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: Anne Stevens


Entrance to the Hartford Estate, Mooi River, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa / Nicholas Goss (p)

Entrance to the Hartford Estate, Mooi River, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa / Nicholas Goss (p)

Hartford included in Anne Stevens' Eating Out Restaurant Guide

Whatever they may say about the troubles of the world, there are still pockets of excellence which continue to stand out despite the gloom. Hartford House is one of those, maintaining its position as one of the most decorated hospitality businesses in the land this year. We never take these things for granted, but we're always grateful for the recognition and the encouragement they bring to our team. Hartford is something of a miracle story, in a district short on skills and job opportunities. Few of our people know the look of a school leaver's certificate, yet they are born of a natural talent for making people feel at home, and they're among the few in the world who still regard service as a dignity.

It's great to be recognised by the country as a whole, and we thrive on the acclaim of those abroad, but it's as gratifying knowing that you're appreciated in your own neighbourhood. Anne Stevens, the most revered of KwaZulu-Natal's food critics is our senior journalist, who has eateries living in anxious anticipation of her approval at this time of the year. Last Friday her annual Eating Out guide appeared for the umpteenth time in decades, in The Mercury. Remarkably, for a city which ranks as the third largest in the country, Durban doesn't celebrate a restaurant in Anne's top echelons. There are some fine restaurants in South Africa's premier holiday playground, worthy of mention in any collection of the country's best, but if you're looking for something out of the ordinary, the leisurely drive in the Mooi River direction of the Drakensberg, is essential. Hartford was once again one of only two in the province to enjoy her coveted four-star acknowledgment; coming from Anne, that's some compliment. Like everything else on this property, from racehorses, horse feeds, equine insurance to hospitality, the motto is : "World class and beyond". "Auntie Anne's" endorsement that we've been faithful to our creed, is heartening.

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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


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”.

The magnitude of Hartford's Top Ten Restaurant Award

Cheryl Goss and Jackie Cameron / Paula Mackenzie (p)

Cheryl Goss and Jackie Cameron / Paula Mackenzie (p)

"Form is temporary : CLASS IS PERMANENT"

There’s an old saying in the racing world that you might fluke the odd big performance, but it’s the ability to consistently achieve at the top level that’s the real mark of quality. The magnitude of Hartford House’s Top Ten Restaurant Award last Sunday evening, is only just beginning to sink in, and the extent of it is quietly coming home to us.

The reality is that none of these achievements are overnight occurrences, and they’re no different to winning Breeders’ Championships. We know what it took to put a team together capable of landing the spoils in the horse business, and the sustained record of four consecutive championships has been the product of almost 30 years of blood, sweat and tears.

In Hartford’s case, the journey started almost eight years ago, with the recruitment of a man by the name of Richard Carstens, who came to us with the option of working at Hartford or at our new venture at the time, Lynton Hall. As it turned out, despite Hartford’s own requirements, we felt that Lynton’s need was the greater because it was in its infancy, and after eight months at Hartford, Richard relocated to the coastal resort, where he took Lynton to a top ten finish in the national awards, and in the end, was elected the nation’s top chef.

As Richard was departing for Lynton Hall, we discovered a waif-like Thespian, who had already spent a year at the Mount Grace Country House & Spa, in the form of Pietermaritzburg born and raised Jackie Cameron, and she proceeded to beaver away as industriously as anyone we’ve ever come across in an already industrious team. Though wet behind the ears, Jackie quickly revealed an underlying potential that’s rare not only in people of her age, but uncommonly so in older people too. It wasn’t long before local critics nabbed onto her coattails, and began to invest in her growth. People like Mechthild Yorke-Mitchell, then restaurant critic for Wine Magazine, Anne Stevens of The Mercury, Derek Taylor of the Sunday Tribune, and latterly and very significantly, Victor Strugo of The Saturday Star, who has been a powerful personal mentor to Jackie. All of them caught onto the fire that was raging at Hartford.

Of course, there's been many other accolades, and last year the Hartford restaurant made the Dine Top 10: Deluxe 2008 voted by Diners club international & Wine magazine, but the Prudential Eat-Out Restaurant Awards are the summit of them all, and to have achieved this is the ultimate for any young chef or restaurant anywhere.

The point of this is that under Cheryl’s tutelage, in the relatively short space of 12 years, we’ve seen the emergence of two national celebrities in the culinary game, and it’s all a result of a sustained obsession that goes beyond perfection.

There’s no team in the world that can appreciate the significance of Hartford better than that at Summerhill. We know what it takes, and we understand what it is that keeps you there. Class, class and more class, and nothing less than class.