appetite pretty much sated, it was perhaps inevitable that the main was less memorable. But crispy Midlands duck breast with potato spaghetti, butternut puree, hazelnuts and cinnamon-infused red wine sauce would stand out on most restaurant menus.

Then the peppermint crisp tart, broken into individual pockets of chocolate, mint, cream and crunch.

There is a new lunch menu, served on the deep veranda in good weather, featuring the likes of local trout with almond potato cream, smoked salmon salad with nori seaweed terrine, and asparagus with exotic mushrooms in a Caesar dressing.

A duo of rabbit - hot terrine and loin wrapped in parma ham - sounds inviting, as do gorgonzola capelletti with olives, green beans, apple, toasted walnuts and walnut oil.

But then just about everything at Hartford is appealing.

It features one of my favourite breakfasts of all time : poached haddock sitting on a tuna fishcake, dressed with caviar, rocket and a subtle black sesame seed sauce.

Just add a corn fritter from the full English breakfast, and you have a winning way to start the day.

It's going to be interesting to watch what direction Jackie takes in the years to come.

Booking is also essential here : 033 263 2713

Extract from The Mercury Good Life