Midlands Country Style
Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands
I am determined to eventually stay in every suite at one of my favourite KwaZulu-Natal Midlands haunts, Hartford House, a member of the Portfolio Collection (see www.portfoliocollection.com). Each time I return I find a new gem at this lush country escape. My most recent stay was at one of the lakeside suites, aptly names Siyabonga (which translates to gratitude or “thank you” in isiZulu).
The lakeside-ness of the lakesuide suites cannot be exaggerated. They really are at the water’s edge and feel part of the natural setting. The expanse of glass windows and doors are high definition screens providing endless amusement from the birdlife, movement on the water and changing light of the surrounding grasslands.
Jackie Cameron’s meals are the award-winning event of the evening. With the lightest of touches, she awakened my pallet with an almost levitating ginger-marinated salmon salad. This was artfully followed by an intense mushroom soup, and a grand rich horseradish beef fillet, balanced by a clever “foraging” tiramisu and finally a local cheeseboard. The meal was a celebration of all that is local and fresh and seemed an apt expression of the passion with which the chef and owners of Hartford engage and belong in their environment.
What I love about Hartford House:
- The setting of the suites, each in a unique natural surrounding
- The understated luxury which comes without pretentions or ostentation
- That you feel you would be at home here in your latest Jimmy Choo heels or your favourite comfortable old walking shoes
- The characterful decor which pushes the boundaries of the balance between exotic and local
- The oversized baths with views of the gardens or lake
- The amazing food which celebrates local products and leaves one feeling creatively satisfied without feeling too heavy or rich
From my large round natural stone bath, I have a surprising view through the bedroom, right down to the dam and even the hills beyond. Now that I am done with my excited rushing about the room and grounds taking photographs, I find myself slowing and noticing the subtler aspects of my surroundings – the way the light is creating texture in a grassy field beyond the lake, the crows descending onto the pink-red soil of a ploughed field, and the way the Red Bishops bend and bow with the movements of the reeds at the water’s edge.
It is dusk and the ducks are coming in clumsily to land at the lake and the reed birds are finding their places to roost. A great settling is happening all around and even within me – a coming home to myself, which comes with a swell of gratitude for the privilege of being once again in a place of great natural beauty and ease.