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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Port becomes suddenly hip

Ollie Dabbous / Times Live (p)

Ollie Dabbous / Times Live (p)

Pendock Uncorked

"South Africa's leading independent drinks commentator"

Winston Churchill, greatest Englishman of the last millennium (even if mum was American) has been in the news a lot this month in the run-up to and aftermath of, the pomp and circumstance funeral of another UK PM Margaret Thatcher. Winnie has popped up looking mightily pissed off on the new £5 note (and judging by the state of the UK economy, he has reason to be glum) while his eponymous Port is served at London's trendiest restaurant called Dabbous, whose eponymous chef Olivier also looks distinctly Churchillian circa his capture by Field Cornet Rooi Sarel Oosthuizen in 1899 in Phil Fisk's pic in the Observer Food Monthly, above.

The hipness of Port was confirmed last Saturday at Anysbos in Bot River at the Bears and Barrels festivities when I bumped into clean-shaven Alvaro, winemaker at Quinta do Tedo. Alvaro has made a white Port for Sebastian Beaumont from Chenin Blanc grapes. Far drier (35g residual sugar) and far lighter (17% alcohol) than you'd expect from the Douro, it will also likely be far cheaper although Alvaro was not totally happy with the quality of the grape spirit used to fortify the wine. Served over crushed ice with a sprig of marijuana, is this the aperitif for the coming summer? If Churchill's white Port is a popular aperitif for Londoners in Dabbous, what is to stop it becoming a hit in Bot River?

Of course the most auspicious place for Johnny Graham to list his Graham's Ports is at Hartford House in the Natal Midlands. Food goddess Jackie Cameron puts country cooking onto the next level and down the road is the site of the capture of Winnie during the Anglo-Boer War when the crafty Boers derailed his armoured train. It's been downhill for SA railways ever since. Mahatma Ghandi was a stretcher bearer at the nearby battle of Spioenkop where that Field Marshall of the British Empire, Jan Smuts, was batting for the other side. It's been downhill for SA hospitals ever since.

Come on Johnny: Winnie, Jannie and Gandhi at the same place at the same time, was there ever such a black hole of imperial gravitas? Only Mrs. Brown herself could have trumped it and she was on holiday on the Isle of Wight. Hartford House and Churchill's Port will bring the Dabbous experience to the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal.

Jackie Cameron goes Biblical

Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home


Mick Goss Summerhill Group CEO

Mick Goss Summerhill Group CEO

Listen, I'm no gourmet critic, but I know good food and good wine. I earned my stripes in the viticulture world as a first year at Stellenbosch, and like horses and books, it's occupied my curiosity ever since.

I've always said you want to steer clear of creative women if you don't have deep pockets, because they're always looking for new things to do. But in my wife Cheryl, I think I got lucky. Firstly, I always ranked her in the "Top Ten" in the land, and while like me she's getting on now, I'd still rate her in the top ten in Mooi River! Besides, those who know her and know Summerhill and Hartford, will tell you she's extraordinarily gifted. In the creative sense, I mean.

Eleven years ago, she recreated Lynton Hall, and within a year of its opening, it made Conde Nast's Top 50 "Hot Hotels" of the world. Within three years, the man she sent from Hartford to head up the Lynton kitchen, Richard Carstens, had earned Eat Out's title as South Africa's leading chef.

The girl (literally) she recruited into Richard's place at Hartford House, was a nineteen-year-old stripling from St John's DSG in Pietermaritzburg. In ten years, Jackie Cameron has rocketed up the culinary ranks, taking just about every trophy there is to be taken. At 25, she became the youngest chef ever to make the Eat Out national "Top Ten", and these days, she's the pin-up girl in most worthwhile gourmet magazines.

It helps, of course, to be glamorous - she's the kind of blue-eyed blonde we all used to swoon over as youngsters, but glamour isn't part of the Cameron beat. Her feet are well and truly riveted to the soil that yields her vegetables, and she's about the best adjusted thirty-year old I know. What she is though, is obsessed, not only about cooking, but about work. If you're not of a matching passion as an aspiring chef, the Hartford kitchen's not for you.

That she's now one of cooking's most recognisable faces is a tribute to these things, and naturally, to an inborn talent of abiding proportions, nurtured by a doting grandmother from the time she first sat on a potty. Jackie Cameron has come an awful long way, to the point that Penguin Books finally managed to persuade her to put pen to paper in her first about-to-be-published "Jackie Cameron Cooks At Home".

This is the girl we know, the jeans-and-takkies type, sharing the secrets of her upbringing with a worshipping public who've been following her newspaper articles and the columns of this website, for years. I don't pretend to know how she ranks among the most-visited scribes on the internet, but I'm willing to bet the Alexa ratings will have her in the top five.

Besides being one of the continent's best chefs, she's as good a teacher. And she's doing what all good South Africans should be doing. Ten years ago, she recruited a handful of young "casuals" out of the Summerhill stables, and she taught them to wash dishes. And then to wash "veggies", to bake bread, and finally, to cook. Four years ago, one of these Zulu ladies, with just a Grade 7 education, represented South Africa at an international cooking expo in Zurich. Another followed a year later in Prague, while yet another cooked for the country in Shanghai last August; while a third generation member of the farm staff, made the January page of Unilever's "Twelve Inspiring Chefs". Inspiring, isn't it? It gets you up in the mornings.

"Jackie Cameron Cooks At Home" is not about the recipes that've made her famous, nor the cooking that has "foodies" from around the globe making the Hartford pilgrimage. It's about the path she's walked thus far; the tastes, the scents and the scenery that've shaped her life, and the people that've made her the woman she's become. For the home-cooker or the desperate housewife, it's the "must have" Bible of the modern culinary era.

Visit www.jackiecameron.co.za for more information.

Happy Eater

Jackie Cameron's Chocolate Fudge / Karen E. Photography (p)

Jackie Cameron's Chocolate Fudge / Karen E. Photography (p)


Looking at the weather forecasts on the BBC, for the Brits, it's the season to be miserable:Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or winter depression, affects almost 1 in 10 Britons. Fortunately for those who contract "SAD", there is an antidote in endorphin-releasing ingredients, and chefs and mixologists in the downcast corridors of Europe or the islands to the northwest, find salvation in putting smiles back onto their menus.

We're often taxed in these columns by some of our readers on the intellectual side, so we're going to turn this into a mini quiz. Nobody out there doesn't know the four tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter, but now there's a new one. We're not sure of its origins, but "umami" sounds very much like a piece from the unwritten pages of the Zulu oral dictionary. Chefs will tell you, it's the reason we sometimes crave grilled meats, noodles and sushi - because they're high in umami, the endorphin releasing agent. Foods that are lathered in umami provide the "tastiness" factor which makes us salivate and comforts us when we eat them.

The endorphin release makes them compelling, which explains the often-heard maxim "I need my sushi fix". Miso paste, soy sauce and seaweed (note the Japanese connection) are also rich in this little jewel of the culinary world, while it's also found in non-Japanese foods like parmesan cheese, fish sauce, very ripe tomatoes and ceps. Though chilli releases other things which, depending on your tolerance levels, makes it either memorable or forgettable, umami is addictive nonetheless, even in things like burgers. And if chili is not for you, try a rich Jackie Cameron chocolate brownie, and you can feel the happiness engulfing you pretty much as soon as you take your first bite.

Of course, umami is not restricted to food. A famous pick-me-up is the invigorating sweet potato daiquiri, which contains grated ginger stem and Thai red chilli. It's rich and sweet, while the low-GI influences of the potato and coconut milk quells the hunger for sugar cravings. What about an energising vodka, beetroot and goija berry cocktail, earthy and smooth? Or a rum and chocolate and freshly-squeezed carrot juice cocktail? Sip it, and you'll taste the chocolate instantly, followed by the vanilla spices and carrot. It not only warms, it's a passionate drink.

As we pen this note, it's the 17th April and its 31 degrees in Mooi River. Why should we be worried about the Brits or the Europeans anyway, who could just as easily be here at Hartford in the most blissful climate in the world? Because we care.

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Africa.com Restaurant Guide celebrates Africa's Cuisine

Africa.com Platinum Restaurant Award / Hartford House (p)

Africa.com Platinum Restaurant Award / Hartford House (p)

"African cuisine is colourful, diverse and cultured, and is a largely unexplored aspect of the continent that offers a refreshing alternative to game drives and extreme adventures."

The recently launched Africa.com Restaurant Guide offers restaurants gradings in three tiers. The platinum establishments are the crème de la crème­, those that offer an exceptional dining experience. They are followed by the gold tier, which offers culinary excellence, and the bronze tier which offer solid choices for casual dining.

Restaurants are rated according to their service, quality of the food, wine list, general ambience and value for money.

Four restaurants; two from Gauteng and two from KwaZulu-Natal, were singled out for platinum status at the launch. There are also four in the Western Cape which have yet to be announced.

The restaurants are Five Hundred at the Saxon and DW Eleven-13, both in Johannesburg, and Ile Maurice and the restaurant at Hartford House, both in KwaZulu-Natal.

"We know we made the right choices," says Benny Masekwameng, a member of the Africa.com culinary council and a Masterchef South Africa judge. "We need to let people know what we can do. There's a lot that's said about our country in terms of other attractions, and now our industry has the chance to reach a wider audience around the world."

Masekwameng says the country has top-notch culinary talent, but that talent needs a platform such as Masterchef and now, the Africa.com restaurant guide.

All the qualifying restaurants were announced at the launch, and those achieving platinum also received a plaque which they can display with pride.

"Africa.com is the definitive address for information on the continent," says the culinary council's third member Richard Harden, who publishes a highly regarded guide to restaurants in the UK, "and we expect the restaurant guide will become the obvious choice for diners in Africa."

"What better way for a restaurant to get expert advice on what people want?" says Masekwameng. "From the top traveller with money to spend to average tourists, the list caters for everyone. But you need to make sure that your establishment delivers - it's all about consistency and keeping the reputation you've built."

Read more about the Africa.com Restaurant Guide

Faviken... the new Noma

Magnus Nilsson of Faviken
(Photos : Faviken Restaurant)

"Call of the Wild"

Most of our readers will know of Bruce Palling's recent proclamation of Hartford House among the top three country restaurants on the planet. That's a helluva statement about any eatery, but it's all the more so coming from a journalist of his standing, considering he is the European critic for one of the world's most influential newspapers, the Wall Street Journal. We were obviously intrigued to know who our "clubmates" were, since he'd courted Sweden's Faviken and Australia's Royal Mail as the three making up the trifecta.

Our "horsey" followers might ask what, besides the word "trifecta", "this has to do with Summerhill and horses, and the answer resides not only in the fact that so many of our visitors to the stud have intimate memories of Hartford, but also, both these businesses have adopted excellence as their benchmark, and any celebration for Hartford is a celebration for Summerhill, and vice versa. And let's be honest, most of us live to eat, we don't eat to live.

Introducing his critique on the Hartford restaurant, Mr Palling opened with "I can't say I was looking forward to this journey, as it was more than a thousand miles round trip for what looked like a bit of a tourist trap in the middle of nowhere. I had imagined that this was a charming backwaterey sort of place that was suffering from being there for too long. Big Mistake. I would put Hartford House in the same league as Faviken in Sweden and the Royal Mail in Australia, as one of the very best isolated/remote places to eat anywhere on the planet".

While we haven't yet had the honour of visiting the Royal Mail, we have at least discovered its whereabouts. It's located in a tiny hamlet called Dunkeld, about 300 kilometres north west of Melbourne. Faviken is even more remote. On any journey there, unless you go by helicopter, you're obliged to hire a limo or a taxi; in either event, you're going to need a driver, and at some point on the journey, he's going to tap his brakes, cock his head over his shoulder, and ask "Have you got everything you need for tonight, like a toothbrush?" he asks "Because this is the last village. After here there is nothing". Forty minutes of empty road later, the car will pull up at its destination: a small crop of copper-coloured buildings on a seemingly-endless 18th century hunting estate, surrounded by a wilderness of forests, mountains and valleys. But, remote though it is, travellers from America to Estonia, France to Japan make this same trip every day, because in one of these buildings, a chef by the name of Magnus Nilsson runs a restaurant which seats just 16 patrons. And, like Hartford, because of its intimacy and location and for what it aspires to, it's the future of fine dining; in Faviken's case, it's aspiring to become one of the most influential dining establishments in the world.

Nilsson was born 170 miles away in the small town of Selanger. At 19, he signed up to work at Pascal Barbot's 3 Michelin-starred restaurant, L'Astrance, in France. On his return to Sweden, he joined Faviken's owners as an advisor on their wines, and in 2008 decided to overhaul the estate's restaurant, which at the time catered to skiers, specialising in moose fondue. It didn't do well. Five years on, the restaurant pulls as many people as the skiing slopes which used to fill the aircraft.

Here's the Faviken routine. Guests arrive around 5pm and are shown to their rooms, which have light wood walls and thickly blanketed beds. Next you spend an hour sipping cold beer in a hot sauna overlooking the hills. At 7pm, having shared a state of virtual nudity with your fellow diners, you converge for drinks and the first of 20 enterprising courses, from an amuse-bouche of wild trout's roe in a crust of dried pig's blood, to raw mussel and wild pea pie, served by the restaurant's four chefs. For the marrow-based course, Nilsson saws open the moose bone, right there in the middle of the dining room.

Tonight's menu is light on root vegetables; ninety-five percent of the ingredients are grown, foraged or reared on the estate (when Nilsson goes for a walk, he takes his gun in case he spies game). This year, the roots came up late, so diners eat whatever's ripe that day. Get the drift?

"That doesn't cut costs though, it's super-expensive to produce this food". The restaurant is necessarily site-specific: not ideal. It can't relocate or expand without ceasing to be Faviken, with so few covers. Like Hartford, you don't want to grow it; for fear of losing one of your greatest drawcards: intimacy. And since we're both operating with the finest ingredients, it will always, in a remote environment likes ours, be difficult to get the ingredients. "If you have a restaurant that needs 500 langoustines a week, you would struggle to get the quality we work with. I want it to be like this because one of the good aspects is that I like to do the cooking myself. I don't want to train a 100 people to do my stuff," says Nilsson. Those that know Jackie Cameron, will understand what he's saying.

If that sounds like artistic protectiveness, it's because it is. Both of us prioritise "hands-on" over perceived culinary wisdom. Cooking is not an act of science; it's silly to think that just because you know the temperature at which coagulation occurs in a piece of meat, by simply applying the temperature, it's going to be perfect every time. Every piece of meat is different. Similarly, Nilsson prefers beef from 5 to 10 year old dairy cows, rather than the 2-year-olds most butchers use. They have better marbling and more concentrated flavours, and patrons are not critical of ingredients. "They just believe what people say".

Along with Noma in Copenhagen, (according to San Pellegrino and Aqua Panna's power list, the best restaurant in the world, Faviken, has reasserted Scandinavia's presence on the gastronomic map. The question is, will it prove a flash in the pan?

"I think this huge interest in Scandanvian food will mellow down", he says. "What frustrates me today, you can go to a number of high profile British restaurants, and they've been fed the aesthetic language of Noma, which is awesome, but which doesn't belong there. They should focus on their own area. Such places would do better to imitate in spirit rather than the letter. The most important thing is that we are, I think, showing how things could be". Although historically, Sweden has had a decadent cuisine, much of the knowledge has been lost over the generations, with the move to what one might term "westernization". To reinvigorate the culinary's regional traditions, they need to showcase ingredients in their purest form, much as Cameron and her team at Hartford do. The result is that most of what comes out of Nilsson's kitchen, is raw.

Critics are billing Faviken as the new Noma. Unsurprisingly, that makes it harder to get a table, and now, there's the Faviken cookbook, equal parts local history, photo essay and instruction manual, designed to bring the world a taste of the little restaurant in the hills. In true Nilssonian fashion, it omits timings and measurements from the receipes. Is he concerned that it might render the book uncommercial? "Not at all. Who buys these books to cook from anyway? There are going to be a few who are willing to try the tough receipes, but the point is that they read the history, and get inspired by the way we work, and pick up things. Then they can do something nice themselves".

For more information, please visit :


One of the Three Best Country Restaurants on the Planet

Emperors Palace Summer Ready To Run Sale, School Of Excellence, Summerhill Stud / Leigh Willson (p)

Emperors Palace Summer Ready To Run Sale, School Of Excellence, Summerhill Stud / Leigh Willson (p)

"It doesn't get much bigger than this."

The Washington Post is America's most famous newspaper. When they talk, you listen. Just recently, their man in the food business said "Hartford House is one of the three best country restaurants on the planet" On the planet? Yes, and if he had the means, he'd hire a jet for his twelve best friends and head to Hartford for a long weekend.

Fortunately you don't need a jet to get here. All you need do is turn up at the Emperors Palace Summer Ready To Run Sale on Wednesday 20th February, and the team at Hartford House will cook your socks off. After that, we'll show you a few horses, and if you're in the mood, you may even go home with an Igugu, a Pierre Jourdan, an Imbongi or a Blueridge Mountain. They all came from here, and there are bound to be more of them.

P.S. If you haven't already replied to the invitation we've sent you, please remember, there is only limited seating at our School of Excellence, and there are not even hotdogs for those who don't have a reservation.


Enquiries :
Tarryn Liebenberg +27 (0) 33 83 787 1982
or email tarryn@summerhill.co.za

"BA" is "A" as well as "B"

"Bloody Agreeable" / British Airways (p)

"Bloody Agreeable" / British Airways (p)

"South Africa's Top 5 Restaurants"
-British Airways

Mick Goss Summerhill CEO

Mick Goss
Summerhill CEO

I'm sure we've all heard the by-line among those customers that swear there's nothing to touch British Airways in this part of the world, that the abbreviated version actually means "bloody agreeable".

I was on my way to Cape Town the other day, when I bumped into a few old pals who were about to depart on a BA flight, in the

lift. They mentioned that they'd just picked up in the Business Class lounge on BA's selection of South Africa's Top Five restaurants. These are them, apparently in no particular order:

The Test Kitchen, Cape Town
 - Chef Luke Dale-Roberts

An eclectic establishment with a contemporary approach that is producing the most exciting cuisine in South Africa.

DW Eleven-13, Johannesburg
Chef Marthinus Ferreira

This is the most sophisticated place in Johannesburg. Don't overlook their gutsy signature dish - a slow-roast farm chicken with pomme purée.

Hartford House, KwaZulu-Natal
Chef Jackie Cameron

Located in an historic mansion at South Africa's most famous stud farm, diners sit around the original dining table and eat tartare of ostrich or poached quail. Among the top three faraway eateries in the world.

Tasting Room, Le Quartier Français, Franschhoek
Chef Margot Janse

The most stylish restaurant in Africa? Diners choose between a couple of eight-course tasting menus which feature the very best local ingredients presented in a playful manner.

Jordan, Stellenbosch
Chef George Jardine

Located on a wine estate. Straightforward authentic cuisine, with the best cheese selection in the country.

Enough said.

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Back To Basics

The Hartford Estate smothered in icy powder, August 2012
(Photos : Leigh Willson)

"I found muscles in my body I'd forgotten I had while whisking, kneading and beating, and producing choux pastry for profiteroles for a more-than-a-metrehigh croque-en-bouche with no electricity was no joke."

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

Driving in the relentless snow through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands in August showed me just how reliant I was on one of our most widely-used forms of energy - electricity.

The saga began on my return trip from Jo'burg. Usually it's quicker - and easier - to drive from Mooi River rather than to fly from Pietermaritzburg or Durban, but this trip back was a 9 1/2 hour nightmare through the heaviest snow storm I have ever experienced. During the drive home, I experienced such longing for the cosy ambience my home offers with under-floor heating and a warm bed, not knowing that for the next six days I'd be deprived of the luxuries I had come to take for granted. My saving graces that night were three duvets and my cat Mallow.

The next day wasn't much better - the deafening thud of snow from the trees above my cottage falling on to the corrugated iron roof kept me awake most of the night and at sunrise the dawn chill went straight through my bones. However, the biggest challenge for the day ahead wasn't the cold or the lack of sleep and cold - we were low on staff and not only did I have cooking demonstrations and an International Food and Wine Society dinner, but we had the day-to-day kitchen chores to accomplish.

Clad in my chef's whites I stepped out of my house and sunk almost knee deep into the snow. Clearly, this wasn't going to be a day for sissies. After extricating my car from the snow, I eventually arrived at work after midday to find that Hartford House had also suffered the ravages of the snow storm; my sous chef Elaine was late for duty as two trees in her garden had landed on her car.

I was taken back to my training over the next six days when as much as possible had to be done by hand because we had very little electricity. I found muscles in my body I'd forgotten I had while whisking, kneading and beating. And, producing choux pastry for profiteroles for a more-than-a-metrehigh croque-en-bouche with no electricity was no joke.

Everything took so much longer to prepare because time was spent on simple tasks that were normally far quicker with electricity. Thankfully we were incredibly impressed with how successful our gas-cooked scones turned out to be.

To top it all off we had a wedding at Hartford House that weekend - and the bride had chosen an unusual dinner menu with a lot of homely platters of food. Normally our mains wouldn't require an electric oven, but we had hundreds of Yorkshire puddings to make and just before service, the generator died. This took cooking by candlelight to another level. That evening I thought the universe was seriously testing our culinary skills, but we took the challenges and overcame them. We were all working harder, faster and cleverer than before.

The kitchen team was put up at the hotel over the six days but we couldn't even enjoy the five star luxury properly because, with no electricity, we couldn't have a relaxing post-service bath! Having to adhere to a bath-time roster was a small issue really, but by day six we were all desperate to bath in our own homes. A happy chef means happy guests and this irritation was taking its toll on our usually happy kitchen team. You can imagine my joy when finally on day six, the warm glow of lights welcomed me home to my cottage.

The week delivered a record amount of snow for the area, as well as an action-packed, trying time for the Hartford House team. But as we reverted to the basics of cooking and serving, we were glad to have the fundamental principles and techniques of cooking up our sleeves. Clearly, you never know when you may need them.

Extract from Chef! Issue 32

The RASA Rosetta Award 2012

RASA Rosetta Award 2012 / Hartford House (p)

RASA Rosetta Award 2012 / Hartford House (p)

"Award of Service Excellence"

Hartford House is honoured to have received the 2012 RASA Rosetta Award of Service Excellence.

The RASA (Restaurant Association of South Africa) Rosetta Award is an award given to restaurants and individuals that strive for Service Excellence in the restaurant industry. It is recognition of the highest honours for service excellence and overall contribution to the upliftment of the restaurant industry in South Africa.


Why Twenty Twelve won't be 2012

Entrance to the Hartford Estate / Nicholas Goss (p)

Entrance to the Hartford Estate / Nicholas Goss (p)

"Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses"

Mick Goss Summerhill CEO

Mick Goss
Summerhill CEO

Mick GossThere've been all sorts of predictions on how 2012 would turn out, not the least of which is the foreboding suggestion that the world will come to an end on the 21st December. By our calculations, that leaves most of us with about a week to live, but if you believe the movie "2012", there is salvation for anyone living within reach of the Drakensberg mountains. In that context, it's comforting to know that we're just over half an hour from Giant's Castle, and if what they have in mind is a flood of proportions to which only Noah can relate, there'll be time enough for anyone booked into Hartford House to make it up there as well. The point of my note is that if you don't already have a reservation at Hartford, get one because, in the same instant, you can enjoy a "Last Supper" before the curtain call at what is now officially KZN's Number One restaurant!

From an operational perspective though, we'd have to say that the outcome of the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale last month, is the principal reason why twenty twelve won't be 2012. By any stretch, the sale was a miracle, a tribute to good horses, good people and great customers, a convergence of all the ingredients in serendipity, and an alignment of the stars. Unless the Mayans had something else in mind, it seems that what they were predicting was that 2012 would be not so much the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. In that case, we have much to look forward to in 2013, particularly if the market's assessment of our young stallions is any kind of yardstick. When it came to the Admire Mains, A.P. Arrows and the Mullins Bays, Ready To Run buyers voted with both feet, and the gratifying thing is that they had the benefit of hindsight at the gallops before they did so. For now, we can at least approach the New Year with positive anticipation. Despite a fairly significant reduction in broodmare numbers around the country, we've had an excellent season in the stallion barn, with encouraging demand for the new boys Visionaire, Golden Sword and Traffic Guard, while the vibes on the first of the Brave Tin Soldiers augurs well for their market debuts in the New Year.

Besides the frentics of the Ready To Run, 'tiz the season for awards, and the number of occasions we've had to don our dinner jackets in the past few months has me wondering whether there is time still for a final investment in a new tuxedo. Last time out, I was astonished to discover in my inner pocket, an invitation from the former Administrator of the old Natal, Stoffel Botha, to a function at King's House in 1983, and while that may be a compliment to the jacket's longevity, it's probably more an indication that this Zulu farmer either wears these things as little as possible, or that we just haven't won enough awards in the interim!

We never take these things for granted though, and they always come as a wonderful surprise. Often enough, they are a tribute to two great teams: an eighth Breeders' Championship, an award from each of Highveld and KZN Racing, and a string of podium visits at the KZN Breeders night out; for Hartford House, another national Top Ten Restaurant award, a sixth American Express Fine Dining accolade, the number one spot on the Top 100 SA Wine Lists and a Diamond class certificate from Diners International. That means those of us with a foot in both camps, have attended a lot of dinners lately. None of it possible without the support and encouragement of great friends and wonderful customers.

'Tiz also the season of many visitors, and this is the time when we top up our reserves of good conversation, fine wine and classic horses. If you're passing this way, please join us: we're bound to have other good friends from the neighbourhood. If not, this note comes with the best and the most grateful wishes of two of the best teams in their businesses.

As always, warmest regards,


Tiz The Season

Jackie Cameron receives the award for South Africa's Top Wine List in the Relaxed Dining category on behalf of Hartford House / Top 100 SA Wines (p)

Jackie Cameron receives the award for South Africa's Top Wine List in the Relaxed Dining category on behalf of Hartford House / Top 100 SA Wines (p)

Hartford's Wine List came out Number One, the only one marked 'Inspirational'

If you've been listening to East Coast Radio in the past couple of days, you'll have heard the name Hartford House many times for its distinction as the only KZN-based restaurant among Eat Out's national Top Ten. A few weeks before, chef Jackie Cameron's team were among the chosen few at the American Express Fine Dining Awards for the 7th cons

ecutive year, and within a blink of time, they earned themselves another Diners Club Diamond Award for one of the country's best wine lists.

We know they've been making headlines for a couple of years now, but the Hartford team takes nothing for granted, and the same goes for "big brother," Summerhill Stud. It seems that team has been on the podium for months too, with an eighth consecutive National Breeder's Championship, another statuette at the Highveld Racing Awards, and a string of distinctions at both the KZN Breeders and the KZN Racing "Nights of the Stars". That's an awful lot of dinners, if you happen to have a foot in both camps!

The latest one is as significant as any of them, and came our way last Sunday evening when the "Cameron Girl" winged her way once again to the Mother City to represent us at the Top 100Wine List Challenge for 2013. Remarkably (or perhaps not so remarkably for those of us who know how much work went into it,) in the Relaxed Dining category, Hartford's wine list came out Number One, the only one marked "Inspirational". Selecting wines may sound appealing to those of us who make the odd visit to a cellar on a Saturday morning for a bit of a "jolly", but this team puts in hours of labour, interviewing wine-makers, tasting and pairing, and in the end establishing a criteria that knows no exceptions. Good food, good wine and good company are the irredeemable passports to a memorable meal, but you'll never know what we mean until you've "done" us yourself. Yes, Hartford is all of these things, but it also represents the only venue of its kind in the nation. Visit www.hartford.co.za, and see what we mean.

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